Sep 22, 2017 09:21AM
By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman
Omaha is about the larger community—the artists, the businesspeople, the philanthropists, the families. Omaha Magazine publisher Todd Lemke truly believes this, which is why the company motto is “It’s About All of Us.”
The magazine celebrates 35 years of production in 2018. Lemke began the company in 1983, two years after graduating from UNL with a degree in journalism, with the purchase of an alternative newspaper called City Slicker. He turned the publication into a “slicker,” transitioning it immediately into a four-color glossy magazine. Upon discovering that advertisers wanted to appeal to people “past the party age,” he transitioned City Slicker into a free magazine titled Omaha Today.
Lemke wanted to continue growing, and his next move, in 1987, was to purchase a monthly publication titled Our City, which listed local places to shop, eat, and be entertained—an ideal publication to place in hotels around our city.
By this time, Lemke’s friend Greg Bruns began working with him in advertising sales. Bruns, having difficulty selling for a rather generically-named publication, asked Lemke to think about changing the name of Our City. That thought became a reality in 1989 when the preferred name, Omaha Magazine, became available.
There has been an Omaha Magazine in the area since 1890, but in the late 1980s, the registration on the name lapsed, and Lemke grabbed the chance to gain the perfect name for the company while merging his two publications.
Others believed Omaha Magazine to be the perfect name for the company, also. With a less generic name, the sales staff was able to increase revenue, which resulted in more content for the magazine. The editorial staff used the extra room to print profiles of people and more in-depth features about the community.
Along the way, the family-owned company has retained a family-friendly atmosphere. At least four employees currently hold the last name Lemke—brother Tyler, niece Sarah, nephew Alex, and Todd’s mother, Gwen. Many children of the employees have held summer jobs or internships, even becoming full-time employees themselves.
Today, nearly 30 employees adhere to the company’s core values of community, respect, passion, integrity, creativity, and excellence—driven by the desire to tell the best stories in Omaha.
And it does. The magazine has won several awards for staffers' work, most recently the 2017 Magazine Photographer of the Year award, won by creative director Bill Sitzmann from the Great Plains Journalism Awards. Sitzmann nearly swept the magazine photography award categories at the event in Oklahoma. Art director Matt Wieczorek translated the magazine's logo into the Omaha language for a cover that was a finalist for Best Magazine Cover, a special issue that also won finalist for its multimedia project on the Omaha language. Current executive editor Doug Meigs won Best Magazine News Writing in that same awards show for a multi-part series, "Dying for Opaites in Omaha" and was a finalist with his article "Gone Girls: Human Trafficking in the Heartland."
“We are a read, not a flip,” Lemke says. “We are a rare combination of informative, entertaining material, great design, and incredible photography. Because of that, we have a highly educated reader.”
Those readers include everyone from millennials to members of the greatest generation. Each issue brings readers people profiles, arts and culture stories, food-related reports, multiple event calendars, home articles, and unique features.
"It's about all of us," Lemke reiterates.
5921 S. 118th Circle Omaha, NE 68137 402.884.2000 omahamagazine.com