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Pet People: WOWT 6 News’ Anastasia Champ

By on October 2, 2017
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The things they carried were largely determined by necessity, writes Tim O’Brien, surrealist storyteller and Vietnam vet. P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military payment certificates, C rations, and canteens of water. Those weren’t the only things they carried though; it was the other baggage that told their stories. 

A recent trend in high fiction is the telling of stories from America’s “longest war.” Soldiers in these stories carry the weight of things in rucksacks and in their minds, seeing the pink mist of battle, feeling internal struggle over fear and identity and the idea of war.

We all carry things with us along the way- physical things and ones no one can see. A phone or wallet, heartache or an inferiority complex. We’ve all got stories, too. Whether they’re truths in reality or just emotionally true to ourselves, we’ve got them. Often, those who can share stories best are chroniclers of page or screen. Anastasia Champ is one of Omaha’s newest and brightest on-screen storytellers and, like you, she’s carries things with her and they tell her story.

Telling tales, our most trusted and tenured means of recording history, is serious and necessary. It’s no wonder that Anastasia, Daybreak Weekend Anchor and weekday reporter for WOWT 6 News, provided us with unique and interesting anecdotes about her life to this point- she has a gift for it. Hearing of her wandering about as an “Air Force brat,” her mother’s undeserved and unfair treatment received as a Korean woman, and wisdom passed from father to daughter was impactful.

 

Anastasia doesn’t carry mementos, per se. Call them “reminders” from formative experiences on the way to her present self. A University of Maryland grad, she has much UMD gear. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will always make her think of attending games on campus. She’s got a gym bag from her Albuquerque high school where she was a cheerleader. Friends are hard to keep when you move every couple of years and, from her time in Montana, she holds onto the relationship with a best friend made.  Not all of her things are physically carried like dog tags or sewing kits can be, but she carries pieces away from every place.

 

Almost everyone humped photographs. 

One of O’Brien’s characters, Lieutenant Cross, carries photographs of a woman back home, Martha. One was a Kodacolor photo signed “Love”; the other of her against a brick wall. Anastasia keeps many photographs, primarily of people who meant the most to her along the way. Many of those relationships fell apart, she says, but photos remain.

Don’t think Anastasia is too negatively effected though; she’s a friendly, authentic, and fun-t0-talk-to 27-year-old. She likes running, she loves history. She loves doing a “whole lot of nothing” in her free time, relaxing and recharging. The most important of her relationships are intact. “It’s cliched,” she says, “that my parents are my biggest inspirations.” Her folks are among the few constants she’s had. Her dad taught her what hard work is. A career Air Force man, everything he taught her, she says, was true. Among the aphorisms from her father: “Hold yourself to a high standard and others will follow.” Whether it’s being as kind, dedicated, or ambitious as she can be, his words have never lead her astray.

 

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For the most part, they carried themselves with poise, a kind of dignity. They carried their reputations.

The Anastasia on television and off is admirable. She’s poised and professional, though she says she’s been nervous during her initial on-camera time in Omaha. News legend John Knicely recently and personally expressed his happiness with her presence and ability, which has bred confidence in her. The reputation she’s got on screen is as Knicely said- confident, competent, comfortable. Like she’s supposed to be there. She’s earned her chops, cutting her teeth in Baltimore, in covering an eventually-elected gubernatorial candidate (where she discovered this job was what she was meant to do), and anchoring for NBC-Nebraska in Hastings prior to coming to Omaha. She’s also no robot. The Anastasia you see on screen is real and trustworthy as she brings personality to the sometimes-sterile news desk.

Funny side story: Anastasia thought she wanted to be a pediatrician when she entered college, but was also intrigued by journalism. She’d take a pre-requisite for each discipline and make a decision- that was the plan. And as she took Public Speaking, she learned medicine was not for her. A nurse classmate gave demonstrative speeches on giving IVs and on aspects of child birth. Both made her queasy, cementing the idea that journalism was the way to go.

And though she’s grossed out by some medical stuff, there’s a certain toughness to her constitution too. As her father’s advice carries her on the right-and-high road, she’s taken pieces from her mother, too; a strong and willful woman who has especially unique stories to tell.

Mom and Dad met at Daegu Air Force base, South Korea, in the 1980s. A white American soldier and a young Korean woman doesn’t scream scandalous, inappropriate, or uncommon to us, but the eventual Mrs. Champ faced much scrutiny and discrimination at home and abroad as a result of her ethnicity. Other Korean women sneered, though Anastasia’s mother was in a budding and eventually 30-plus year relationship with Anastasia’s father. In traveling the U.S., living on-base and off, Anastasia’s mother was the recipient of many a sideways glance and other not-so-subtle racism as the non-white wife.

A woman with thin skin she is not. And she’s the person who helps build Anastasia back up when roads get rough. “Whenever there was a breakup, whenever I’m feeling sad, I call mama,” she says. “She’s amazing. No high school education, but she’s smart and determined. And for all the adversity she’s faced in her life? I love her.” It’s said that for every mile of road there are two miles of ditch. Anastasia’s mama keeps her daughter atop that road, ready to take on whatever comes next.

