Pet People: WOWT’s Jacki Ochoa

By on July 7, 2014

“Now I could see Denver looming ahead of me like the Promised Land, way out there beneath the stars, across the prairie of Iowa and the plains of Nebraska, and I could see the greater vision of San Francisco beyond, like jewels in the night.”

When I meet someone, like when I met Jacki Ochoa, I relate the experience to some piece of literature I have read and re-read over the years. This passage from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road made connecting these particular dots a cinch.

The morning of our introduction was so NorCal-esque anyway. Damp. Pleasant. Spitting raindrops cooling the skin. Now in the plains of Nebraska, Jacki has traveled the country from end to end, just like Kerouac’s narrator, just in reverse order.

From Danville, a sort of “nose-in-the-air-type place” a bit east of the San Francisco Bay area, Jacki has been to Amherst, MA for her university studies and back to the aforementioned Promised Land of Denver for her college completion. She returned to California to start her career in the TV biz and eventually landed here in Omaha a couple of years ago. She’s a Nebraskan now, but she hasn’t converted completely- there are still traces of California in Miss Ochoa. From the In-N-Out Burger t-shirt she wears, to the breakfast of “green juice,” a conglomeration of spinach, kale and sometime pineapple in a mason jar, Jacki’s identity is defined.  For our conversation, we sat at an undecorated table in her empty apartment save a couch, television, treadmill and food bowls for the animals. I stuck to filtered water in a high ball glass.


She’s crazy about the news, dedicated to her career and all business when the camera is rolling, but that laid back California style still lives within her. “You aren’t going to be taking any pictures during the interview, are you?” she asked. “I was planning on just staying in my pajamas.” No pictures, just conversation. PJ’s acceptable.

Growing up in an upper-middle class, predominantly white place, Jacki said she felt “different,” even at preschool age. Though it is a great place to raise kids, she says, she was sensitive to how different she seemed. The diversity of Omaha is one reason she loves her new home.

She left her dad, an executive for a Silicon Valley company, her mom, a Danville city employee, and her younger brother after high school for the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. After a couple of years pursuing business education, she headed back west to Colorado to train as a broadcaster at the University of Denver. She interned at a couple of stations and eventually landed a job at KRCR-TV in Redding, CA. Closer to home than she’d been for years, Jacki was still in a new place. The station sat two hours south of the Oregon border. “Growing up in Danville, I didn’t think there was anything north of Sacramento but corn fields and pot smokers,” she says. She covered quite a bit of drug news while there, but also readied herself for a move up.

When the opportunity to come to Omaha presented itself, she had no preconceived notion of the city or state. “I Googled Omaha, saw pictures of big buildings and said ‘this looks alright.'” Jacki took the job and she and Butters, her dog, moved to the “Big O.” After being hired as a reporter at WOWT, Jacki began to love the city. She filled in at the anchor desk on the weekends and reported around town, realizing this was a great place to be. “This has been such a blessing,” she says. “I went to my boss and said ‘Whatever you need me to do, I’ll do it.” She immersed herself in the town, the news and the opportunity at Channel 6. Only 27 years old, Jacki’s got a bright future ahead in anything she chooses to pursue.

Two years ago, Jacki was promoted to weekend anchor, doing the 5 p.m., 6 and 10 o’clock newscasts on Fridays plus the 5 and 10 broadcasts on Saturdays. “The first year was tough,” she says. On the weekends, she was producing, disseminating the news stories and solo-anchoring the telecasts with the aid of only one person behind the scenes. That’s the nature of weekend news. One year ago, however, her co-anchor, Joe Chiodo, came in to help. “Getting Joe was great. It allowed me to settle down a bit.” Jacki and Joe make a great team if you haven’t tuned in to see them in action. “I’ve loved my time at Channel 6. My bosses have allowed me to make a natural progression to where I am and I’ve been so lucky,” she says.

butters on the news

During the week, Jacki reports on various timely news stories and is always a part of breaking news, severe weather coverage and whatever else she’s needed for. In the past few years, she’s become a wonderful reporter and anchor, but she’s also found love.

