FSNE Board Meeting Oct. 7, 2009

FSNE Board Meeting Oct. 7, 2009

Conference call
Oct. 7, 2009

Present: Rick Hirsch, Larry Sullivan, Bob Gabordi, Jim Baltzelle, Patty Cox, Anthony Fins, Mike Connelly, Mark Tomasik, Cory Lancaster, Keith Woods, Terry Eberle.

Also attending: Gil Thelen.

Not present: Bill McKeen, Rafael Palacio, Barbara Petersen, Dean Ridings.

President Hirsch called the meeting to order at 9:02 a.m.

Minutes: Board reviewed minutes from the July meeting and approved them.

Treasurer Report/Budget

  • Hirsch said the August financial report was sent to board members, as well as Thelen’s memo stating the group faces a $10,000 deficit by year’s end.
  • Thelen said in past years the FSNE contest made $10,000, which, coupled with membership dues, paid the group’s operating expenses. This year, contest fees were reduced and the contest broke even. There has been some decrease in membership dues, but not substantial.
  • This year, FSNE paid $4,752 to fly in judges for the nine writing categories. The group spent $2,779 for the winners’ brochure, and Thelen said the group could use cheaper paper stock or put the list online. Baltzelle is looking into saving money on the plaques, which cost $5,129, by jointly buying with FAPB (broadcasters) and FPA. FSNE also pays Martin Frobisher $5,000 to produce the luncheon slideshow, the brochure and online assistance, and Thelen said the group will look for ways to reduce that bill, too.
  • Thelen suggested paying judges an honorarium of $500 each. He said judging a state contest can take a few days and people’s time is valuable. Woods said the majority of judges provide their time pro bono and he believes many high-caliber judges who would do it for free. Thelen withdrew the honorarium idea. Connelly said the value of the FSNE contest is its judging, and he doubted the same quality of judges would be found without some reward. Tomasik said FSNE could reap maximum savings by offering no honorarium and the group decided to not fly in judges, to seek them on a volunteer basis, and to send them a nice gift instead.
  • Baltzelle has invoices for contest plaques from FPA and FAPB. He needs the FSNE invoice and will approach a Fort Lauderdale company for prices in a joint buy. Even if FSNE uses Levy Awards again next year, maybe FSNE can leverage a better price.
  • Hirsch said the brochure may not be worth the expense, but the slideshow is important during the awards presentation. Woods suggested putting the slideshow on DVDs and handing them out at the luncheon, instead of brochures. Baltzelle said the redesigned web site could play the slideshow and have it available for downloading. Instead of a brochure, the group could provide a one-page flyer highlighting the Gold Medal winners and referring people to online.

Upcoming Sunshine Week

  • Sullivan said he proposes similar activities for Sunshine Week 2010 as in past years – columns, cartoons, etc. The focus might be on activity pending in the Legislature.
  • Petersen wasn’t on the call, but Thelen said Petersen has said 2010 will be a “make it or break it” year to codify the recommendations of the Open Government Commission. There also will be serious efforts to shine Sunshine on the Legislature. Petersen has asked for Sunshine Week to focus on the Legislature and editors might be called during the session to testify at key times.
  • Sullivan asked for an update on FSNE’s lobbying efforts. Thelen said FPA was undecided about rehiring Curt Kiser to lobby on Sunshine issues. Subsequent to meeting, FPA did rehire Kiser.
  • Connelly said papers should take care not to underplay these important legislative issues in 2010 and possibly share their coverage – an idea that was well received.


