Your Friends, Your Favorites, Your Fox, Locally
by Melissa LaScaleia
WFXB is a Fox affiliate news station broadcasting locally from the Market Common. They host three shows daily: Carolina AM, a live morning talk show hosted by Greg Rowles and Audra Grant; live coverage of Fox Midday News, hosted by Laura Pence and B.J. Kinard; and in the evening, Not the News— a lighthearted satire of the news, also hosted by Greg and Audra.
Laura Pence has been with the station since October 2017. She’s currently the co-producer for Carolina AM with Audra Grant, and co-host of the Midday News show.
Laura comes from a small town in Missouri. She attended Missouri State for college and had no plans for pursuing a career in the media or television industry.
“I wanted to be a nurse originally,” she says. “But I ended up taking a media class that I really enjoyed and decided to pursue the field. After I graduated college, I took a job as a receptionist at the local Fox news station in Missouri just to get my foot in the door. Then I moved up to become a promotions producer.”
In that role, Laura created promotional videos for the company’s various programs. She worked with commercial production, videography, and video editing. After six years, she was looking for a change. She applied for the co-host/producer position in Myrtle Beach at WFXB five years ago.
“All three of our shows we create and write here in our studio,” Laura says. “I’ve had a blast since I’ve been here.”
The morning show is designed to engage the community; it’s intended to be informative, fun and relaxed— a unique approach to morning news and way for people to connect to the outside world.
Carolina AM covers a variety of topics. There is always something health-related: like statistics on exercise or a trending nutrition find— sometimes even a dating tip. They’ll always do a showbiz highlight, in which they relay the top four news-worthy stories involving celebrities. And then there’s a cooking segment. Often top chefs will appear as guest educators; at other times Greg and Audra will teach each other how to prepare a dish.
Laura and Audra work together to create the show daily. For the first ten minutes of the show, Greg and Audra chat unscripted— and as it’s a live broadcast— anything spontaneous or quirky, or both, can occur. For the remainder of the show, the producers unearth content in advance.
“We both work to book daily guests— whether they represent local events or a new business that’s opened,” Laura says. “It could be as simple as helping promote a 5k race. We try to have 1-2 guests per day. Then we split up the rest of the show and try to find content that is lighthearted and inspiring— things that will make our viewers laugh. Then we edit video to go along with it.”
Earlier this year, Laura and Audra added a new segment to the show called Carolina Kindness.
“Because of Covid, a lot of people were looking for a boost of happiness,” Laura says. “And we noticed a trend of people sharing more happy stories online. So we began by highlighting stories of kindness that we came across nationally, and called them Happy Hump Day Stories, because we aired them on Wednesdays. It evolved as we began to become aware of acts of kindness happening locally; then we began to put a spotlight on the things people were doing in our community.”
Laura and Audra will sometimes search for their happy content, and sometimes it finds them. Viewers will write to them with leads, at other times they search social media platforms and the internet.
“We’ve even had some guests come into the studio and share about things that have happened to them, or nominate someone else that they’ve heard has been doing things to make others in the community smile or just have a better day. So now we call it Carolina Kindness. At first it was just stories that make you smile; it wasn’t about people being kind to one another. But now it’s focussed more on that.”
Carolina Kindness recently highlighted the story of a teenage girl from Florence who sent a care package all on her own to a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. He was so touched that when he finished his tour of duty, he sought her out to thank her personally and tell her how much her thoughtfulness meant to him while he was abroad.
Another story featured a man who was handy with automobiles. He restored junk cars to make them mechanically sound and gave them away to those in need of a vehicle.
Some of the stories are more intimate and personal. There was one about a woman selling birdhouses at the local farmers market who struck up a conversation with a man who came to her stall. Afterwards, she found out that he was a veteran, and in gratitude, she made him a birdhouse to thank him for his service.
In another, a couple were having lunch at Margaritaville at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, when they met another couple and struck up a lively conversation. At the end of their meal, instead of their bill, the waitress handed one couple a note that read, ‘Enjoy your lunch on us!’ It was from the their new friends.
For the showbiz highlights, the duo look at entertainment news sectors to find fresh, juicy content, like which celebrity got arrested or caught Covid.
“Today we had a story about an Ed Sheeran look-a-like,” Laura says with a laugh. “He looks so much like him that he has to disguise himself when he goes out in public so he doesn’t get bombarded.”
The dating tips come from anything like Fox News Lifestyle to Yahoo News Lifestyle.
“We share information from dating polls— things that are fun and funny,” Laura says. “Like, ‘Would you date someone who talked with their mouth full?’ Or, ‘What are the top things that would make someone go from a 10 to 5 on a date?’ We share the poll results then our hosts elaborate and give their own opinion about what they would do or think.
“Audra and I worked a booth representing WFXB at the Irish-Italian Festival during a recent weekend,” she adds, “and a lot of people came up to us and told us they watch the show every morning. We both appreciate that so much; it makes us feel really good hearing how much all of our hard work pays off.”
Carolina AM: Audra Grant & Greg Rowles: Weekdays at 9am
Midday News: B.J. Kinard & Laura Pence: Weekdays at 12:30pm
Not the News: Audra Grant & Greg Rowles: Weeknights at 10:30pm