Jackie Fanara named new publisher of Winter Park/Maitland Observer

Jackie Fanara, a veteran community newspaper executive, served as publisher of the East County Observer in Manatee County.

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Observer Media Group Inc. announced Monday, Nov. 20, Jackie Fanara as the new publisher for the Winter Park/Maitland Observer.

Fanara, a Winter Park resident, brings more than two decades of experience in print media, marketing and advertising. She also has a long history of work with OMG; she served as publisher of its East County Observer from 2003 to 2009. During that time, she helped create several special sections, including Health Matters and Summer Fun Guide, that exist company-wide today. 

“We’re thrilled to have Jackie join us as publisher of the Winter Park/Maitland Observer,” said Matt Walsh, CEO and owner of OMG. “Jackie did a terrific job as publisher of our East County Observer in Manatee County. 

“She led our efforts there to make that startup the leading news medium in that area,” Walsh said. “In fact, Jackie and Winter Park/Maitland Observer Executive Editor Michael Eng were previously publisher and executive editor at the East County Observer. They’re an awesome team and will make the Winter Park/Maitland Observer an outstanding newspaper.”

In addition to her work at OMG, Fanara was an active leader in the Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota communities. She served on the board of the American Cancer Society and as president of Kids Escaping Drugs. She also founded the Lakewood Ranch Activities Board, which hosts more than 250 events throughout the year; was a member of Kiwanis Club; and served as a guardian ad litem in Sarasota and Bradenton.

Fanara is excited to bring that same enthusiasm to her new home in Winter Park.

“Many years ago, I was a part of creating something amazing for the community I called home — Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota,” she said. “Today as a resident of our beautiful Winter Park, I am once again given the honor to serve a community that I now call home.”

Following her first stint with OMG, Fanara served as director of marketing and community relations for the Pines of Sarasota Rehabilitation and Senior Care Community, for which she created its successful Run to Remember 5K fundraiser for Alzheimer’s disease research and awareness.

“Everyone who meets Jackie will find she is an incredibly energetic leader and enjoys being involved in the community,” Walsh said. “If your organization needs a doer, you will have a tough time finding someone who can out-do Jackie. … Being a resident of Winter Park means that Jackie will have skin in the game and be driven to do what’s best for the community and its businesses.”

Fanara’s appointment comes about nine months since OMG purchased the Winter Park/Maitland Observer. Dawn Willis, publisher of OMG’s West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer since 2014, also served as publisher of the Winter Park/Maitland Observer as it transitioned into an OMG publication.

“I give Dawn a lot of credit for guiding our transition in Winter Park while also overseeing our growth in West Orange County,” Walsh said. “She did a great job trying to be in three places at once. With Jackie’s appointment, Dawn will be able to refocus on our expansion in West Orange.”

Eng will continue leading the editorial staffs at all three newspapers.

OMG purchased the Winter Park/Maitland Observer Feb. 23 from Turnstile Media Group. OMG is a 23-year-old private company that publishes 12 other newspapers, three magazines and seven websites in Florida — in Sarasota, Plant City, Winter Garden, Windermere, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Port Orange and Jacksonville. 



Michael Eng

As a child, Editor and Publisher Michael Eng collected front pages of the Kansas City Star during Operation Desert Storm, so it was a foregone conclusion that he would pursue a career in journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his wife and three children, or playing drums around town. He’s also a sucker for dad jokes.

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