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Smelser Named President, GM of WMFE – Orlando

Veteran journalist and broadcaster Judith Smelser has been named President and General Manager of WMFE-FM in Orlando.

Judith Smelser – President and GM – WMFE & WMFV

Smelser had been serving as WMFE/WMFV’s interim President and General Manager since September 2021.

She has a long history with the station as an award-winning reporter and news director, according to an announcement by the station’s board.

“After a nationwide search and interviewing a number of well qualified candidates, we have selected Judith as the person to lead the station on a permanent basis,” said Donna Mackenzie, Chair of WMFE/WMFV’s Board of Trustees.

“Judith embodies the qualities and experience we believe will allow the station to reach its full potential, enhancing and building the focus on journalism and service to our community.”

Mackenzie announced Smelser’s permanent position to station staff on February 8.

“My ambition was never to lead a station,” Smelser said. “But for me, WMFE is not just any station. My career has taken me all over the country and given me a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing public media and journalism; now I get to put that experience to work for an organization and a community I love and consider my home.”

WMFE broadcasts throughout the greater Orlando area. WMFV broadcasts in The Villages and surrounding communities.

WMFE is a member of Florida Public Media, the professional association of public broadcasters in the state.

WMNF-FM Hires Rick Fernandes as New General Manager

WMNF has a new general manager; the Tampa Bay area’s full-power community radio station announced Wednesday that the station’s board of directors has hired Rick Fernandes, who will start on November 11.

Rick Fernandes
In the past, Fernandes served as the executive director of the Fred Rogers Center, an executive at Time Warner and the director of television programs.
In this interview, WMNF News asked him what he brings to the station and how 88.5 FM can stand out in a crowded media environment.

“I like to consider myself a ‘down to earth’ person. Though I may have fancy titles before, I consider myself just a kid from Brooklyn. My experience has been — sort of what I bring to the table — that I’ve been on both sides of the fence, per se, in every area.
“I’ve been in the production / creative side, but I’ve also been on the business / management side. I’ve worked for for-profit companies, and I’ve worked for non-profit organizations. And that sort of gives me a different perspective. And able to look at things from a different angle. And what I hope is to sort of bring the best out of people, and help WMNF achieve its goals.”

“There’s tons of media choices. But, in the end people generally look for two things, in my opinion. It’s not the medium or for the content, but it’s the person who is presenting it.
“So, whether it’s the news reporter or whether it’s your disc jockey, they attach to people. Because in the end, there are so many choices out there. Who is your curator?
“So, to me, it’s how do you highlight that? WMNF really has impressed me. You think: ‘Oh, it’s a community radio station.’ You have done incredibly well. You don’t last 40 years in the media industry without changing formats, without trying to reinvent yourself all the time. You have a very clear mission, and you’re delivering on it.

“I think the challenge in this landscape is that there are so many choices. How do you make people aware of who you are and what you stand for?

“So, for me, the goal really is, how do we raise the profile? How do we let people in the community that aren’t aware of the station, become aware of it? Because I honestly believe it’s not about changing you are. You are great! I wouldn’t want to be part of an organization that I didn’t believe in its mission.

“It’s how you let more people know about the diverse viewpoints you have. The music is phenomenal. The news programming, in that you are serving the local community. Because in the end, there’s so much about national coverage and music just being about what’s the most popular. I think people relate to something that’s different, unique, that relates to them.”

In a press release, the president of WMNF’s board of directors David Harbeitner writes, “Richard joins WMNF with an opportunity to help expand our presence in the community.”