Minutes from June 17, 2010, FSNE board meeting in Sarasota

Present: President Rick Hirsch, Vice President Jim Baltzelle, Treasurer Cory Lancaster, Patty Cox, Barbara Petersen, Mark Russell, Terry Eberle, Mark Tomasik, Mike Connelly, Bill McKeen, Sara Quinn, Manny Garcia, Dave Carlson.

On the phone: Antonio Fins.

Hirsch called the meeting to order at 10:07 a.m.

Approval of April minutes

The minutes for the April board meeting were approved.

Treasurer’s report

Lancaster provided the FSNE financial report through May 31. She said revenue is a bit higher than shown because $600 in contest income and one membership dues payment came in June.

Thelen said this year’s contest income has healed FSNE’s finances. Last year, contest expenses were too high and that was fixed this year. The $6,000 deficit from last year is gone and FSNE’s $100,000 reserve fund is safe. The treasurer report was approved.

Possible revival of National Writers Workshop

Fins provided an overview of the National Writers Workshop, organized by the Sun Sentinel for eight years. The two-day event in Fort Lauderdale was held on Saturday-Sunday with up to 38 speakers and 530 attendees a year. The event made a profit of $5,000 to $15,000 a year. Organizers worked hard to keep down expenses, Fins said. For example, they bought food to save money. Speakers were not paid fees, just expenses. If FSNE decides to revive the workshop, it might want a more central location to increase turnout. The Sun Sentinel stopped the workshop because its staff was downsized and no one could take it on anymore.

Russell asked if the Sun Sentinel ever partnered with colleges. Fins said they didn’t, but that would help to provide free meeting rooms.

McKeen said UF recently held a Storytellers Summit, May 14-16, with speakers that included author Michael Connelly and Rick Bragg. UF tried to follow the template of the National Writers Workshop and it attracted about 250 participants. UF paid expenses for speakers, but no fees, and made a little profit on the event.

Thelen said reviving the workshop would allow FSNE to focus again on the core of the journalistic craft. For the past few years, FSNE has focused on multimedia training.

Hirsch said he had an update on multimedia training, which connects to the writers workshop. He passed out a handout – “Multimedia training plans,” compiled by Quinn, Garcia and Hirsch.

Future of multimedia and other training workshops

Hirsch said planning these kinds of workshops takes a lot of time. He suggests finding a university partner and a central location, such as UCF in Orlando, for the National Writers Workshop. He would like a detailed report for the next FSNE board meeting on how much a writers workshop would cost. How long would it take to plan? What kind of promotion would be needed to draw a good crowd? A detailed report with a proposed budget would allow FSNE to see if it’s feasible to take on such a project. Fins volunteered to lead this planning effort.

Quinn outlined the multimedia training recommendations. FSNE should coordinate two multimedia training events in the coming year, a standalone event in November/December with the University of Miami and a second one at the FPA/FSNE convention next year (June 30-July 1, 2011) at the Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg.

Quinn said it’s essential to identify what skills FSNE members need? Poynter already offers Webinar and NewsU courses on many skills. FSNE might make available a list of Poynter courses with discounts to FSNE members (create a new promo code). Poynter also offers some interactive training for free, and FSNE members could be made aware of these resources.

Carlson said to draw the largest possible audience, these workshops should include storytelling techniques not just for print, but also for video and audio. That’s what UF did for its storytelling workshop in May.

Baltzelle and others discussed the best possible name for a workshop. Should they use, National Storytellers Workshop, to broaden the appeal beyond print journalists? But Baltzelle and others said the National Writers Workshop has strong name recognition in the industry.

Hirsch asked for volunteers to help Fins with planning for a National Writers Workshop and present this to the board at its next meeting. Petersen, Russell and Tomasik volunteered. Fins said the group would aim for organizing a workshop for next summer.

Baltzelle said the workshop could increase membership and give added value to FSNE. He and Hirsch said it might be important for FSNE to come up with a signature event apart from the FPA/FSNE convention in Destin in July 2012.

