Posted 3:11 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24, 2022
Alum finds a home working at Milwaukee PBS
Had the pandemic not happened, there would have been no “My Wisconsin Backyard.” No national Telly Award. No discovering how people enjoy the Badger state’s outdoors.
Traci Neuman, ’94, says when the pandemic hit, she and her co-producer, Brian Ewig, felt compelled to start a regular series to provide a sense of happiness and encouragement — along with motivating people to get outside.
“It required us to come up with new ways to work like using a long boom pole for the microphone when recording audio and editing from our homes,” she recalls. They launched “My Wisconsin Backyard” in June 2020.
Neuman moved to Milwaukee PBS in 2011 after working two decades in commercial-TV news. She calls it her best career decision.
In establishing the digital series and broadcast show, the station offered environmentally friendly, outdoor segments focusing on how Wisconsinites enjoy their time outside. Along with looking at outdoor activity, “My Wisconsin Backyard” features mental and physical health tips, eco-friendly gardening, backyard recipes, and other aspects of spending time outside.
“It is a way to bring people together by introducing different opportunities to help everyone find their own outdoor passion,” Neuman explains. “The best part of my job is learning, sharing and making a difference in the community.”
Neuman took an interest in journalism during high school in Minneapolis, despite living in the large market where it was hard to get started. She entered UWL as a psychology major but stopped in the then-Wing Communications Center one day out of curiosity.
“I was surprised to learn that, in addition to the school having a good TV program, the local stations were in the small market category and occasionally hired students,” she recalls. “I changed my major immediately.”
She says the mass communications curriculum was special because it was so well rounded, offering invaluable, hands-on experience at student TV and radio stations. It also required classes in still photography, marketing, advertising, public relations and writing.
“I had no idea at the time that I would go on to use all of these skills as well on a regular basis,” she notes.
Neuman says being a student-athlete also helped her prepare for a TV career. It wasn’t easy to juggle school, running full-time and working at WKBT-TV, Channel 8, part-time, she says. But it made her mentally tough and helped her become an excellent time manager, multitasker and team player.
“In addition, through athletics, I learned perseverance, patience, the ability to overcome adversity and perform well in stressful situations,” she explains. “And also, to positively thrive off competition.”
After graduation, Neuman moved to Channel 8’s sister station in Rockford, Illinois, to work full-time. Eventually, she headed to Milwaukee’s CBS affiliate.
“The 20-plus years in news took me all over the country to cover the Packers, Bucks, Badgers and many other amazing stories,” she says. “It was an opportunity to see and do things that other people only dream about.”
Neuman saw the opportunity at Milwaukee PBS as a way to share longer stories and mentor students. Since fall 2012, she has taught part-time at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
“My favorite part of the job is having the ability to help others and to make a difference in the community,” she says.
Neuman says all the challenges of taking on “My Wisconsin Backyard” in a pandemic have been worth it. A year in, the program won a national Telly Award, the 2021 Gold Winner of Media & Entertainment.
Neuman says it’s an honor to tell the stories about the people and all things in Wisconsin. Those with ideas may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414.704.1682.
“My Wisconsin Backyard” airs on several Thursdays throughout the year and can be found at: https://video.milwaukeepbs.org/show/my-wisconsin-backyard/specials/
More about “My Wisconsin Backyard.” [ https://mywiscbackyard.com/ ]
Read more stories from the January eLantern.