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WJER and WTUZ to merge, on-air content remains separate

| June 12, 2024
Lauren International President and CEO Kevin Gray, WTUZ owner Joanne Obermiller, WTUZ Vice President Jarrod Slabaugh, and WJER General Manager Amy Smith

WTUZ RADIO PURCHASES WJER RADIO

Station remains locally owned and operated in deal with Lauren International

NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio – Lauren International, headquartered in New Philadelphia, announced the sale of WJER Radio to WTUZ Radio on Tuesday afternoon. Lauren International President and CEO, Kevin Gray, says that he signed the purchase agreement with WTUZ owner Joanne Obermiller, and it will now go to the FCC for a standard approval process. Lauren purchased WJER in 2022 following the death of longtime station owner, Gary Petricola.

The deal merges the two stations into one media company with each station still broadcasting on its current frequency with separate programming and formats.

Gray said that Lauren’s mission with WJER was to keep the station locally owned and operated for the benefit of the community.

“In WTUZ we have a buyer who understands the importance of local media with decades of success in broadcasting. This strengthens the reach and resources of both stations and provides Tuscarawas County with continued access to local news, local sports, and vital community information.”

Gray says that Lauren International is keenly focused on serving the community, and WJER’s reputation for the same was top-of-mind when choosing a buyer.

“At WJER’s core is a commitment to community values,” said Gray. “They’ve earned the trust and respect of Tuscarawas County through their coverage of local news, area schools, and their support of our county’s many non-profits. Local media is vitally important, and we worked hard to ensure we’d found a buyer that’s equally community minded.

WTUZ President and majority owner, Joanne Obermiller, saw an opportunity to honor the legacy of her fiancé, Ed Schumacher, who founded WTUZ in 1990. Schumacher passed away from a hard-fought battle with cancer in 2013. Following Schumacher’s death, Obermiller’s son found a letter in Schumacher’s desk describing his interest in buying WJER.

“Ed worked for Gary Petricola at WJER for a decade where he developed the passion to start his own station in 1990,” said Obermiller. “Ed loved radio and this community, and he gave an abundance of time to help make Tuscarawas County an even better place to live and work. Ed was very proud of what WTUZ and its employees provided to the community, and he would have jumped at the chance to continue WJER’s legacy alongside WTUZ. Together we can do even more incredible things, in honor of what Ed and Gary each instilled in their stations.”

WJER is poised to celebrate its 75th anniversary in February, and WTUZ celebrates 34 years this year. Alongside Obermiller, the stations will continue to be managed by their current General Managers, WJER’s Amy Smith and WTUZ’s Jarrod Slabaugh. Smith says she is excited for this new era in the station’s long history.

“Our staff has tremendous passion for WJER and a deep appreciation for our listeners and business partners. We will continue that mission with the added support of the dedicated and talented broadcasters at WTUZ. We’ll take what people already love about WTUZ and WJER and make it even better. It’s a dream team situation in broadcasting.”

WTUZ is heard locally at 99.9 FM, and WJER simulcasts at 100.9 FM/AM 1450. The stations will continue to broadcast on these frequencies with their current formats. Slabaugh says that from the listener’s standpoint, their favorite stations aren’t going anywhere.

“WJER isn’t becoming WTUZ,” said Slabaugh. “They have their own unique identity, as does WTUZ, and it’s important that we maintain that. When our listeners get into their cars, they’ll find the same programming they already enjoy on the same frequency as before. Our goal in merging is to increase the news, sports, and community service that we each provide. Ed and Gary instilled in each of us a passion for our community, and that remains at the forefront of every decision we make. Combining our companies will take both stations to another level. We are grateful to Lauren International for trusting WTUZ to continue the legacy of community service that has made WJER a success for almost 75 years.”

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