Butters, a four-year-old dog whose breed is yet to be determined (he looks to have a bit of Yorkie and Papillion in him), was given to her by her mother who often rescued and fostered dogs back home. “We always had pets growing up,” she says, “but until you have one that’s all your own, you don’t know what it is to love an animal.” Jacki’s mom has fostered dozens of dogs, her brother got a cat, and eventually Jacki got Butters. Her family had two Chow-Chows, “Chewy” and “Ninja,” when Jacki was a little girl. She’s been told that Chewy slept outside her door every night when she was a baby. She and Butters, the first dog she’s had all to herself, are truly in love. “He was just the fluffiest, furriest little creature,” she says. He’s named for the South Park character because their demeanor-and-personality traits are so similar. Her brother came up with the name.  He’s a free spirit and an obviously happy little pup.

Being at work from 1:30 p.m. until sometimes very late at night, Jacki thought it best that she found a buddy for Butters while mom was away. Upon seeing a “Pet of the Week” video featuring Pam Wiese of the Nebraska Humane Society and a little short-haired, black and white cat, Jacki saw an opportunity. “The kitty was so playful and energetic and I thought he and Butters would make a great pair. Ezra became part of the family nearly two years ago. Ezra always meets Jacki at the door when she arrives home, as he met me as I entered the apartment, with an ingratiating purr. His little wet nose grazed my leg throughout our little interview. He and Butters wrestle playfully and seem to be best buds. As for the cat’s name, he’s not named for the singer in one of her favorite bands, Vampire Weekend, or the famous poet with the surname Pound. Jacki picked it up while watching an episode of HBO’s “The Newsroom.” “I wanted a sophisticated name to match his personality and there it was.” Ezra was almost “Aziz,” after her favorite comedian, but Ezra it became.

Jacki’s love for animals really started when she had the first pet of her own and her two pals have made a tremendous impact on her life. “If I ever win the lottery, I’m opening an animal shelter,” she says. Though she doesn’t play the lottery, the dream is still a noble one.

the family

Like their mother, with her green juice and meals full of quinoa and other healthy goodies, Ezra and Butters consume only all-natural foods. “I spend entirely too much money on their food and care, but that’s just how it is,” she says. “I buy their food from the hipster, organic place down the street and that’s important to me.” Her love is apparent and manifests itself in every way. If one was to scan her iPhone, she says embarrassingly, one would find loads of pictures and videos of her babies. She’s even making an animal video (it’s four minutes long right now) with snippets from all the shoots featuring her pets. She’s also got a short video of the moment when Butters met Ezra. “I’m so glad I have that one,” she says. Butters and Ezra are treated like her children and they surely appreciate their mom.

Her personal videos aren’t the only ones that feature animals. For work, she’s the “go-to” for pet stories. Whether it’s a story on keeping animals safe in summer temperatures or a feature on dog shoes that protect little paws from ice and snow, Butters has worked his way onto the screen. He and Ezra also repeatedly videobombed a juicing story Jacki shot in her home. She’s edited them out and included them in her personal pet video. Jacki has also produced a feature on exotic and illegal pets recently.

Jacki is never too far from her iPad, content on CNN or NBC, the New York Times or Twitter. She takes pride in knowing the news she’s presenting to viewers. “The days of showing up and reading off the teleprompter are over. If you don’t know the story, viewers will know.” She works tirelessly on being a newswoman, waking up to the news on TV and online, reading dissension from court rulings, following alerts she receives from NBC on big national stories like conflicts in Iraq and Syria, even spending some of her free time reading about news people and news makers in biographies. She’s currently reading the memoir of Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor- “I’m so happy and proud to see a Latina in that position,” she says.

When she truly has some down time, you can find Jacki walking Butters, following and participating in the latest health food trends and, according to her profile page on, “jamming out to music in her car.” She enjoys various Indie rock bands and attends shows when she can. If you see her driving around town and she seems to be yelling at someone or no one in particular, please know that she’s not. She’s actually just enjoying some Gangster Rap. Again, she’s still true to her home in many ways. The Indie rock of the Pacific Northwest, the rap music of places like Oakland, CA. Jacki is Jacki and when you get to know her on the screen or off, you’ll learn to be happy that she is who she is.

As social media has become a staple of news and the lives of people who bring us the news, one can find Jacki through these means. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter to stay in the know. You can also find her on Instagram under the name jacki_ochoa. Also, don’t forget to watch her and Joe bring you the scoop on Fridays and Saturdays on WOWT6-News all evening.






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