The elder Champs reside in Brandywine, Maryland. Of all the places Anastasia has lived, it’s the one she calls home. Anastasia lived there for a handful of years- a period longer than anywhere previous or since. In Montana, she learned how to treat people and “make her own fun” during the middle school years. She made friends in New Mexico. Maryland is special though. Her folks are there, her university is too. It’s also where Lucky, her “furry brother” is.

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Growing up, Anastasia had little animals. Hamsters, fish and the like. She even had an “accidental” dog named Thor. Thor was abandoned by his owner and, when the Champs took him in, was in ill health. He was untrained to boot. The chocolate Labrador was Anastasia’s first four-legged love. He got well with Anastasia and company, fostering her forever fondness for animals. She and her sister would lay their heads on his belly and sing him lullabies each night so he could sleep. And when he was well-enough recovered, the Champs helped find him a permanent home with a neighbor. Mama Champ was always a little reluctant to keep a dog.

A bit later, Anastasia and her sister took mama to meet a little Lhasa Apso. The answer was no, no, no until mama held “Lucky” and received the proverbial puppy dog eyes, for which he owes his time with the family. Lucky goes with the folks on vacation. Lucky comes to visit Anastasia, too. Since 2002, Lucky has been the family’s brother/son/dog. At 15 years old, Lucky is still kicking. Anastasia’s sister is also “lucky” to be alive in a way. The fact that Lucky is old is a topic of conversation among the sisters. And when Anastasia received a (prank) text that Lucky had “fallen down the stairs and had a broken leg and wasn’t doing very well”, she was beside herself. That’s what sisters do, I suppose, but Anastasia didn’t think the joke was very funny. Lucky gets those old-dog eye crusties and he’s a bit of a mess, but he’s still with the family, as loved as ever.

After leaving Maryland, Anastasia ended up in Hastings, NE, with NBC-Nebraska. College curriculum teaches how to be a journalist, but nothing prepares you for your first (especially small town) job in TV. “I knew I’d learn a lot,” she says, “and I knew I was a journalist. In Hastings, I really learned what being one meant.” In a larger market, a reporter’s job is fairly narrow. Get an assignment, shoot a couple minutes, finish the presentation off, move on. At a small station, however, reporters often have to find their own stories, set up equipment, drive around by themselves, master the video and sound, on and on. You’re a one-woman news team a lot of times. On-the-job training was tough but exciting and she learned “how to be on TV.” Anastasia was learning a lot about being herself, too.

“I learned about being an adult,” she says of her time away from the comforts of home. “And I learned how to be me.” School prepares news folks to be a bit “cookie cutter” in that there’s a number of things all journalists do. “I like to think I open myself up and infuse a little personality into my broadcasts,” she says. Along with that personality, and the fact that her audience was captive, always there when the news came on in small-town Nebraska, Anastasia learned how to be a trustworthy source for her viewers. “I think folks trusted me after a while. That made me feel like I was doing my job.” Live video on social media is one way Anastasia likes to connect to her audience. Interaction with your TV personalities is pretty cool. She often hears from folks in Hastings say they miss her because of the way she connected with them. As she gained trust and experience, Anastasia lost things, too. “I lost 20 lbs. in my first year away from home,” she says. “Meals don’t just make themselves like they did at home.”

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Adjusting was tough in a number of ways. After being away from Maryland and a bit lonesome, Anastasia knew it was time to get her own pup. And after volunteering at Start Over Rover, a shelter in town, a month-and-a-half into Hastings, she met Ellie. Now three, Ellie was just a pup and with a bit of baggage. But like Lucky with Mama Champ, Ellie made quick work of Anastasia. Ellie was surrendered by her previous owner and, undoubtedly, didn’t like waiting in the shelter. After filling out the paperwork and driving Ellie to the local pet store for supplies, Ellie licked Anastasia’s face (for twenty minutes straight) as to say, “thank you.”

A hundred bucks in toys later, Ellie was home. She’s been destroying every kind of toy since. “She eats and shreds everything,” Anastasia says. With all the fluff and rope strewn around, my apartment often looks like a dog toy murder scene.” The violence towards toys is still unexplained, but it’s tolerable, Anastasia says. Ellie is Anastasia’s first all-to-herself-dog and the two are learning a lot together. Ellie was likely abused before the shelter and is just now coming around to liking men. Potty training was rough and the toy-murdering is not awesome, but Anastasia wouldn’t trade Ellie for anything.

Ellie’s a big piece in Anastasia’s life and gives her a bit of happiness to tote around each day. Anastasia’s mother, father, sister, and Maryland home are positive pieces. She loves her job and enjoys getting to know our community. All these things come together to give Anastasia confidence that she’ll love Omaha and gain experience. And those will be good things to carry with her the rest of her way.

To follow Anastasia (and participate in her live videos!), be sure to like Anastasia Champ TV on Facebook.

 

 

 

About Eric Forrest

Eric is a pet lover, bookworm and dad. He's had 5 family dogs, 4 cats, a cottontail rabbit he nursed back to health, and two ducks. Cats are his preference, but Eric loves all little critters.

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