In addition to running the rare built-from-scratch TV station, WMBF's Ted Fortenberry is an amateur reporter. The man responsible for driving revenue growth at Raycom's Myrtle Beach NBC affiliate can also be found driving around DMA No. 104 with a video camera, sending content back to the station.
“I like to kid that Ted is actually my executive producer of the morning show, because he gets up at 4:30 and works out and watches,” says WMBF News Director Matt Miller. “We have the most engaged GM you have ever worked for.”
It is hard to overstate Fortenberry's commitment to WMBF and the market it serves. Hired in 2007 from KAIT Jonesboro, Ark., to build WMBF from the ground up, he didn't waste time getting started, hiring a management team and breaking ground in pursuit of a launch on Aug. 8, 2008.
“The most important thing initially was attitude,” Fortenberry says. “You have to have the right attitude to be able to come in here and do what we did.”
What he and his staff of 80 did was establish a viable news alternative in growing Myrtle Beach. After the newsroom tackled tropical storms and rare South Carolina snowstorms, WMBF's coverage of the region's wildfires last spring was a defining moment. Over the three days of fires, the station's Website received more than 3 million page views, exponentially more than it had ever previously garnered, and posted news ratings that gave longtime No. 1 WBTW a run for its money. When the blaze approached Fortenberry's own neighborhood, the station put him on-air with a map, giving a debriefing from the perspective of a concerned homeowner.
Fortenberry extended the station's news reach when he launched the digital channel WMBF News XTRA in June.
Just as Fortenberry wears a number of hats, he expects his staff to do the same. He streamlined station operations into just five departments, and staffers perform a number of different duties. Raycom thought enough of WMBF's model that it rolled it out throughout its group. “There aren't going to be any walls,” he says. “When we hired these people, we said, 'Anything that we need done is going to be your job.' You had a group who knew that was the expectation.”
Fortenberry speaks with pride about WMBF's launch in 2008 and emergence in 2009, but he knows hard work still remains. “It's certainly less of a work in progress today than it was on Aug. 8,” he says. “[But] until we're the number-one station as far as viewership and revenue are concerned, we'll keep working, we'll keep fighting.”
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