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Central Florida Public Media’s Judith Smelser honored as one of Orlando Magazine’s 2024 Women of The Year

Rebecca Fernandez, Markita Cooper, Alexis Pugh, Donna Mackenzie, Judith Smelser, Meredith Sand, Nicole Abbondandolo, LaToya Dennis

Central Florida Public Media would like to congratulate its president and general manager Judith Smelser on being chosen as an Orlando Magazine 2024 Women of The Year honoree. The award honors women who make a positive impact on the Central Florida community.

“I am honored to receive this award because it amplifies Central Florida Public Media’s commitment to empowering the community through local journalism,” said Smelser. “This commitment is exemplified by the significant expansion of our local service over the past year.”

Under Smelser’s leadership, Central Florida Public Media has launched the new local show Engage, the local news podcast The Wrap, and a new reporting beat covering issues of housing and homelessness across the region. The organization is also launching the Emerging Journalists Fellowship this summer – a paid, year-long opportunity for new graduates and career changers entering the field.

Smelser led a rebranding process this year, culminating in a new name and identity for the organization previously known as WMFE.

“Our new name uses inclusive, everyday language to reflect who we are, what we do, and the region we serve,” said Smelser. “It also takes us beyond our broadcast frequencies to embrace our full range of multimedia offerings.”

Smelser has served in her current role since 2021. She began her journalism career in Washington, D.C. and moved to Central Florida in 2004 to join WMFE’s newsroom. Over nearly eight years, she excelled as an award-winning reporter and later as news director, overseeing comprehensive coverage of hurricanes, elections and the final Space Shuttle missions, among other notable regional events.

In 2011, Smelser joined Colorado Public Radio, where she served in various newsroom leadership roles. Her expertise and experience led her back to Orlando, where she established Smelser Editing & Consulting, providing consulting and training services to more than 30 public media organizations nationwide.

Smelser’s primary goal as president and general manager is to ensure Central Florida Public Media delivers on its mission to empower Central Florida through trustworthy, independent journalism.

“We will continue to pursue our vision to lead the community conversation, based on substantiated facts and respect for diverse perspectives; to be Central Florida’s essential source for journalism grounded in listening; and to be a model workplace that embraces risk, innovation, and authenticity.”

Smelser also serves on the executive committee of the Board of Florida Public Media, a collaborative organization working to elevate the service of the 24 public media organizations serving communities across the state.