Passion for writing led to TV career for Nebraska news director
By Zach Revense
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Sue Ramsett had planned to teach high school students to sing.
Then she interned at a radio station writing news. She caught was she calls the “writing bug” and soon moved into television.
It was something I quickly fell in love with,” said Ramsett, now the news director for KOLN/KGIN 10-11 in Lincoln and Grand Island, Neb. “It was exciting.”
That was in 1988, and with the exception of two years fundraising for a medical organization, she has been making news ever since graduating from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Now at the TV station, she is the last to approve news content and assign stories. When it’s busy, Ramsett pulls up to a production bay to help put together news packages.
“Those are days where roles are a little more skewed,” she said. “It’s an all hands-on-deck moment.”
Previous to 10-11, she was an anchor-reporter and the news director at WSAW-TV NewsChannel 7 in Wausau, Wis.
“Before we moved here I was doing something similar only working on-camera as well,” Ramsett said. “When this position was offered to me, my husband and I evaluated and realized it was something we couldn’t pass up.”
But for Ramsett, the decision to move involved much more than what was best for her career. The job wasn’t her top priority.
She admits that at 30, her life was fitting into a hard-working spinster stereotype, armed with a tubby house cat named Vinnie.
“I figured if someone heard, ‘Hi this is Sue and Vinnie, leave a message,’ on my answering machine,” Ramsett said, “they wouldn’t want to mess with a lady living with some Italian hot-head.”
That was before she met her husband, Chris, on a blind date at 35, and they had a son, Arthur, a few years later.
When she was offered the job in Lincoln, Chris closed his graphic printing business and found work after they took a 610-mile drive on faith from Wausau to Lincoln.
It wasn’t an easy decision, even though she would be moving up to a top 100-market station and the pay raise was significant. Ramsett’s son is autistic and their family and community care system would be left behind.
“We’ve found a lot of support here in Lincoln,” she said. “The university has so many resources for children with autism. If anything we’ve seen Arthur’s development make leaps, and we wouldn’t have come here if it wasn’t best for our son.”
Finding a balance is difficult in this business, she said, but Ramsett said she has been able to find one. It’s about setting priorities.
“Recovering a child from autism: that’s my full-time job,” she said. “But I am also a very, very passionate employee, who cares a lot about the station.”
Ramsett believes that any problem can be solved with the right approach, and she makes that clear in the care for her son and employees.
“I try to create an environment that people can reach their potential,” she said. “That’s what this business is about. You can always improve.”
Making the news is a team effort, she said. No one can do it alone.
“We have a rule that anything that all scripts must be looked over by someone else before it can air.”
Accountability and a sense of urgency are key attributes Ramsett looks for in her employees.
“I don’t know if you can teach urgency, but it’s so important to a newsroom,” she said.
Ramsett recommends that young journalists seek out as much experience as they can through internships and keep a spirit of learning an active part of their career.
“You can never learn too much,” she said, “and if anything, knowing more and wanting to learn more will make you better.”
But her greatest secret seems pretty simple.
“I find most problems can be fixed with a little chocolate.”