|City||Raleigh, North Carolina|
|Broadcast area||Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill
|Branding||NewsRadio 680 WPTF|
|Slogan||"The Triangle's Severe Weather Station"|
|Repeater(s)||94.7-3 WQDR-HD3 Raleigh
98.7 FM W254AS Rolesville
|First air date||September 22, 1924(as WFBQ)|
|Callsign meaning||We Protect The Family (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, WQDR, WKIX-FM, WPTK, WQDR-FM, WKJO, WWPL|
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 call letters date back to the former longtime owner of the station, Durham Life Insurance Company, whose motto was "We Protect The Family." Durham Life owned the station from 1927-1992. Its studios are located on Highwoods Boulevard in Raleigh, and the transmitter tower is in Cary, North Carolina. The station is currently owned by Curtis Media Group.
Programs on WPTF include local news blocks in morning drive, noon and afternoons, national talk shows like consumer and family finances expert Clark Howard, and the overnight political show Red Eye Radio. In addition, the station also hosts local talk shows including Tom Kearney.
When owned by Durham Life Broadcasting (a wholly owned subsidiary of Durham Life Insurance), the station was associated with and operated alongside other DLB properties; WQDR-FM from 1949-1992 and WPTF-TV, the longtime NBC affiliate in the Triangle, from 1977-1992. The TV station is now known as WRDC, "MyRDC," an affiliate of MyNetworkTV, and owned by Sinclair Broadcasting.
WPTF is one of two AM radio stations in North Carolina which operate full time with 50,000 watts, along with WBT in Charlotte. Both these stations operate with a non-directional daytime signal, and a directional signal at night that protects other stations on their frequency. (As a Class A station WBT has more protection from other stations than WPTF, which is classified as Class B.)
WPTF's daytime signal provides a grade B signal westward to Charlotte, eastward to Wilmington, and northward to the Roanoke, Virginia suburbs. Its nighttime directional signal is primarily designed to protect the dominant Class A station on 680, KNBR San Francisco. Its nighttime coverage also must avoid interfering with several 50,000 watt stations to the north, also on 680 kHz, including WRKO in Boston and CFTR in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. During the night the station's signal reaches Charleston, South Carolina with good quality, and can be picked up well south into the Bahamas and other parts of the Caribbean and Venezuela. However, the nighttime coverage is spotty in parts of Virginia.
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 kHz, 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.
In the early 1930s, WPTF was a pioneer in educational radio, similar to educational TV many years later. Students in area schools that had radio were able to listen to a daily broadcast, with topics that included "Citizenship", "Science", "Social Studies" and "Art, Music and Literature".
Although many attempts were made over the next several years, it was not 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 added an FM station that year, signing 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. WPTF-FM later moved to 94.7 and today is Country music station WQDR, still co-owned by Curtis Media. At the time, 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).
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 (now iHeartMedia's) new FM talk radio station, 106.1 WRDU (now WTKK), which competes now is now with WPTF.
The loss of long-time staples Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity has proved challenging for WPTF. Following the move of the conservative programs to the new FM Talk Radio station, WPTF's ratings were significantly impacted. After having been among Raleigh's most popular stations, these days the station's ratings are considerably lower. In December 2009, Brian Freeman, program director of sister station WSJS in Winston-Salem, North Carolina took over the same duties at WPTF and became the host of North Carolina's Morning News.
WPTF's format was, in effect, split on March 13, 2012, when much of its talk programming moved to sister station WPTK, which was 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.
In August 2015, WPTF dropped the split programming from 850-AM. This brought Bill LuMaye back to 680-AM from 9am-Noon, Clark Howard 1pm-3pm, with LuMaye again from 8pm-9pm. A New "North Carolina's Noon News with Bruce Ferrell" airs between LuMaye and Howard (Noon-1pm). The second half of the afternoon drive is branded still as "North Carolina's Evening News with Scott Briggamon" between 4pm-7pm.
Tony Riggsbee, who retired from WPTF in 2004, had returned to the station on a part-time basis a few months prior. He currently helms WPTF's Saturday Morning News prior to "Eye on Health" and long-time staple "The WPTF Weekend Gardner" hosted by Mike Raley and Ann Clapp.
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
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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 (1978-1980)
- Garry 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, 2012–Present)
- 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; 2015–Present)
- Bart Ritner (1966–2004, deceased)
- Lowell Schumaker
- Ralph Shaw (2001–2003)
- David Sherrill
- Brian Shrader (2001–2003)
- Larry Stone
- Dick Storck
- Jeremy Thompson(1997–2005)
- Bryce Wilson (1995–present)
+ Phil Ellis (1940's) + Bill Jackson (sports anncr/morning personality) + Jim Reid (sports anncr. 1940's)
- 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.
- "NC began 'Radio school' for kids in 1931". News & Observer.
- 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
- FCC History Cards for WPTF