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Radio and Digital Music Executive says the hands-on experience he got at WOUB was vital to his career

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Jon Zellner graduated from Ohio University in 1987

ATHENS, OH – Jon Zellner got hooked on radio the minute he met Wolfman Jack during a tour of the NBC New York City studios when he was in the third grade.

“That did it,” said Zellner. “After that, I just knew that I wanted to be in media and work at a radio station.”

Zellner got involved at his high school radio station in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, which gave him incredible experience at a very young age. When it came time for college, he looked at a handful of universities that specialized in radio and television.

“When I saw all the opportunities to get hands-on experience in radio and TV at Ohio University, I knew it was the place for me.”

As a freshman at Ohio University, the broadcast journalism major quickly got involved in every radio experience available on campus. Zellner worked at the radio stations that were on each campus green, as well as ACRN and WOUB AM and FM. He worked his way through the WOUB training program eventually landing an on-air slot on WOUB FM.

“At the time, WOUB FM played country, folk and bluegrass music during day and classical music at night. I did the afternoon shift every weekday,” said Zellner. “I also worked at WOUB AM, which was NPR news during the day and Top 40 music at night. I hosted a program in the evenings called The Night Shift from 6 pm until we had to sign off the air.”

Zellner also worked in the WOUB Newsroom and got experience as a journalist reporting and anchoring for WOUB TV’s nightly half-hour news program, NewsWatch.

“While working in the newsroom, I also had the opportunity to manage Buckeye Sound. Buckeye Sound was a partnership with the Associated Pressed that assisted over 100 radio stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky with audio from newsmakers to use in their local newscasts. We supplied the audio to all of the AP affiliates. It was an amazing experience and allowed us to talk with some of the biggest newsmakers at the time.”

Thanks to the experience with Buckeye Sound, when Zellner graduated in 1987, he was offered a job as a news editor at the Associated Press bureau in Columbus.

“My job was to take print news copy and turn it in to broadcast news copy,” said Zellner. “I did that for almost a year but missed being on the radio. So, I gave up this great paying job at the Associated Press to take a position hosting the overnight shift at WQIO in Mount Vernon, OH making minimum wage. I lived in Columbus, worked in Mt. Vernon and still kept my job at WXTQ and WATH in Athens. I did that for about six months until getting hired at 92X and then WNCI in Columbus.

From there, Zellner went on to work in nine different cities over a 20-year period, working his way up through the radio ranks. He worked as an on-air talent, music director, program director and operations manager before landing a job as Vice President of Programming at CBS Radio in 1996. After nearly 10 years at CBS in Kansas City and Boston, Zellner moved on to a Senior Vice President of Programming role at SiriusXM overseeing all of the satellite radio service’s music channels and then in 2009, was offered the position of Executive Vice President of Programming at iHeartMedia and was recently promoted to President of Programming Operations and Digital Music at iHeart Radio.

Zellner now oversees content and strategy for iHeart’s 650+ Custom and Format Center stations, thousands of digital channels and playlists on the iHeartRadio app, Client and Partner Integrations, the Commercial Production, Imaging and Audio Distribution Centers, the Talent Management Center, Technical Operations, Internal Systems, Communication and Event Broadcast Operations for iHeartMedia’s 860 radio stations in 158 markets serving 271 million monthly listeners.

“It all started in Athens at Ohio University and WOUB,” said Zellner. “I learned so much more from working at WOUB and the rest of the campus radio stations than I did in any classroom. Having the opportunity to be on the air, to anchor a newscast, to do field reporting, to write and report news was an unmatched experience that couldn’t be replicated in a classroom environment. It’s so important to go to a school that offers on-the-job training. Ohio University was way ahead of the curve, and I was extremely fortunate to learn from some of the best people while being allowed the opportunity to actually do the work.”