  • Hirsch said the membership committee has been meeting to expand membership categories. Baltzelle and Fins discussed adding a category for those unaffiliated with a newspaper, including journalists recently laid off and bloggers. The bylaws require members to be affiliated with a news organization, so the board would need a motion to change that. Fins suggested starting with former journalists on an experimental basis, instead of casting a wide net to bloggers who may be unknown to board members.
  • Hirsch said this is a pivotal point for FSNE. Newsrooms are half the size as three years ago, and the trend is toward a personal media age, not mass media. He suggested three new categories to increase membership in FSNE: nonaffiliated journalist, academic membership and weekly newspapers, which now belong only to FPA. There was discussion about the need to expand membership.
  • Baltzelle said the bylaws currently require members to be affiliated with a news organization in Florida. The bylaws would have to be changed to allow nonaffiliated journalists and academicians.
  • Discussion centered on the definition of nonaffiliated journalist. Woods said SPJ now says if a person writes, they qualify for membership in that group. Gabordi suggested clear criteria and definitions so that journalists would be accepted but not people blogging about their daughter’s pregnancy. Hirsch said the Online News Association, the fastest growing organization of affiliated and nonaffiliated journalists, has a professional category for journalists, an academic membership, an associate membership for amateur bloggers, publicists and vendors, and a student membership.
  • Fins asked what benefits would be offered to new members. Hirsch said workshops could provide tools for nonaffiliated journalists, such as ethics, legal issues, and open records and meeting laws, and contest categories for them. FSNE also would have to give them some break on dues.
  • Baltzelle said the bylaws would have to be amended by a quorum of the board after 30 days’ notice is given of the proposed change. The board can vote to have the amendment take affect immediately, rather than after the adjournment of the next annual meeting.
  • Hirsch said the vote will take place Nov. 6. All board members agreed.

2009-2010 Contest Update

  • Lancaster said the circulation criteria for Division C will change next year from 60,000 to 40,000 to ensure roughly the same number of newspapers enter in each division. FSNE also will do away with the homepage design category; expand the slideshow category to include breaking news slideshow and enterprise slideshow; and expand the video category to include breaking news video and non-deadline (or produced package) video.
  • Given the new membership category, the contest also will have a category for nonaffiliated blogger. Hirsch suggested a category for community Web site. There was a discussion to avoid adding any categories in the contest for weekly newspapers since FPA gives out awards to the weeklies. Baltzelle said if weekly papers entered the contest anyway, they could be placed in their circulation division.
  • Gabordi suggested a category for the use of social media in breaking news, and the board agreed. Cox suggested opening the visual category to nonaffiliated journalists in photo and video.
  • Baltzelle suggested raising contest entry fees next year to try to raise more money and Gabordi liked the idea. Possibly FSNE should charge $30, which is more than the $25 entry fee this year, but less than the $35 in past years. Thelen said the contest had fewer entries this year due to economic problems in the industry. Lancaster will report back on how the number of entries changed from 2008 to 2009 in relation to entry fees. The board could then vote on new contest fees on Nov. 6.

Multimedia Skills Workshops

  • Hirsh said the Asian-American Journalists Association is partnering with FSNE for the Dec. 12 workshop at UM. The association will provide faculty and recruit its broadcast members to attend. Course description includes database reporting, social media toolkit, open meetings/Sunshine laws, and media law and the web. There was a discussion about price. Thelen said FSNE has made a little money on the workshops after upping the price from $25 to $35. Hirsch said he’d recommend raising the price a little more for the all-day workshops and stick to $35 for half day.
  • Hirsch said another workshop is set for March 13 at USF and he hopes to fast-track a marketing approach to appeal to nonaffiliated journalists, once the membership changes takes affect. Thelen suggested opening up the December workshop, as well, to nonaffiliated journalists.

Web Site Relaunch Update

  • Hirsch said board members could look at the new homepage at fsne.org/cms and it’s a little cleaner than the one shown to the board in July. Hirsch and Frobisher have had conference calls with UF every two weeks and are beginning to move content from the existing site to the new one. The goal is to make the switch by year’s end. Hirsch will send out instructions in coming weeks to enable board members to begin posting their best content on the site through the widget, Publish2. The biggest work ahead is to build in the utility by Jan. 1 to pay online for dues and contest entries through PayPal. Hirsch also suggested a conference call to train board members on the Publish2 tool, which he said is easy to learn.


  • Thelen and Hirsch said the convention will be shortened to two days, June 17-18, at the Sarasota Ritz Carleton. Baltzelle said that if his budget allows, AP may host an FSNE-only board dinner June 16. The shortening will mean the loss of one workshop slot and the scheduling of awards prior to lunch on the 17th. A special academic rate of $50 a day (no meals) will be offered to academic members of FSNE. The program will be focused on new collaborations emerging between newsrooms and other organizations, such as universities (e.g. Miami, FIU, Boston University).

Next Meeting: January

  • Our next board meeting will be the afternoon of January 26 at The Tallahassee Democrat and hosted by Bob Gabordi. The AP legislative day is Jan. 27.