Turnstile Media Group has promoted Community Media Managing Editor Jenny Andreasson and Associate Editor Isaac Babcock. Andreasson will join fellow Turnstile publication Professional Artist magazine as its new assistant editor on Nov. 26. Babcock steps into the role of managing editor of Turnstile’s Community Media division, which publishes the Winter Park-Maitland Observer, Seminole Voice and Baldwin Park Living magazine.
I began covering the Winter Park and Maitland communities as a reporter in January 2008, less than a month after graduating from the University of Central Florida’s journalism program. While I’d ventured to Park Avenue and the Enzian Theater a few times, I knew nothing about these cities. This week, almost five years later, I leave the Winter Park-Maitland Observer not only knowing their intricacies, but with a deep respect and admiration for the people that make these cities true communities.
So many stories have left marks on my soul over the years: There was Marty Barber, the police officer who was back to serve his community just 10 weeks after being shot in the head. Christopher Marino, the autistic boy who was swept 8 miles out to sea and survived thanks to lessons he received from the YMCA. BASE Camp children who can forget that they have cancer one week out of the year thanks to Sandy Bonus Fine Arts’ free art camp. Liam Thomas, the autistic ice skater who wants his mom to watch him compete in the Olympics before a fatal cancer claims her life. Talia, the 9-year-old girl who never uttered a word until she started riding Titan, a therapy horse at Freedom Ride. Nan Parker and Cheryl Eller, the women fighting to rescue a girl with spina bifida from a terrible life in Namibia. And Michele Van Son, the wife whose love for her husband, Jeff, grew even as she watched him slowly fade away due to a rare terminal illness.
Those are only a few examples of the amazing people living in the Winter Park and Maitland communities. They let the Observer into their lives, sharing with us their most intimate details, trusting us to get the story right. In most cases, we were the only ones who would tell their stories. That’s why I’m so proud to be in the business of community journalism. If we weren’t publishing these stories, they may never have been told. The Orlando Sentinel and local TV reporters don’t step foot in Winter Park and Maitland unless they smell a scandal. We’re the watchdog – you’ll see a reporter at every government meeting – but we’re also a cheerleader. The content we produce is substantial, compelling, informative and most importantly, hyper-local and original. We exist to support the community, tell its stories, help its people, and the community supports us right back.
That’s part of what’s made working for the Observer so fulfilling during the last five years. It’s also thanks to my dedicated production team, writers and columnists who make this an award-winning newspaper like no other. I’m going to miss the way it still feels like Christmas morning every time I hold a new issue in my hands. I’ll miss reading your letters to the editor and deciding what’s going on the front page. I’ll even miss those super late production nights and habitual trips to Taco Bell. But I won’t have to miss your stories, as I know the Observer, with new Managing Editor Isaac Babcock at the helm, will continue to bring them to life on newsprint and beyond.
It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know Winter Park and Maitland through a journalist’s eyes. Now I’m excited to be on the other side, as a resident in the community. Knowing what I know now, there’s no place I’d rather be.
Thank you for everything.