Neal sent me this blog right after the tragic shooting at Pulse last month.  I purposely held it so it could be run after the initial shock of this event had passed.  Everyone has a reaction immediately, but I thought his account of how his employer reacted needed to be shared when we could all take it in.  Kudos to the way you handled this Cox Media Group!


Yesterday, June 12, was a very dark day in our hometown of Orlando, as the worst mass shooting in our country’s history took place in the heart of our city. First off, I want to send out my thoughts and prayers to everyone involved in the shooting early Sunday morning, including but not limited to, the first responders, the FBI, the victims, the victims’ families, and the survivors – I can not even imagine what they are all going through right now.

What I want to talk about though, is what my company, Cox Media Group Orlando, did yesterday in lieu of all the tragic events. First off, let me explain who we are. We are a radio station cluster here in Orlando that is made up of seven radio stations: K92.3 Orlando’s Country, Power 95.3, 98.9 WMMO, Star 94.5, ESPN Orlando, News 96.5, and 107.3 Solo Exitos. Each station has their own powerhouse of a morning show that connects with a large majority of Orlando every single morning. I currently work for AJ & Ashley, the morning show duo on K92.3 Orlando’s Country. Normally on weekends, these morning show hosts have off – this weekend was the farthest thing from normal.

As I woke up around 5am on Sunday morning, the news was already flooding in about the shooting at Pulse night club. At first, I thought I misread it and they were talking about the shooting at Plaza Live involving ‘The Voice’ star Christina Grimmie that occurred Friday night. Soon, I realized this was about another shooting a few blocks away from that one.

My job on the weekend, is to stay on top of the country music news as well as the local news, construct web blogs, and post them on our social media pages. As I started to comb through the news articles on Twitter, I kept reading the words “mass casualties” and “hate crime” among other heart-wrenching tidbits. There were also many rumors floating around that this was a terrorist, the number of deaths was not consistent, and no one was even sure the shooter was dead. With the platform that I had (100,000+ likes on Facebook & 7,000+ followers on Twitter) I did not want to contribute to the confusion. Instead, I posted the music video to Tim McGraw’s song “Humble and Kind” (a perfect song about how love always conquers hate) and directed people to stay up to date by tuning in to our sister station News 96.5.

Soon after, I received an email from my boss, Andrew Bland, our station’s Program Director. It stated, “If you were to write something (a piece of imaging) to reflect the stations thoughts and prayers for the victims of both shootings this weekend.  What would it say? What can AJ and Ashley do this week to echo the feelings of the community in Orlando following these disgusting acts of violence?” He wanted us to use our platform for the greater good and to bring this community together.

I’m not sure whose idea it was, but as I was texting AJ about ideas, he texted me saying that they’re having him and Ashley come into the radio station. My first thought was, it’s Sunday what could they need them there for? Then, as I tuned in to our station I heard something I’ve never heard in the three years I’ve worked for this company. It was AJ’s voice saying, “Today I am here in the News 96.5 newsroom with Ashley, but also with Estee, Obie, and Lil’ Shaun of the Power 95.3 morning show, Denise Ryan from WMMO, Kyle Cassandra from ESPN Orlando, and Joe Kelley from News 96.5.”

They were working together, turning every radio station in the building into one family of radio stations. They were taking calls from listeners (the phones were ringing off the hook all day yesterday and still today), they were updating everyone with the latest news from the tragedy, and they were giving their own perspective on the situation as most of them have called Orlando their home for a number of years.

On top of that, all of our promotions departments were called in to the station as well. There was an urgent need for water, Gatorade, and snacks at the blood banks as there were thousands of people donating but there was not enough supplies to keep them nutritionally stable to donate. We jumped on that opportunity. Our army of promotions departments loaded up on everything they needed at the store and traveled from blood bank to blood bank delivering the supplies they needed.

In a world of violence and hate, yesterday showed me that there is way more good in this world than evil. We used our platform to show that and it created a domino effect in the community. I am proud to work for Cox Media Group Orlando and I’m proud to live in The City Beautiful. God Bless this country.


-Neal Surrena

Cox Media Group Orlando