By Reggie Connell/Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice

The State of the Union Address is tonight, and I can’t wait. I haven’t missed one since… well sometime before the Carter or Reagan administrations. I am glued to the screen no matter who is in the office.  I watch, in particular, for the policies the President chooses to feature, the strategy and visioning they plan to employ, and even their specific word choices.

It’s a chance for a leader to layout the accomplishments of the previous year and the goals for the future.

In December, Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer delivered the State of the City Address. A month later, Florida Governor Rick Scott gave the State of the State Address. And in the summer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs will deliver the State of the County Address. I’m not sure why, but for some reason, this annual event seems to be reserved for presidents, governors, and mayors. Why can’t a business, organization, or… say a local independent online news site deliver one too?

The Apopka Voice just recently finished a comprehensive analysis of its previous year in operation and a business and content plan for 2018 and the future, and we want to share it with our readers, so what better time to deliver our State of The Apopka Voice Address than on the State of the Union night?

And without further ado, here it is:

In 2015, Apopka resident Dale Fenwick launched The Apopka Voice with a goal to provide his community with a reliable source of news about Apopka in a format that was easy to access. In the digital world that we live in that meant being online, since that is where more and more people are turning to get their news.

The Apopka Voice strived to bring a new approach to collecting news and information, to original reporting, innovative storytelling, provocative commentary, and distribution that embraces the possibilities of technology and expand audiences and deepen relationships with its readers.

  In 2017, Fenwick sold The Apopka Voice to its Managing Editor Reggie Connell, but not before it won the Most Innovative Business Award from the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce, increased its monthly unique visitor average to more than 42,000, and increased its followers on its Facebook page to over 5,700.

These statistics validate the need Fenwick identified more than two years ago.

In that time span, The Apopka Voice has published over 4,200 articles on breaking news, business openings, government, politics, Blue Darter football, and even traffic alerts. When the Apopka Fire and Police Departments respond to a fire, crash or crime, we report on it. We gave you the details of City Council meetings. We were there when two brand-new candidates defeated two City Commission incumbents in 2016, and we will be there when Apopka elects a mayor and two more city commissioners in 2018.

And in the coming year, The Apopka Voice plans to inform, engage and inspire the Apopka community at an even deeper level. We remain the first draft of local news in Apopka, but we want to take that a step further.

In 2018, it is our intention to further-transition The Apopka Voice into a style of journalism and social action that not only reports but also takes steps to make a difference in the community.

The mission of The Apopka Voice will be to rebalance the news to expose readers to stories that help them understand problems and challenges, but also show potential ways to respond.

We are also aspiring to create a non-profit arm that can better take-on the issues plaguing the community such as homelessness, poverty, and the generational struggles of South Apopka.

Solution-based journalism heightens accountability by reporting on where and how people are doing better against a problem. It removes excuses and sets a bar for what citizens should expect from institutions or governments. It offers a more comprehensive and representative view, and it circulates up-to-date knowledge to help society self-correct by pointing out responses that people and communities can learn from.

The editors, staff, and reporters of The Apopka Voice will bring the same attention and rigor to stories about responses to problems as they do to the issues themselves. And in doing so, we believe we can elevate the public discourse, spur citizen participation, and reduce polarization.

 Much will change in 2018, but we believe those changes will lead to a news site that is richer and more vibrant in both reporting the news and providing solutions to the issues the community faces.

 What won’t change is our continuing search for the most compelling ways to tell stories. We will continue to put the fairness and accuracy of everything we publish above all else — and if we fall short, we will own up to our mistakes, and strive to do better.

We believe this is the journalism our community needs and our readers deserve. Original, independent, deeply-reported journalism is the fuel that powers a healthy and engaged community like Apopka. It’s been the guiding vision for The Apopka Voice for two years now, and today we renew that commitment.

And so, in closing, the State of The Apopka Voice is strong and looking forward to 2018. We are excited about the future of this growing and blessed community, and we are honored and privileged to tell its story every day.


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