Wendy Fullerton Powell will take on a new role leading local journalism in Southwest Florida as executive editor of Gannett’s Naples Daily News.
Her new title and responsibilities will begin after the departure of Penny Fisher, who has served as news director of the Daily News for the past 4½ years.
Fisher, 40, will leave her post at the end of the month after deciding to explore new opportunities beyond the daily newspaper that brought her from the hills of southern Indiana to the beaches of Southwest Florida in 2007.
Powell, 54, is no stranger to the market. She’s been a longtime leader and journalist in the region for more than 30 years.
Powell has spent most of her career with the Fort Myers News-Press. Since Gannett bought the company that owned the Daily News, she’s worked for the combined newsroom, currently serving as a senior director of content and working closely with reporters and editors at both news organizations.
She began her career as a reporter in Bonita Springs when it had only one stoplight along U.S. 41. In her early career, she also covered the city of Naples, as well as Collier County.
As she rose through the ranks, Powell worked as a business editor, deputy metro editor and assistant managing editor for targeted content before becoming a news director in Fort Myers.
Last year, she served as interim Florida regional editor, providing guidance on larger statewide stories, most notably the tragic collapse of the Surfside beachfront condominium near Miami Beach that killed nearly 100 residents and visitors.
“I’ve been with Gannett since I began my career as a journalist in 1989, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had,” Powell said.
She said she’s just as passionate about the local community as she is about journalism. She’ll carry that passion into her expanded role at the Daily News.
“The Naples Daily News has a long tradition of quality journalism, and I look forward to honoring that tradition and better serving our community with purposeful coverage,” Powell said.
She loves how engaged the audience is with the Naples newspaper’s content.
“We couldn’t do what we do without that community involvement and support,” Powell said.
A graduate of the University of Vermont, Powell fled the Northeast for warmer weather and fell in love with Southwest Florida.
“Southwest Florida is my home. I’ve raised my family here,” she said. “This team of journalists is also like family to me. And together, we will continue to serve as watchdogs of our community and be your trusted source of news and information.”
Hollis Towns, Gannett’s vice president of local news initiatives, said he’s thrilled to have a veteran from the Southwest Florida team take the lead in Naples.
“Wendy brings more than 32 years of experience of covering Southwest Florida with meaningful, local journalism,” he said. “She is an outstanding journalist and leader, but one characteristic that stands out is how deeply she cares about the community.”
Departing editor Penny Fisher, who spent 15 years at the Daily News, plans to stay in Southwest Florida and raise her family here.
“I love it here,” she said. “I always felt so blessed to be able to live and work in paradise. I’m going to explore new opportunities in Southwest Florida.”
During her time as editor of the Daily News, reporters earned dozens of local, state and national awards, including a Pulitzer Prize nomination. Fisher developed new editorial strategies and launched several new publications, including a high-end seasonal magazine called Turquoise.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Naples Daily News. The best part of the experience has been the people — the staff, the community and the readers. I’ve worked with some amazing people,” she said.
Fisher joined the Daily News editorial team as the presentation editor for The Banner in Bonita Springs, one of its sister community newspapers. She became the Banner’s associate editor, then the managing editor of all community publications.
In 2014, Fisher moved up to associate editor of the Daily News, working directly with the executive editor to manage the newsroom. She was named interim executive editor in August 2017 and named to the top leadership role of news director that November.
“Shortly after being named interim executive editor, Hurricane Irma hit,” Fisher said. “I was in awe as the staff came together to provide 24/7 coverage before, during and after the storm. Watching the extensive coverage and the staff tackling stories that really mattered to our community was one of the highlights of my time at the NDN (Naples Daily News).”
“We will miss Penny’s dedication and community focus, and we wish her the best in all she does next,” said Jennifer Orsi, Florida regional editor for Gannett.
During her tenure as editor, Fisher publicly shared her personal fight with triple-negative breast cancer, to encourage others to know their genetic history and to be proactive with self-examinations, like herself.
“I also wanted other breast cancer patients to know that they were not alone,” she said.
Her diagnosis came about four years ago.
“I’ll be forever grateful for the outpouring of love and support I received from the community and the Naples Daily News staff after announcing I had breast cancer. That support helped me to push through the really hard days,” Fisher said.