It all began with Helen Zelkowitz’s farmhouse on a hill. In 1950 Zelkowitz met a man who had been looking for farmland near the city that might be suitable for setting up a broadcasting station. Later that year WMVO was born on her property along Coshocton Avenue. Long dedicated to community service, WMVO continues to support public initiatives such as Food for the Hungry. Like the surrounding landscape, WMVO has undergone significant changes over the years, adapting to advances in technology, economic pressures, and nonlocal ownership. Although locally produced programming has dwindled, WMVO strives to remain relevant in the community with programs like Tradio, Knox AM, and Open Debate.
“Communities have changed, and small-market radio, the business itself, has changed. And we are, in some respects, still doing things small-market radio always has been expected to do, and it’s largely due to people like Marty Trese, Dave Bevington.” Jim Stoner, general manager
“It’s like a companion, and [listeners] really know it is when it’s a disaster. During weather, they glue themselves to the radio and want to know everything that’s going on. Just to hear a human voice on that radio, knowing that there’s somebody alive out there even though they can’t get out of their house.” Ron Staats, former WMVO radio personality
“It’s no exaggeration to say that Helen Zelkowitz came here and founded the station out of a desire to do public service. She wasn’t doing it for the money, and she wasn’t doing it for the glory; she was doing it for any way she could do a public service in the county.” Franklin Miller Jr., former radio engineer and DJ, WMVO; emeritus physics professor, Kenyon College
Today, WMVO continues its commitment to being “Live, Local, and Connected.” Courtesy Knox County Historical Society
In 1982 long-time radio personality Charlie Kilkenny drove his pickup to the Public Square, where he told his listeners to meet him with food donations for the community food pantry. To this day, the measurement tool for how much food is raised for Food for the Hungry is based on the size of Charlie Kilkenny’s truck.
Ron Staats was a visible media personality in the community. His favorite venue was the Knox County Fair: “I met so many nice people I could talk to. We didn’t change the world, but what we did was, we existed better in the world.”
WMVO still stands on the same hill on Coshocton Avenue, known by locals as “Radio Hill.” Courtesy Knox County Historical Society
Working at WMVO for over forty years, Dave Bevington, news director and host of Open Debate, believes that despite the obvious changes in radio, “we do more local programming than most small markets. We go from nine until two, all live and local.” Courtesy Knox County Historical Society
A pioneer of women’s broadcasting, “Mrs. Z,” as she was affectionately called, was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1982. Helen Zelkowitz’s program Over the Coffee Cup served Knox County for forty-four years, providing lively discussion and free education about community issues. Courtesy Knox County Historical Society
Helen Zelkowitz at an early remote broadcast. Broadcasts like this allowed radio personalities the opportunity to interact directly with the community they served. The first live remote broadcast took place outside Pitkin’s Corner. Courtesy Knox County Historical Society