Highlights from Sept. 27, 2010, FSNE board meeting in Stuart

Present: Jim Baltzelle, president; Cory Lancaster, vice president; Patty Cox, secretary-treasurer; Gil Thelen, executive director; Mark Russell, Terry Eberle, Mark Tomasik, Mike Connelly, Manny Garcia, Rick Hirsch.

On the phone: Tony Fins, Dave Carlson.

Absent: Bob Gabordi, Barbara Petersen, Dean Ridings, Sara Quinn, Larry Sullivan.

Baltzelle called the meeting to order at 10:07 a.m. Thelen introduced a guest, Fred Pearce, the new director of USF’s School of Mass Communications.

Approval of June minutes

The minutes from the June board meeting were approved.

Treasurer’s report

The latest financial statements were distributed. The organization’s financial health and reserves remain solid, largely due to a reduction in contest administration expenses.

Sunshine Week

Board members said they liked the idea of an audit in time for Sunshine Week 2011 to test compliance on the state’s public records law, as suggested by Barbara Petersen in June. Hirsch suggested undertaking audits on the local level with the help of several universities. Connelly and Hirsch both suggested pursing issues related to digital media, including Facebook archives, Twitter and private e-mail. Baltzelle will ask Bob Gabordi and Petersen to report to the board in a month with possibilities.

Contest update

Submissions and judging for all categories will be handled digitally on www.betternewspapercontest.com. FSNE will partner with FPA to share costs. Board members discussed the need to promote that this year’s contest will be easier to enter.

Hirsch contacted Online Newspaper Association about co-sponsoring the digital awards. He said ONA doesn’t want to provide judging, so they don’t want to co-brand the awards. But ONA is willing to advertise and send their Florida members information about the FSNE contest.

Board members discussed how to attract non-affiliated journalists and community journalists. A motion by Hirsch to add a category for community news sites was approved.

Eberle, contest chair, will send the board recommendations on category and fee structure changes. Tony Fins was appointed to committee.

Batzelle said he will speak with Martin Frobisher, the contract designer and technical coordinator for the contest and web site, about a more limited scope of work, including the design for the awards presentation for the convention and hosting fees and setup of fnse.org.

There was agreement that the awards presentation at the convention was too fast and, as a result, devalued the contest. The board discussed possibly using Frobisher to improve the awards presentation online in lieu of resurrecting the printed program.

FSNE.org

The board discussed ways to improve the web site. Hirsch said the web site should feature the latest news about Florida newspapers, offer coverage of First Amendment and open records issues, be a training resource and showcase information about FSNE, including the contest and membership. Hirsch, Carlson, Thelen and Cox will recommend a plan for improving the site’s content and keeping it updated.

Membership update

Barry Friedman, managing editor/digital of the Ledger, is the newest FSNE member. Baltzelle said the board should consider involving Friedman in the future. Baltzelle will ask Larry Sullivan if he wishes to be replaced on the board. Thelen pointed out that it’s been a while since Jacksonville and Tampa have been represented on the board.

Fins has drafted a letter to three Spanish publications in South Florida regarding membership. Fins said those editors are looking for more exposure and a connection to larger publications.

Academia was the biggest membership growth segment last year, but the annual convention hasn’t been a draw for that group. Hirsch suggested the board explore adding a collegiate newspaper and web site category to the contest next year to attract this segment.

National Writers Workshop

Fins and Russell have been in contact with UCF’s English department about partnering on a writers workshop sometime in early May. The department will pursue a grant from the university after FSNE provides a budget, based on previous events. Fins suggested FNSE provide $1,000 to help cover expenses. Board members will help to recruit speakers when details are known. Fins is checking on the availability of the National Writers Workshop brand.

Multimedia training plans

The training committee made three recommendations to build on the foundation of training created during the last four years: a multimedia training day Saturday, Dec. 11, in South Florida at the University of Miami School of Communication; a training event at the 2011 FPA/FSNE conference in St. Petersburg in conjunction with the Poynter Institute; and ongoing training as part of the FSNE membership. Poynter would offer members a $10 discount on NewsU training as a benefit for joining FSNE. Garcia is going to explore a membership discount for IRE training.

Convention

The convention will be June 30-July 1 at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort in St. Petersburg. Baltzelle and Thelen will meet with Dean Ridings to discuss concerns regarding the awards ceremony. Tomasik suggested an option: Recognize the award-winning journalists at the luncheon by asking them to stand and then ask them to pick up their plaques later. This would allow for more time to focus on the work, including the judges’ comments. There’s concern about participation at the 2012 convention in Destin. The board discussed the possibility of holding a separate awards ceremony at a more centralized location that year.

Baltzelle thanked Tomsik for hosting the meeting, which ended at 1:28 p.m. The next meeting will be in Tallahassee in January.

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