FSNE Board Meeting, Apr. 20, 2009

FIU campus, Biscayne Bay

Present: Mark Tomasik, Rick Hirsch, Antonio Fins, Cory Lancaster, Terry Eberle, Larry Sullivan, JBartosek and executive director Gil Thelen.

Not present: Jeanne Grinstead, Jim Baltzelle, Mike Connelly, Bob Gabordi, Bill McKeen, Rafael Palacio, Keith Woods.

Minutes:

President Tomasik called the meeting to order at 10:20 a.m. With Secretary Baltzelle out, JBart recorded the minutes.

Minutes were approved by voice vote. Members discussed the treasurer’s report at length. We think that both contest expenses and contest income were incomplete in the 3/31/09 financial report. Also discussed whether the Sun-Sentinel hired a minority online intern who would qualify for the Knight Foundation-sponsored scholarship. Assuming that’s the case, Exec Director Thelen will then send the remaining $6,000 (from the original $20,000 grant) back to the Knight Foundation.

Web site enhancement plans:

Vice President Hirsch outlined the Freelance Exchange plan for the FSNE web site. The site is pitched to journalists not currently working fulltime and to newspaper editors seeking non-staffers for work assignments. Hirsch and web master Martin Frobisher developed the site. It includes links to clips, resume/profile, interests and availability, assignments/work offerings, etc. Service would be offered free. Similar to Media Bistro site. Hirsch has spoken with South Florida SPJ, which has a list-serve it maintains. Any changes to the site such as new postings will generate email to Frobisher. Members decided the site could benefit from guidelines for postings and by establishing procedures for “clean-up” (post-date assignments, for example). Members agreed that it will work only if newspaper editors use it and make freelance work available. Members agreed that we must push it by notify current and former staffers, E&P and Poynter, SPJ, Florida Press Club, SDX groups, etc. We hope to announce the Freelance Exchange very quickly.

Hirsch also outlined a proposal for FSNE to work with UF multimedia professor Dave Stanton to use his class of 10 students to help develop FSNE’s site into a more robust one. We could include much more of the annual contest online. We could develop public records and open meetings material for journalists and the public. We could promote Sunshine Sunday/Week more widely. Hirsch made the distinction that web “development” would be at UF, but Frobisher would remain the “webmaster.” Board discussed possibility of getting some of the students to our meeting at the convention, or the convention itself, to meet the board and share ideas.

Recruiting:

Tomasik, Thelen and Hirsch also discussed outreach to digital colleagues and broadcasting colleagues as potential FSNE members. Tomasik and Baltzelle recently met with Florida Associated Press Broadcasters (FAPB) and found some middle-ground with cross-training: They could help us train video, and we could help train their web staffs in short-news writing.

Convention:

Board discussed potential attendance and expressed serious concerns, given the state of our business and the association of “Breakers” with “luxury.” Tomasik agreed to call his FPA counterpart Jim McGauley to air out issues and concerns. Thelen agreed to discuss again our concerns with Dean Ridings at FPA.

Program includes discussion of new channels/products from the business side (Tomasik and Thelen coordinating with FPA); debate/discussion with expected U.S. Senate candidates (director Jeanne Grinstead and AP’s Brendan Farrington coordinating); presentation from Governor’s Commission on Open Government (Grinstead and First Amendment Foundation’s Barbara Petersen coordinating); and online training at The Palm Beach Post for editors attending the convention (JBart, Hirsch and Thelen coordinating).

Training likely to be lecture-style rather than hands-on, for 40-50 editors (see attendance notes earlier). General topics to be ethics, social networking, new tools/free tools and how to use them, and possibly SEO. Discussed getting Bill Mitchell or Kelly McBride from Poynter for ethics discussion. Discussed possibility of videotaping the sessions or offering them as streaming video. (In days following the board meeting, JBart agreed to make the training “Lunch and Learn” with The Post providing light lunch at noon so the training can be 12:30 to 3:30, allowing editors to return to the Breakers for Open Government session at 4 p.m.). Also post-meeting, Ridings and Post publisher Alex Taylor confirmed ongoing discussions on the board dinner Wednesday night for FSNE, FPA, FAF and NIE board members; details TK.

