Though Sarah Smith holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois, she credits much of her success with Omaha station KETV to her “MBWA.”
“I call it a ‘Masters in Business by Walking Around,’” says Smith, KETV president/general manager. “I walk around the building a fair bit and honestly ask people what they’re working on. I think part of it is being present and participating, so that you understand the process everyone goes through to get the product online and on the air every day.”
Smith’s level of engagement helped the Hearst outlet post record revenue in 2010 and lead its Website, ketv.com, to beat out weather.com as the top source in Omaha for local forecasts.
“She is consumed with the responsibility, challenge and excitement of running a television station in that market, and she does it masterfully well,” says David Barrett, Hearst Television president and CEO. “This was a year of opportunity, and she brought in a big harvest for us.”
Hired in 2007 from KRCR in Redding, Calif., Smith has driven KETV to become one of Hearst’s top financial performers, even in the face of 2009’s economic downturn. Following a series of position appointments and the expansion of its news operation into new time periods, KETV is now Omaha’s most-used news source, both on-air and online. And while Smith claims this as her station’s greatest accomplishment this year, she is wary of resting on such laurels.
“It’s definitely a building process—getting the right people and moving in the right direction,” she says. “We’ve made some important position appointments [this year], but we’ve also kept a lot of our talent in place. It’s a combination of keeping what’s working, and when change presents itself, looking at that as opportunity.”
That change involves plans to move the outlet from its 54-year-old home to a more state-of-theart facility—new territory for Smith to patrol.
“When you walk into a building and people have been in it for 25 or 30 years, you hear things like, ‘That’s just the way we’ve always done it.’ KETV is not like that,” Smith says. “We want to see what we can do with bigger, faster servers and the addition of HD, how we can continue to serve the marketplace when our resources will, comparatively, seem limitless. To me, that would be the next wave of KETV.”