Minutes of FSNE Board Meeting 7/23/2015

The meeting was called to order at 9:05 by Frank Denton.

In attendance: Gil Thelen, Frank Denton, Doug Ray, Rosemary O’Hara, Barbara Petersen, Terry Spencer, Jennifer Orsi, Manny Garcia, Tristram Korten, David Carlson, Cindy McCurry-Ross, Ken Koehn, Mindy Marques, Bob Gabordi

The minutes from the April meeting were approved.

Financial Report and Membership:
Thelen reported we’ll be down by $5,000 this year. Reasons: offering a 3-for-1 registration and providing our own catering. Also, the financials don’t show that judges were paid this year for the first time. For the year we will end up in the hole with a cushion of $100K.

Thelen reported there are 77 members (people) of FSNE. Some papers have additional members. All, except for two papers, are members. At Petersen’s suggestions, Thelen will ask the Florida Press Association about paying dues online.

Also discussed was opening membership to other media, including television and radio – particularly around the assault on Florida’s public records’ laws.

Gabordi said it would be a good use of money to supplement NewsTrain. Orsi moved to approve and Ray seconded. All approved.

NewsTrain wrap up: Our partnership with ASNE on NewsTrain at UCF was a success, Thelen said. It was difficult to get the necessary participation but attendees were happy with the result, as was ASNE.

There was a discussion on what role FSNE should play with training, particularly with fewer resources in newsrooms. Peterson said FAF used to do training with Sunshine Week. They are talking with Poynter about having four events there a year. We could have a one-day training session at Poynter on Sunshine Laws, maybe a HIPA summit and just a general once-a-year summit.

O’Hara suggested surveying members to ask what type of training, if any, they wanted from FSNE.

Contest Wrap Up: Ray reported there were a total of 605 entries. An initial pass by judges brought the total to 400. Six judges were paid an honorarium this year, which produced better results, Ray said. However, the process still needs to be streamlined. The Better Newspaper Contest site we used can also handle the judging but it would require an initial $3,500 set-up fee. There would then be a smaller, annual maintenance fee.

Denton stated that the student competition was not started this year. To be in sync with the summer convention, the contest would have to start at a different time. The student contest offers the possibility of covering some of the costs of the online judging.

Orsi stated that any additional process you build in will cut into any additional revenue and makes it more complicated.

Ray asked about the rules for student entries – work done in school or produced during internships.

Carlson suggested student papers, totally run by students. Maybe two categories and one from internships?
Garcia stated that IRE has a successful student competition, which included published in the school paper or website. It’s worth looking at IRE for an idea.

Gabordi recommended forming a separate group to focus on a student contest.

Ladder Succession: Denton stated that Garcia will become secretary/treasurer. There is a board vacancy and he suggested Palm Beach Post Managing Editor, Nick Moschella.

Gabordi moved to accept, Marques seconded. All approved.

Sunshine and litigation report: Petersen said that Sunshine Week is slated for March 13-19 2016 – the week after session ends this year. She suggested a new approach so that we have an impact on the legislature. Should we come out with stories in December and then wrap up during Sunshine Week?

The Foundation is trying to start a grass-roots movement to call for reforms to Florida’s open government, given the number of exceptions the legislature continues to create. There were 12 in 2015 and there might have been more if the Senate had stayed in session. The idea is to include stakeholders beyond news organizations.

Legislative report and action recommendations: Petersen
– 13 exemptions passed; governor vetoed the only one we didn’t care about
– Supervisors of Elections will seek email exemption next year
– Exemption approved for home address of all former and current military
– Body Cam bill – we will see how this plays out
– For 2016, 9 exemptions being reviewed for re-enactment; one particularly troubling bill would create exemption for photographs or videos depicting the killing of a person; it’s very broad; there is no chance we can kill it but maybe we can limit it;

O’Hara suggested we clarify FSNE’s role in open government issues. When we see the trend lines here, is this the kind of thing this group should continue to do? I love the idea of an award to call attention to those who champion closing the shades on open government; should we be putting forth an agenda? Is there something more that we should be doing as FSNE.

Petersen said FSNE started Sunshine Sunday; Tim Franklin; then ASNE president, took it and expanded it to Sunshine Week; There needs to be some bigger effort and that’s why I am trying to pull together this grass roots effort;

Petersen said editorials and stories do help to bring these issues to the forefront.
Garbordi suggested FSNE begin to take positions when these things come up and share that information out.

Orsi said it would be great to also hear success stories; I feel like there is a good sense of outrage about the roadblocks but I would like the ability to take action; This is how we won our case

After a robust discussion, Thelen said there is no more important leg on our stool than this one; Florida Press Association, weeklies; we have become unwrapped for a number of reasons; we have to put the ball and string back together again, even if it means we do less on the Sunshine week

AP Project Progress: Spencer said that each state should come up with a story for the APME Infrastructure Project. He suggested a story on how the state is focusing its construction money on charter schools rather than on public schools. Gary Fineout would pull the files and write a statewide story, then each paper can do its own story and analysis. We would get examples from around the state. The legislature would say that local schools have the mechanism to raise their money. Broward did a school maintenance bond – which seems like a difficult thing to do.

All agreed this was a good project to tackle.

2014-15 Wrap Up: Denton stated we covered everything. Korten did a really good job this year with the conference. The daily newsletter we started this year was probably not the most useful for editors but perhaps there is another way to continue the communication.

With Bill Church’s departure, the futuring project did not get very far.

FSNE priorities 2015-16:
Ray discussed his priorities for FSNE in the coming year.

He said a key goal is to establish ourselves at forefront of the public records fight in Florida. We can do a better job of curating news around open government; use it as a tool; be more directly involved in prodding and cajoling;

FSNE’s role in training continues to be an open question and warrants more conversations

Ray said the contest needs to be stabilized financially; we are still making money but is it the financial bedrock that it has been for us? It needs a more structurally stable path. Changing the Better Newspaper platform is a one-time fee; Where is the revenue going to come from if not from contests?

Denton asked whether we could use contest winner to provide training as part of the program.

Thelen said building in judges fees adds to our expenses; that needs to be addressed. Marques and Garcia discussed the possibility of getting well-recognized judges without having to offer an honorarium.

Website Exchange: Denton said it was already discussed.

O’Hara made a motion to adjourn the meeting; Korten seconded

_____________________________________________________________________

Friday General Meeting 7/24/2015
Denton moved to add Garcia to the leadership ladder and invite Nick Moschella, ME of the Palm Beach Post, to join the Board. Approved unanimously.

Thelen presented Denton with an award and gavel. He motioned to make Ray president, Mindy VP and Garcia secretary/treasurer.

Ray said Sunshine work is really important. It will be an ongoing fight and we have a real clear agenda moving forward. We should find a way to continue working with FPA and the weeklies.

Denton stated that newspaper-based organizations are outspoken enough about Sunshine issues. Thelen said that all members could write op-eds for their papers.

Ray said if we have a good framework for contest it can be sustainable. Gabordi suggested perhaps finding sponsors.

Thelen stated the board should respond to his emails so he knows what to do.

Motion to adjourn. Approved unanimously.

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