Multimedia Skills Workshop:

Hirsch and Thelen updated the board on training. The USF training session in mid-March was the sixth one. Thelen noted that FPA was not able to provide the same administrative support as for the previous ones, with Hirsch and Thelen stepping up to handle registration, etc. The board had previously cut back from four yearly to two yearly and agreed to continue at that pace. Next ones scheduled are late 2009 in South Florida and early 2010 in North or Central Florida. Board agreed that computer-lab facilities necessary to make the training effective for a large group. Board discussed and agreed to bump the cost to $45, and agreed we need to go beyond our current set of teachers; for example, Hirsch mentioned Neil Budde, formerly with Yahoo!, who is now permanently based in South Florida, as well as teachers who work at the BAR Camps (??) and possibly partnering with the Online News Association. The board also discussed how to attract more editors to our training sessions, as well as the frontline staffers.

Membership Committee:

Recruiting digital and broadcast members: Hirsch reported States News Service has joined. Tomasik reported from state broadcasters meeting that they’re not interested in joining, but willing to work on partnerships in training and Sunshine/First Amendment issues. May also be interested in helping on some cost-of-records issues. Univision most interested in FOI issues. They feel the pressure like all media, with station managers, on-air talent and TV anchors now filling new roles. Students are entering their contest, winning against professionals. Board agreed to continue discussions with the broadcasters on the topics of training and FOI.

Spanish-language members: Board member Fins reported on several Spanish-language publications, particularly sports-related, that could be considered for membership as well-established, reputable publications. Board agreed that Fins and Thelen would work on another letter to Spanish-language publications, and Fins would reach out to some of the papers he knows about membership.

2009 Contest:

Bartosek updated the board on decreased number of entries and revenue. Both were expected, since we reduced the number of categories dramatically. Discussed “editorials” category, which was unanimously criticized by the out-of-state judges as our weakest group of entries. Expenses are also expected to be lower, with both fewer judges and fewer FSNE members involved. Board agreed to early notification of editors of the winners. (As of 05.01.09, all winners’ editors have been notified except for one paper in Division C.) Briefly discussed the possibility of running the contest completely online with a revamped web site; Bartosek will draft proposed specs for that feature, and consult with webmaster Martin Frobisher. Benefit would be elimination of out-of-state travel; however, those who have participated in the judging the past praised the face-to-face contact and discussion generated by bringing in judges. It also allows us, we think, to attract higher quality judges. No decisions made on 2010 contest.

Strategic Committee:

Board membership: Board discussed upcoming openings to fill seats held by Bartosek and Grinstead. Discussed that we’ve usually had AMEs or higher as directors but that in times of “flattened structures,” we may need to adjust. Discussed possibility of eliminating the Fall meeting, requiring attendance at just three meetings a year (convention and Tallahassee legislative update would be two of them). Discussed more committee-driven activity. Expressed interest in gender and race diversity, not so much geographic and ownership diversity.

Importance of Convention: Board discussed what it is and why go, and agreed to “take a step back” and reconsider. Perhaps “convention” is the wrong description; it’s a chance to examine best-practices and who’s succeeding. Board also discussed the FSNE-FPA link and agreed to further discussion with Ridings at the July “summer meeting.”

Grants: Brief discussion, consensus was “not much help right now.”

Membership: Brief discussion (also see above), agreed to go after online members before TV does. Options might include some sort of “certificate” membership or “online only” membership.

2009 Sunshine Week Committee:

Board director Lancaster reviewed this year’s work. Discussed how much tougher it is in all the newsrooms, agreed that another attempt at “open-records survey statewide” would be very difficult. Agreement that FSNE directing coverage as we did this year to focus on certain angles was beneficial to all. Lancaster noted that all the papers involved turned in assignments in good order and early; Gov. Crist was the slowdown. Discussed how to reach out to other audiences other than the press, such as librarians and lawyers, for support on open-records. Also discussed expected push-back from other groups on privacy and how we’d deal with it. Brechner Center mentioned as possibly partner we’re not working with now. Lancaster will report back to the board in July.

Governor’s Open Government Commission: Board discussed focusing on the recommendations. Considered perhaps working with broadcasters to do a series of six regional training classes in the field. Agreed that few resources remain for reaching a statewide audience, and that FSNE should stand as the watchdog at state level.

Additional notes:

During lunch hour, Associate Dean Allan Richards, Director of the Writing Program for FIU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, led editors on a tour of new Scripps-Howard Multimedia Lab, the university television facilities, and a large computer lab. The students, majority minority in the J-School, learn “back-pack journalism” and are well-trained in multimedia and new technology.

Meeting adjoured at 3:40 p.m.

Submitted by: JBart

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