Minutes of Summer 2014 Board Meeting

Minutes of Summer 2014 Board Meeting

FSNE Summer Board Meeting


Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Fla.

July 11, 2014


Present: Bob Gabordi, Frank Denton, Doug Ray, Gil Thelen, David Plazas, Terry Spencer, Chris Porter, Manny Garcia, Bill Church, Kenny Irby

On telephone: Barbara Petersen, Dave Carlson

Absent: Mindy Marques, Dave Carlson


1. Meeting called to order by Gabordi.

Gabordi recommended for membership George Haj, editor-in-chief, Florida Daily Business Review. Motion to accept by Denton, seconded by Garcia. In discussion, Thelen encouraged FSNE to reach out to the online community to broaden the association’s membership. Motion on the floor approved unanimously.

2. Approval of minutes: Minutes from April meeting were approved unanimously.

3. Treasurer’s Report: Thelen said he expects the year will end slightly in the red. Membership is down, primarily from secondary editors at member newspapers. He said there is no reason now for alarm but it should be cause for concern. Church moved to accept, seconded by Porter. All approved.

4. Sunshine Week and Sunshine threats: Denton reported the Sunshine Week project that involved USF, UM and UF. Students in public affairs reporting class reviewed websites by local governments across the state to assess access to public information.

Describing response to the project, Petersen said some officials think their agencies didn’t score as highly as they deserved. She said she also received dozens of calls from the public.

Gabordi and Thelen endorsed this project as an important opportunity for action and engagement for ongoing assessments. Ray suggested the need for a set of “best practices” or model features for local government websites.

Petersen said Sunshine Sunday started with 98 percent participation from Florida dailies but now it’s down to about 50 percent. This may indicate a need to reimagine how we’re doing this, and perhaps to return to a Sunshine Sunday rather than Sunshine Week.

Gabordi recommended we have the October board meeting in conjunction with the National Freedom of Information Coalition meeting in St. Petersburg. There was general agreement on this.

Petersen described progress and threats relative to open government and public records.

She noted that SB 1648 died in the House last session but she expects a similar bill will be introduced next session.Petersen noted that 22 new exemptions were erected in 2014, 12 percent of all bills passed, and the most since at least 1995. She said 250 exemptions were initially included in the Florida Open Meetings Law and Sunshine Law, but that has grown to 1100 today. She suggested a rapid response team for Sunshine Law threats.

Petersen said economic development councils across the state are fighting Sunshine status. She noted a lawsuit in Brevard.

Gabordi suggest FSNE join in that fight. Denton made that as a motion, that received an immediate second from several board members. All approved.

Petersen noted that the increasing cost of accessing public records is now the number one threat.

Denton noted a trend of judges failing to award attorney fees in successful challenges.

5. Contests: Ray reported on the trend of declining entries, particularly from small and medium newspapers. This isn’t an immediate crisis but needs to be addressed because of the financial impact on FSNE, which relies heavily on the contest.

Ray suggested the need to find a more stable, rigorous approach to judging entries, as among several changes that need to be considered to strengthen the contest. Denton suggested that we may need to provide a honorarium to judges.

Garcia noted the need to allow Spanish-language publications to enter some of the categories not now open to them, particularly visual categories such as photography.

Ray proposed we do more to elevate the prestige of the FSNE contest relative to other state journalism contests. Denton suggested FSNE provide congratulatory ads that could be provided to winning newspapers to run as house ads.

Denton also suggested we do more to expand the contest, perhaps with a college competition.

Ray said he would prepare a more complete set of recommended changes for the board meeting in October.

6. Visioning: Church shared the progress being made in visioning for FSNE. It was presented in a draft report.Church asked board members to rank FSNE priorities by importance and urgency.

It was suggested that Plazas help Church in continuing the vision committee effort.

At the conclusion of that presentation, Garcia moved to adjourn. Seconded and approved.