Thelen said membership development and training are a shared priority between Hirsch and Baltzelle for their FSNE presidencies. Training should become a central mission for FSNE as the organization evolves, given that so many newsrooms have lost the ability to provide it.

Garcia suggested FSNE compile a list of experts in every newsroom as a reference for local universities to tap into speakers, trainers, etc.

Contest update/recommendations for 2011

Lancaster handed out “Recommendations for FSNE journalism contest 2011,” compiled by her, Baltzelle and Eberle, the 2011 contest chair. They recommend changing the circulation criteria next year to even up the number of newspapers in each division. Next year, the criteria would remain the same for Division A (papers over 125K), but Division B would be for papers 50K to 125K (as opposed to 40K to 125K this year) and Division C would be for papers under 50K.

Also, Spanish language papers would be allowed next year to enter other categories as long as they provide an English translation and the category does not exist in their division. This year, Spanish language newspapers competed in just four categories and could not enter such things as photos or videos. Lastly, FSNE should use an online contest site next year, eliminating the need for paper entries and making it easier for judges to view entries. Discussions already have begun with FPA to partner on the www.betternewspapercontest.com site, which would cost FSNE an estimated $1,084 a year.

A discussion ensued about the best metric to use for newspaper divisions, whether it’s daily readership, newsroom staffing levels or page views on newspaper websites. Tomasik asked if it’s time for FSNE to use something besides daily circulation, given that newspaper circulation has been dropping for years and is expected to continue to decline. There was consensus that FSNE should study that.

Hirsch suggested partnering with the Online News Association next year to spread the word that unaffiliated journalists now can enter several categories in the FSNE journalism contest. This year, those categories did not attract entries. Hirsch hopes to report back in three months on how to advertise those unaffiliated categories and use the ONA mailing list to draw entries.

A motion was made to adopt the recommendations. Board members suggested the contest committee study another metric for newspaper divisions and make crystal clear the instructions for newspapers to upload entries to the online contest site. The motion was approved.

Website re-launch

Hirsch said Dave Carlson will take over planning and improvements to the FSNE website. He also suggested the FSNE president and executive committee be given access to post content on the site, such as the secretary posting meeting minutes.

Hirsch took a few minutes to introduce Carlson, a new media professor at UF who is replacing McKeen on the board. McKeen’s term on the board has expired and he will leave UF shortly to teach at Boston University, the board learned.

Sunshine Week

Gabordi headed up the 2010 Sunshine Week committee and has volunteered for 2011. Hirsch said Gabordi couldn’t attend the board meeting because of a family emergency.

Petersen recapped Sunshine Week 2010 and said the number of participants seemed to be down from previous years, based on postings to the First Amendment Foundation website. She updated the board on Sunshine legislation this session and said that not much got done. She would like to see a statewide audit undertaken for the 2011 Sunshine Week to test compliance on the state’s public records laws.

Petersen reported FAF will co-sponsor a Sunshine training seminar with FSNE on Friday, Sept. 24, at the St. Petersburg Times for $25. On Sept. 25, FAF will hold a litigation seminar in Tampa to train lawyers on how to get involved in Sunshine litigation. FAF is interested in conducting more Sunshine seminars this fall if any FSNE members would like to host one, she said.

Petersen asked board members to pass along any suggestions for Sunshine Week 2011. Board members said they liked the idea of a compliance audit.

Membership update

Baltzelle said FSNE has added about six members, some from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Florida A&M University and the journalism contest. FSNE did not gain news members in the unaffiliated journalist category, as hoped, and only a few new academic members.

Hirsch suggested FSNE update its membership form to make the group more appealing to members outside the newspaper industry. Carlson agreed and said FSNE’s membership form assumes every member is a top newspaper editor. He suggested the form be available as a .pdf file that is easier to find on the FSNE website.

Other

Dean Ridings with the Florida Press Association has asked FSNE to co-sponsor National Newspaper Week in October. Baltzelle will handle that, including posting info on the FSNE website.

Thelen and Baltzelle closed by thanking Hirsch for his extraordinary leadership as FSNE president for 2009-2010. They gave Hirsch a box of six bottles of wine, a specially made golf club and a plaque.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:10 p.m.

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