|City of license||Raleigh, North Carolina|
|Broadcast area||Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill
|Branding||NewsRadio 680 WPTF|
|Slogan||Need to Know Radio|
|First air date||September 22, 1924(as WFBQ)|
|Callsign meaning||We Protect The Family (named for the slogan of the station's former owners, Durham Life Insurance Company)|
|Former callsigns||WFBQ (1924–1925)
|Affiliations||CBS Radio Network
North Carolina News Network
|Owner||Curtis Media Group
(Curtis Media Group)
|Sister stations||WBBB, WFNL, WKIX-FM, WPTK, WQDR-FM, WWPL, WBZJ|
WPTF (680 AM; "NewsRadio 680") is a news and talk radio station serving the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The station is owned by Curtis Media Group. Its call letters date back to the former longtime owner of the station, Durham Life Insurance Company, whose motto was "We Protect The Family." Its studios are located in Raleigh, and the transmitter tower is in Cary, North Carolina.
Programs on WPTF include local news blocks in morning drive and afternoons, national talk show hosts like Dr. Joy Browne, and programs such as Red Eye Radio. In addition, the station also hosts a local talk show with Tom Kearney.
WPTF is the second-most powerful station in North Carolina, as a 50,000-watt class B station. Its signal is non-directional during the day, providing at least grade B coverage as far west as Charlotte, as far east as Wilmington and as far north as the Roanoke suburbs. Its nighttime directional signal can be picked up well south into the Bahamas and other parts of the Caribbean and can supposedly be picked up in Venezuela. However, it is somewhat spotty in parts of Virginia, only 50 miles north.
WPTF was originally called WFBQ, and was the second radio station in Raleigh (N. C. State had the first, WLAC, but it did not last), going on the air September 22, 1924 at 1190 AM, broadcasting at 50 watts. The station was owned and operated by the Wynne Radio Company, owned by William A. Wynne, and the offices and broadcasting facilities were located in the Boone Building next to the Wake County Courthouse. After a year of successful operation, the station had its call letters changed to WRCO, for Wynne Radio Company. On August 19, 1926 the station was authorized to increase its power to 100 watts. Being a more powerful station, they moved their operations to the Sir Walter Hotel. The following year the power was increased to 250 watts. They signed on the air each morning at sunrise and signed off the air at sunset each day. Early in 1927 the station requested from the government 500 watts of power. In June of that year they received word that their request would not be granted, however, they were given authority to move to 1380 on the dial, along with unlimited time on the air.
In 1927, The Durham Life Insurance Company purchased WRCO outright from the Wynne Company and the station's call letters were altered to WPTF. The new owners were given a permit to increase their power to 500 watts and to move to 720 on the dial. New equipment was purchased and the operations were moved to the basement of the old Durham Life building.
Things moved rather rapidly for the new owners. On November 16, 1927, WPTF moved to 550 kilocycles, remaining there until November 1, 1928, when it changed to 680. In 1928, the station was granted another increase in power, this time to 1,000 watts, but was required to sign off at sunset.
Although many attempts were made over the next several years, it wasn't until 1933 that the station increased its power to 5,000 watts. With this authority, WPTF purchased new equipment and moved to Cary, North Carolina, on US Highway 1.
In June, 1940, WPTF was given authority to operate unlimited hours and a month later was granted a construction permit to install new transmitter equipment and increase its power to 50,000 watts.
Almost a year later on a late spring evening, listeners heard these words from the announcer on duty: "Ladies and Gentlemen, there will be a few moments of silence while engineers switch from WPTF's 5,000 watts transmitter unit and begin operation for the first time with its new 50,000 watts transmitter." Thus, on May 24, 1941, WPTF began a new era in broadcasting.
As of 1948, WPTF was an affiliate of NBC Radio. WPTF-FM signed on at 94.5 in 1949 using the tallest of the AM station's three towers off N.C. Highway 54, near the present-day Interstate 40. The FM station later moved to 94.7. Both stations operated from 410 South Salisbury street in Downtown Raleigh. The tower used by WPTF-FM when it signed on is currently used by WKIX-FM.
Bart Ritner went to work at WPTF in 1966, staying for 39 years. He hosted the morning show "Ask Your Neighbor", with people giving advice or recipes. His most popular show was "Open Line", an hour-long call-in-show started in 1966 and expanded to two hours in 1973. Don Curtis, whose company later bought the station called the show "one of the nation's first daily two-way talk programs".
By the 1970s, the AM station offered a "full service format with news, talk, and adult contemporary music," and the FM was playing classical music before switching to album rock and the call letters WQDR-FM in 1973.
Ritner moved to news in 1980. He was the only reporter at a 1982 hostage incident at Central Prison, helping to negotiate and end the standoff. Ritner returned to "Open Line" in 1986 and moved it from evenings to afternoons.
Bob Kwesell, whose conservative views offended a number of listeners but attracted many newcomer and increased advertising, was dropped on November 17, 1986.
WPTF-TV, a nine-year-old station previously called WRDU-TV when Durham Life bought it, joined the two radio stations at their Highwoods Boulevard studios on the north end of Raleigh.
In 1991, Durham Life sold its broadcasting stations. Don Curtis, who bought all of WQDR, had a "controlling interest" in WPTF.
WPTF had served as the flagship station for the NC State Wolfpack sports network for more than 40 years until Wolfpack Sports Marketing announced it had signed a ten-year deal to move its flagship to Capitol Broadcasting Company's WRAL-FM. NC State athletic officials cited their desire to be on an FM signal with a multi-year contract and the ability to collect more local advertising revenue, conditions that Curtis Media was unwilling to provide. Some Wolfpack fans around the East Coast were unhappy with the move because it cut the audience of Wolfpack sports, especially at night, because of the reduced power.
