OR Conversations is a weekly Q&A featuring conversations with local newsmakers.

David Porter has been in the news this week for urging the Orlando City Council to move a Confederate statue from Lake Eola Park. And while he is a newsmaker this week, Porter has spent most of his career reporting the news. He spent 30 years as a reporter, columnist and editorial writer before working for seven years as a public affairs manager for Disney Cruise Line. He now owns David Porter Communications in Pine Castle and writes extensively about mass transit in Central Florida.

Here’s what he says:

Orlando-Rising: How do you feel about the mayor’s decision to move the Confederate statue from Lake Eola Park to Greenwood Cemetery? Do you think it will end the controversy?

David Porter: I think Mayor Dyer’s decision was a win-win for both sides in this issue. The statue is being moved to a more appropriate location, and the statue will receive badly needed repairs. I look forward to the additional information that will be added at the statue’s new location to provide a historically accurate explanation of the Civil War. Does moving the statue resolve all racial problems in Orlando metro area? No, but it’s a meaningful step in the right direction.

OR: You’ve had a long career in Central Florida with several big companies. What was your favorite job and why?

Porter: Serving as the deputy editorial page editor/columnist at the Orlando Sentinel was the best job. On the editorial board, we helped to shape the community we enjoy today. I’m particularly proud that I had the opportunity to write the editorial that called for City Council to approve the ordinance banning discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. I was also proud to work at the Sentinel when it won Pulitzer Prizes for gutsy journalism

OR: During your tenure at Disney, what was your biggest accomplishment?

Porter: I was the internal communications manager for Disney Cruise Line (I worked shoreside in Celebration) during the construction of the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy. It was a massive responsibility to keep thousands of employees from Florida to Germany informed and inspired during that 5-year new-build process. In addition to keeping everyone informed and coordinated, we were charged with keeping the Disney culture strong within our workforce.

OR: What was the biggest story you covered during your 30-year career in newspapers?

Porter: In addition to the Sentinel, I also worked as a reporter at the Long Island (N.Y.) Press, the New York Post, the Charlotte (N.C.) News. There were so many great stories, it’s difficult to pick one. I think the highest profile story I ever worked on was the hunt for the Son of Sam serial killer in New York when I worked for the New York Post. I covered several of the David Berkowitz shootings when I worked in the Queens bureau.

OR: You’ve written extensively about mass transit in Central Florida. Do you think SunRail will survive in Central Florida?

Porter: I hope SunRail will survive, but it won’t unless it expands its service to weekends and late nights. As things stand right now, the ridership is too low. Ridership won’t improve significantly unless SunRail expands its hours. Currently, the Florida Department of Transportation is subsidizing SunRail. In four years (2021), the financial responsibility will be transferred to the local funding partners – Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties and the City of Orlando. How will those funding partners justify paying for a rail system that today moves fewer than 2,000 people daily? Will local government leaders finally find a dedicated funding source for both SunRail and Lynx? SunRail currently carries roughly 1,900 people daily. Lynx carries 85,000 people daily. Therefore, earlier this year we started publishing www.LynxedTogether.com to advocate for people who depend on the Lynx bus for transportation.


About The Author

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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