POINCIANA – Does Poinciana have an image problem, where people think of it as a community of foreclosed homes, unemployed people, and gangs?
Or does Poinciana have a media problem, where leading newspapers or cable television studios rush in to cover a major crime story or the latest home foreclosure report, but don’t bother showing up when the community has more upbeat news they want to get out to readers and viewers.
It’s a question that’s perplexed the members of Poinciana Residents for Smart Change, who admit that while the community has its share of challenges, they think the negative reporting is overdone.
“We’re promoting the positive things going on in Poinciana,” said Darhlene Zeanwick, a member of the civic group that’s working to improve the community and make it a better place to live.
Another member of the group, Nick Murdock, said all too often the image that’s projected of Poinciana in the news media is of a community beyond repair after the collapse of the housing market. It’s not an accurate reflection of what Poinciana has to offer, he said.
“We don’t have blighted neighborhoods and gang wars down here like people think we do,” Murdock said.
Annette Brown used to be a member of the group Friends of the Poinciana Hospital, which was organized to lobby the state of Florida to give Osceola Regional Medical Center a certificate to build the first hospital in Poinciana. When the state granted that permission and Osceola Regional reaffirmed its commitment to building the hospital here, with construction likely to start next year, the group disbanded, assuming its mission had been accomplished.
While it was still in existence, though, Brown said she routinely sent out news releases to the media, inviting local newspapers and cable TV and radio stations to come into Poinciana and report on the good things going on there.
More often than not, Brown said, it was like pulling teeth – unless there was bad news to report.
“The mainstream media, The Orlando Sentinel, the TV stations, they only want to come out when there’s something controversial,” she said. “If it’s not controversial, they do not want to come out here. They don’t want to talk about positive things.”
What too many of the large media outlets have ignored in recent months, Brown said, is a wave of positive news and events, including:
• The opening of Poinciana’s first football field, at Vance Harmon Park;
• The opening of a Boys & Girls Club Teen Center;
• Improving FCAT scores at Poinciana High School;
• Final approval for Osceola Regional Medical Center to build a hospital and medical arts facility here;
• The development of a new shopping plaza near the intersection of Poinciana Boulevard and Southport Road.
Rather than cover all this, Poinciana is more likely to attract coverage when crime happens, Brown said.
Murdock said it might help if they put together a media guide about Poinciana that can be sent out to the local press and television stations.
“We can have a big media guide with all the facts and figures about Poinciana – how big it is, where it is, and so on,” Murdock said, noting that the community of 84,000 people crossing Osceola and Polk counties is actually quite diverse.
He also said the various groups that have formed in Poinciana should unite and work together to get the word out that good things do in fact happen here. In addition to being a part of Poinciana Residents for Smart Change, Murdock is also a member of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, which is working to bring more jobs to the community.
“When we have to communicate with the media, we’d have a united front,” Murdock said.
Melody Nadal agreed. She runs Poinciana Pros, a business group made up largely of self-employed people in live in the community, and meet regularly and network.
“We’re all groups with great intentions,” she said. “If we can come together as groups, we all want the community to grow. If we’re not united here, how will we unite with the rest of the counties?”
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