After the September 2008 death of Jack Boston, Scott Fitzgerald took over North Carolina Morning News (5:30–9:00 am).
As of September 15 of 2008, WPTF began streaming Rush Limbaugh as well as the rest of their local and syndicated line up.
On November 2, 2009, Curtis Media President Phil Zachary said Limbaugh would be leaving WPTF December 31, 2009, after more than 20 years. The show moved to Clear Channel Communications new news talk station, WRDU, which is now up against WPTF.
In December 2009, Brian Freeman, program director of sister station WSJS in Winston-Salem, took over the same duties at WPTF and became the host of North Carolina's Morning News. Scott Fitzgerald moved to 9 to 11 am as host of his own show and as the host of North Carolina's Evening News from 5 to 7 pm.
The loss of long-time staples Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity has proved challenging for WPTF. Following the move of the conservative programs to "Rush Radio," WPTF's ratings were significantly impacted. In the Winter book, WPTF dropped to a 2.6 rating. That was down from a 6.2 in the Fall book.
WPTF's format was, in effect, split on March 13, 2012, when much of its talk programming moved to sister station WPTK, which is branded as TalkRadio 850 WPTF. WPTF then shifted most of its daytime programming to all-news, retaining the NewsRadio 680 WPTF identity. The station continued to air The Dave Ramsey Show in the late morning hours until it was picked up by WTKK on June 15, 2013; other talk shows still comprise WPTF's nighttime and weekend schedule. WPTF's local coverage is supplemented by the CBS Radio Network, AP Radio, and the co-owned North Carolina News Network.
WPTF has historically provided hurricane coverage to residents of the Carolinas. WPTF first provided reports of Hurricane Hazel and has covered most major storms ever since.
Because of WPTF's directional nighttime signal, the station assisted the residents of Charleston, South Carolina after Hurricane Hugo hit the state in 1989. Most of coastal South Carolina, including the city of Charleston was without power, so local radio stations were knocked off the air. WPTF broadcast emergency information and even won several awards from the state of South Carolina for their assistance.
In 1996, WPTF provided coverage of Hurricane Fran even though the station was without power for nearly a week. The station and transmitter site ran on generator power, allowing residents in the Triangle and beyond to call in for storm and damage information and find out where to get needed supplies, such as ice, water, and food.
WPTF on-air staff
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (May 2010)|
WPTF has a storied history developing personalities. Many of these on-air figures go on to larger markets, or become long-time Raleigh-Durham favorites. Below are some of a few.
- Jerry Agar (2000–2005)
- Wally Ausley (1928–1994, deceased)
- Mike Blackman (1972–2009)
- John Wesley Brett (1988–1995)
- Jim DeFontes (1999–2004)
- Don Curtis (1991–present owner, operator)
- Jimmy Dean
- Gary Dornburg (until 1998, deceased)
- Mike Edwards (until 1999)
- Vance Elderkin (1998–2000)
- Bob Farrington
- Charlie Gaddy
- Randy Gupton (1998–2003)
- Hap Hansen
- Bob Hazen (2001–2005)
- Marva Hinton (2002–2006)
- Johnny Hood (1970–2001)
- Bob Inskeep
- Patrick Johnson(2007–2010)
- Tom Kearney (current)
- Mitch Kokai (1999–2002)
- Bill LuMaye (current)
- Donna Mason (until 2003)
- Carl Goerch (deceased, founder of Our State magazine)
- Paul Michaels (2000–present)
- Kevin Miller (2002–2007)
- Maury O'Dell (1975–2003)
- Mike Raley (1975–present)
- Waldemar Debnam (1941- 1956, deceased)
- Kathy Reid
- Tony Riggsbee (1977–2004)
- Bart Ritner (1966–2004, deceased)
- Ralph Shaw (2001–2003)
- David Sherrill
- Brian Shrader (2001–2003)
- Larry Stone
- Dick Storck
- Jeremy Thompson(1997–2005)
- Bryce Wilson (1995–present)
- Broadcasting & Cable Yearbook 1999 (PDF). 1999. p. D-327. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
- http://www.wptf.com/programming.asp, Retrieved on March 16, 2012.
- Danny Hooley, "WPTF-AM's Boston Diagnosed with Leukemia," The News and Observer, October 12, 2006.
- "North Carolina's Curtis Media makes talk changes in Raleigh & Greensboro". Radio-Info.com. March 12, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
- "Raleigh-Durham FM Dial". Archived from the original on February 1, 2003.
- http://www.tv-signoffs.com/NC_raleigh.htm, Retrieved on 2008/04/22.
- "Raleigh-Durham AM Dial". Archived from the original on July 18, 2003.
- Cain, Brooke (2011-12-30). "Bart Ritner, popular radio host, dies at 76". News & Observer. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
- Steelman, Ben (1986-12-21). "'Too hot' host moving to area's radio". Star-News.
- http://www.gopack.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=9200&ATCLID=876362, Retrieved on 2008/04/22.
- http://northcarolinastate.scout.com/2/639158.html, Retrieved on 2008/04/22.
- Baysden, Chris (November 2, 2009). "Clear Channel to pull Rush Limbaugh off Raleigh station WPTF". Triangle Business Journal.
- Baysden, Chris (2011-02-08). "Curtis moves NASCAR from WQDR to WPTF". Triangle Business Journal. Retrieved 2011-02-09.
- Venta, Lance (March 12, 2012). "680 WPTF Raleigh Expands News; 850 WKIX and 101.1 WZTK To Flip". RadioInsight. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
- Official website WPTF's webpage shared with WPTK
- Official website WPTK's webpage shared with WPTF
- WPTF history on RDU Radio Waves
- Recording of "WPTF: The First 50 Years" (1974)
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WPTF
- Radio-Locator Information on WPTF
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WPTF