WMNF-FM 88.5 has hired longtime television producer Rick Fernandes as its next general manager.
Fernandes, a New York native, got his start in TV working at Sesame Street, and for years was an executive for Turner Broadcasting in Southeast Asia, overseeing the development of original programming for TruTV, MondoTV, Cartoon Network Asia and other networks.
Most recently, Fernandes was director of the nonprofit Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania. The center is home to the Fred Rogers Archive, as in children’s television host Mister Rogers, and focuses on “helping the helpers as they care for, educate, and raise children.”
In a written statement, WMNF board president David Harbeitner said that Fernandes’ experience in both profit and nonprofit media means he “understands both the front line needs to be required in producing quality content while recognizing the need to fit the greater goals of the station."
“Fewer and fewer resources are available to focus on and highlight things in our local community,” Harbeitner added. "WMNF is in a unique position to leverage our long history in the community while growing to serve more of it.”
Fernandes will take over for interim GM Cindy Reichert at the 40-year-old, volunteer-driven, listener-supported community radio station on Nov. 11. Fernandes, who currently lives in Pittsburgh, will move to the Tampa Bay area in the coming weeks.
WMNF’s last GM, Craig Kopp, resigned from the station in April, after a failed attempt to fire station co-founder and news director Rob Lorei. Lorei was reinstated by the board of directors in February, after impassioned Lorei supporters flooded a public hearing and pulled $30,000 in pledged donations.
WMNF has an annual revenue of close to $2 million, and more than 7,000 member-donors who pledge a certain donation each month.
Harbeitner said previously that the station would want its next GM to focus in part on expanding awareness after a 2019 survey showed only 2 percent of locals who listened to radio had heard of WMNF.