JSU alum Jonas Adams named director at NPR, credits the power of networking

Jackson State University alumnus Jonas Adams was recently appointed director of National Public Radio’s (NPR) flagship show “All Things Considered.” Adams describes the promotion as one of the most rewarding roles he’s had in his career.

“It’s a job I really never saw myself doing. I’ve been in radio for 20 years, so when I got this position, it was a huge sigh of relief,” said Adams. “It was a huge relief to know I finally settled in a position that utilizes all of my skills.”

“All Things Considered” is a weekday show led by three hosts presenting breaking news from throughout the globe and offering a combination of commentaries, analysis, interviews and features. NPR is a non-profit organization with a national reach. 

Adams is responsible for making sure that behind the scenes production is seamless.  “When you tune in, every element of the show you hear is controlled and cued by me,” he explains. “I’m also the person that curates the sound of the show. All music is selected and approved by me. I also pitch and edit news pieces as well.”

When Adams and his family relocated to Washington D.C. from Jackson, Mississippi, he said the relationships he built at JSU played a major role in helping him find opportunities in a new city.

“Everywhere I go, I’m good. I did well up here [D.C.] because of JSU alumni, in particular Robert Carter,” explains Adams, referring to his friend and fellow alum who is a producer for NPR’s popular entertainment concert series “Tiny Desk” 

“When I first moved up here, I had nothing as far as employment. My wife had the job. He was one of the first people I called, and he put me in a position where I could get gigs and introduced me to promoters so that I could put some money in my pocket.”

Adams believes building strong networks in college is equally important as earning a degree. Carter commends Adams for his ambition.

“His years-long grind to get to NPR paid off instantly because he refused to become content,” Carter said of Adams. “He’s done it his way and didn’t let anything discourage him. I have a tremendous amount of respect for that man.”

Adams’ career in radio began while he was a student at JSU.  He worked as a volunteer for WJSU, the campus radio station. Soon he would become an intern under Program Director Bobbie Walker Trussel, where he learned most of the skills he still uses today.

“She’s the one that trained me on everything that is radio as far as being on air and everything behind the scenes,” recalls Adams.

After graduation, Adams was hired at WJSU as the music director and an on-air personality. He quickly began making strides by creating the segment “Jazz Minute Mornings,” which presently still airs. 

Following his time at WJSU, Adams began working at WOAD, a local gospel radio station.

“That was also courtesy of Bobbie Walker [Trussel]. She linked me with Percy Davis. He is the one who hired me at the gospel station, which is in the same building as 99 Jams and Kixie 107,” shared Adams. “From there, I was working at all those stations simultaneously at one point.”

Adams was also well-known in Jackson as a local disk jockey who went by DJ Jonasty, spinning at spots like Freelon’s Restaurant Bar & Groove and local radio stations.

Approaching a nearly 15-year long stint in urban radio broadcasting, Adams began a career as an executive producer for Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) as an executive producer for live on-air talk shows. For over five years, he produced four different shows a week: The Gestalt Gardener, Creature Comforts, Fix It 101, & Deep South Dining. 

As time passed, Adams and his wife, Eboni, decided it was time to take their careers to the next level.

“I kind of hit a glass ceiling in radio. MPB was probably my best job at that point, but the positions ahead of me, those people weren’t going anywhere, which is fine,” explains Adams. “I wasn’t going anywhere at 99 Jams. So, I talked to my wife, and she said she was ready to submit our resumes across the country.”

Once Adams and his family relocated to D.C., he began working as a freelance audio editor at Westwood One media company. He worked his way through the ranks and, in less than two years, was promoted to executive producer -a top position in the company. Unfortunately, Adams’ progression then came to an unforeseen halt.

“The pandemic hit, and they laid off the whole company. I went right back to scratch,” he said. 

During the pandemic, Adams spent over a year – applying for another opportunity before getting hired at NPR as a temporary employee. Six months later, Adams was offered the full-time director’s position at the nonprofit media organization with a national audience. 

The former radio personality never envisioned himself working in the news industry. After months on the job, Adams said he enjoys the new career and is thankful he was open-minded about the decision.

“If you would’ve asked younger Jonas, I would have never gone into the news lane. I thought I was going to work in more of the entertainment side of radio, programming music, DJing live on-air, being a personality,” Adams shares. “Now that I’m older, this is a lane I really enjoy. I’m glad I wasn’t too close-minded because I probably would have never applied.  I’m here for the long run.”

Adams encourages everyone to keep their options open and not stray away from new opportunities. He said sometimes a person might have to toss out their original plan to make room for something greater. 

“Know that you’re good enough. Don’t let anyone tell you that your HBCU degree is not going to open enough doors for you or prepare you for the real world,” Adams says. “You are more than good enough. As a matter of fact, you’re probably going to leave your HBCU overqualified.”