An all-star quartet of roasters should provide plenty of laughs for the September 27 Face on the Barroom Floor roast for Jeff Zeleny, one of the most accomplished journalists to ever come from Nebraska.
A native of Exeter and Exeter High School graduate, Zeleny currently serves as CNN’s senior Washington correspondent and has been with the news network for the past four years. He is a 1996 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he studied journalism and political science. While at UNL, he was editor of the Daily Nebraskan and played trumpet in the Cornhusker Marching Band.
Zeleny’s diverse group of roasters includes an ESPN reporter, one of his brothers, a former Face on the Barroom Floor, and a college professor/author.
Paula Lavigne, an investigative reporter for ESPN since 2008, will serve as emcee. She has been recognized for her investigative journalism with multiple awards including a Gracie Award for her investigation on the Baylor football program. She also co-authored a book on how Baylor University handled sexual violence among students. A Gretna native, Lavigne is a 1998 UNL graduate, who worked with Zeleny at the Daily Nebraskan.
Zeleny’s other roasters include:
• His brother, Mike Zeleny, chief of staff and associate to the chancellor, UNL;
• Allen Beermann, who is retiring in 2020 as executive director of the Nebraska Press Association after 25 years. Beermann previously served as secretary of state for Nebraska for 24 years. In 2009, he was honored as the Omaha Press Club’s 121st Face on the Barroom Floor; and
• Joe Starita, a journalism professor at UNL who has written three critically acclaimed books examining the vital role of Native Americans in American history.
“It will be great to be back home in Nebraska,” Zeleny said. “I’ll be bracing myself. These roasters know way too much about me. I have no doubt it’s going to be a fun evening at the Omaha Press Club.”
Zeleny’s mom, Diane, still lives on a portion of the family farm and Jeff’s other brother, Jim, lives just a few miles away.
Zeleny interned at several newspapers during college including The Wall Street Journal. His work resume includes positions with:
• The Des Moines Register, where he covered state politics and the Iowa caucuses;
• The Chicago Tribune, where he was a member of the reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize in explanatory journalism for documenting gridlock in the nation’s air traffic;
• The New York Times, where he covered Barack Obama’s first years in the White House; and
• ABC News, where he served as senior Washington correspondent.
Since joining CNN, Zeleny covered the 2016 presidential election – his fifth presidential election – and has reported extensively on the first three years of the Donald Trump presidency.
Event info includes: Jeff Zeleny – Face on Barroom Floor. When: Friday, September 27 (reception – 5:30 p.m., dinner – 6:30 p.m., roast – 8 p.m.). Cost: $55 – OPC members; $65 – non-members. Call the Omaha Press Club at 402-345-8008. Members can charge to their OPC account. Non-members need to provide credit card information.