Stay tuned: Nebraska public TV in state of uncertainty -
Published Monday, February 25, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 1:44 am
Stay tuned: Nebraska public TV in state of uncertainty

LINCOLN — A nearly $100,000 search for a new director of Nebraska Educational Telecommunications has been reopened, and the network's top fundraiser is leaving, creating uncertainty at the top of the statewide public broadcasting operation.

Despite that, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln official expressed confidence Friday that a replacement would soon be found for retiring General Manager Rod Bates, who has postponed his retirement by three months to accommodate the extended search process.

“I'm totally optimistic that we're going to get a good GM. It's considered a gem of a job,” said Ellen Weissinger, UNL's senior vice chancellor of academic affairs.

UNL, along with the State of Nebraska and the NET Foundation, are the entities that govern the statewide public television and radio network. A mix of university and state employees are among the 200 workers at NET, which operates on about $22 million a year in state and federal funds and donations.

The general manager is a university position, and UNL hired a Washington, D.C.-based search firm, Spencer Stuart, to identify candidates for the $184,000-a-year job. Hiring the search firm cost $85,000, plus $8,500 for administrative and other expenses for travel, video conferencing and background checks.

But after one of two finalists for the NET position dropped out, the search process was reopened last week, and Bates was asked to stay on past his intended March 31 retirement date.

Weissinger said she now hopes that two to three more finalists can be selected, and that they can visit the campus by late February. Bates has agreed to stay until at least June 30.

But now, NET is also looking for a new executive director for its fundraising foundations for TV and radio.

Jeff Beckman was the recognizable face of NET during televised fundraising drives, and he led a successful campaign last summer that raised $25 million. He announced his resignation last month to take a job with an Omaha company, three days after learning that he was not among the two finalists to be NET's new general manager.

Beckman said the timing was an unfortunate coincidence. He said that he had been on “parallel” tracks for both the NET post as well as for the new job, and that failing to make the final cut with NET just “made my decision a whole lot easier.”

“It was not a knee-jerk reaction,” he said, adding that he was not sure which job he would have chosen had he been offered both.

“Frankly, it's been a privilege to work for NET for seven years,” said Beckman, a native of Pilger, Neb. “Am I disappointed? Yes, definitely. I thought I had a vision for the future of NET. ... But at the same time, I fully recognize that the search committee has a big job and a lot of candidates for this great job.”

Margaret Hornady, a member of the NET Foundation Board, questioned why Beckman was not chosen as a finalist, given his successful work as a fundraiser.

“It's tough to lose Rod Bates and Jeff Beckman at the same time,” said Hornady, a former mayor of Grand Island. “The uncertainty doesn't do us any good.”

She also questioned why such a complex selection and search process was undertaken for the NET post, when a new athletic director was chosen at UNL only eight days after Tom Osborne announced his retirement.

Weissinger said the network's search process was the same that she uses when selecting new academic deans at UNL and that she was not involved in the selection of a new athletic director.

She added that she could not comment on why Beckman was not selected as a finalist for NET general manager. That decision was made by a committee of representatives from UNL, the NET Foundation and NET employees.

Weissinger said it is not unusual for finalists in executive searches to remove their names from consideration just before their candidacies become public. She said that she and other leaders on the search committee decided to reopen the search so that more than one finalist would be considered.

Bates, the retiring general manager, said it was unfortunate to lose Beckman, whom he called probably the best development director ever at NET, to the private sector.

“He has assured me he's not bitter,” Bates said. “He had a really good offer for another position, and he took it.”

Bates, only the second general manager in NET's 59-year history, said that top executives in public broadcasting tend to gravitate to the two coasts but that NET has a very good reputation nationally.

He said that the organization has never been on stronger footing and that he would be willing to stay past June 30, if necessary, to ensure a smooth transition in leadership and fundraising.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9584,

Contact the writer: Paul Hammel    |   402-473-9584    |  

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues and helps coordinate the same.

It's a pursuit of pastel at Spring Lake Park's Easter egg hunt
Explosive device blows hole in windshield, damages another car
Financial picture improving for city-owned Mid-America Center
19-year-old arrested in connection with March shooting
No injuries after fire at midtown's old Mercer Mansion
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
Keystone XL pipeline backers blast 'political expediency' as foes hail ruling to delay decision
29-year-old Omahan arrested for 22nd time in Lincoln
Nebraska senators to study tax issues over break
Portion of Saddle Creek Road closed after water main break
Teenager arrested after woman's purse is snatched outside Omaha store
Police identify 21-year-old shot in ankle near 30th, W Streets
Cult murderer's death row appeal denied, but execution in limbo
Beau McCoy strikes Obama doll in TV ad; Democrats are not happy
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
Interstate construction to cause lane shifts, closings in Omaha area
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
Friday's attendance dips at Millard West after bathroom threat
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
< >
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »