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Introducing the Brechner Speaker Series


Named in honor of the late Joseph L. Brechner, an award-winning journalist, community leader, and freedom-of-information advocate, this new series of speaker programs focuses on the media in Florida’s history. All programs take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Orlando Public Library and are free. The History is Center is offering free parking validation for this event. This series is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

October 4
Donn R. Colee Jr.: “Towers in the Sand: The History of Florida Broadcasting”

Broadcasting touches almost every person in the United States every day. But like the air we breathe, we seldom give it a second thought. In this program, Donn R. Colee Jr. discusses the history of Florida’s broadcasting industry, beginning in 1922, as well as the people who brought radio and television stations to life and the events that saw the state grow from boom to bust and back again, on its road to becoming the nation’s third most populous state. Colee’s program is based on his book, Towers in the Sand: The History of Florida Broadcasting, which tells the stories of more than 80 Florida broadcasting pioneers and current leaders.

A second-generation Florida broadcaster, Donn Colee began his career as a teenage DJ playing rock ’n’ roll at WLOF-AM in Orlando. He’s a member of the Florida Association of Broadcasters and the Florida Historical Society, among other groups, and currently lives in Palm Beach Gardens.

Orlando Public Library (Albertson Room, 3rd Floor), 6-7:30 p.m.

October 18
JoJo O’Neal with All-Star Panel: “On the Air: The History of Black Radio in Orlando”

A DeLand native, JoJo O’Neal studied radio and television broadcasting at the University of Central Florida and has been a full-time radio personality since 1984. During that time she simultaneously spent seven years as floor director and camera operator for Channel 9 Eyewitness News Daybreak.

JoJo can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Star 94.5, Orlando’s No. 1 radio station for “Today’s R&B and Throwbacks.” Since April 2016, she is also heard weekdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jacksonville’s Hot 99-5, “Duval’s Only R&B.”

JoJo’s familiar voice has been heard in commercials, videos, tutorials, and e-books worldwide. She is also president and founder of the Let’s Kick Asthma Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that educates people about asthma and how to live and breathe better with the condition.

Orlando Public Library (Albertson Room, 3rd Floor), 6-7:30 p.m.

November 1
Gary Mormino: “From 9/11 to Pulse”

Often called the dean of Florida historians, Gary Mormino returns to Orlando with a program on the media and Florida in the years 2000-2016, a time when “no novelist could imagine a plot involving the real-life events that took place in the state,” Mormino writes. “The story opens with the zany 2000 election and the unthinkable tragedy of 9/11 and ends with the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub and the election of Donald Trump. In between the bookends, Florida experienced the worst recession in modern history. The media played a critical role in this melodrama.”

Gary Mormino is the Frank E. Duckwall professor emeritus at the University of South Florida. In 2015, he received the Florida Humanities Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Writing. His books include Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida.

Orlando Public Library (Albertson Room, 3rd Floor), 6-7:30 p.m.

November 15
Adam Ware: “Sunshine State of Mind: Florida in the American Imaginary”

“The media” often refers to the news or entertainment media. But even an idea can be a medium – an idea, for instance, of a sunny paradise where any plant will grow, any idea will succeed, or any dream can be realized. Through real estate ads, citrus-crate labels, souvenirs, and shuttle launches, the idea of Florida has moved people to travel, to invest, to relax, and to persevere. In this program, historian Adam Ware looks at the varied ways the Sunshine State operates in American feeling and memory, from “the Italy of America” to “Florida Man.” He’ll discuss the materials that evoke and invent our image of Florida and the pioneers and entrepreneurs who mobilized the concept of Florida to change the course of the state’s history.

Adam Ware is the Orange County Regional History Center’s research librarian, managing the use of all published materials and overseeing the oral history collection. He has a doctorate in Religion from Florida State University with emphases in 20th-century American religion, media history, and museum studies.

Orlando Public Library (Albertson Room, 3rd Floor), 6-7:30 p.m.