Jul. 3, 2018  

2018-2019 SPJ Florida Pro Nominating Slate

The SPJ Florida Professional Chapter’s annual election meeting is scheduled for the evening of Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018, following the Sunshine State Awards ceremony in Miami.

Meet the 2018-2019 Florida Pro Nominating Slate:


President: Christiana Lilly

The web editor at Boca magazine, Lilly also freelances and has been published in outlets like the Miami Herald’s Indulge magazine, Fort Lauderdale magazine, South Florida Gay News, Fox News, and Fusion. Previously, she worked at Newsmax, HuffPost Miami and Forum Publishing Group, where she covered the Sunrise and Plantation city beat. A proud Gator, Lilly graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism and a minor in anthropology. Although she was born in Florida, Lilly moved around in Asia for 14 years before moving back stateside for college. The board President for the 2017 to 2018 year, she has also served as Executive Vice President and Secretary.

Executive Vice President: Abbi Perry

Perry is a Web Producer for Citrix Systems, Inc.  Formerly, she was the Assistant Editor for Society Scene as well as a writer and web content developer for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. While working for Forum Publishing Group, Perry served as Web Director, Calendar Editor and Columnist. Her columns were published in Jewish Journal. Perry’s additional writings and editorial work were published in South Florida Parenting, Teenlink and Jewish Journal. Perry holds a Master of Science degree in Communication and Media from Lynn University (2013) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Media Studies (concentration in Journalism) from Radford University (2008). She served two years as Secretary of SPJ Florida.

Vice President, Membership: Brandon Ballenger

Ballenger is the associate editor for Debt.com, a unique provider of personal finance news and financial services. He is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University, where he received his bachelor of arts degree in communication and English. His money-related writing has been featured in The South Florida Business Journal, Money Talks News, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, The Christian Science Monitor, on the homepages of MSN and Yahoo!, and more.

Vice President, Programs: Emily Bloch

Bloch is a multimedia journalist who contributes to local, regional and international publications including Teen Vogue, Lifestyle Magazine, Fort Lauderdale Magazine and Debt.com. Most recently, she served as a community news reporter covering Broward County for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She held the position of SPJ Florida’s VP of Programming this past year, helping to coordinate over 22 events. Bloch graduated from Florida Atlantic University, where she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

Secretary: Brendon Lies

Lies is currently the Art Director at South Florida Gay News, where he also writes as a columnist. He attended school at Minnesota State University Moorhead before transferring to Florida Atlantic University, where his career as a designer earned him the title of Creative Director at the University Press, the FAU school newspaper. He never sits still in his spare time, and uses his intense interest in social justice and ethics as inspiration for his exploration of the arts.

Treasurer: Chris Persaud

Persaud is a freelance journalist and programmer. He has done data journalism for the Palm Beach Post and Bankrate.com. He owns and runs DataJournalismJobs.com, an online jobs board for data journalism jobs. He also owns and runs RichBlocksPoorBlocks.com, a subscription website that maps rent and income data for every neighborhood in America.

Immediate Past President: Dori Zinn (appointed)

Zinn is the President of Blossomers Media and a full-time freelancer. She’s been featured in publications like Huffington Post, The Week, realtor.com, Money Talks News, Fort Lauderdale Magazine, and Quartz. For nearly a decade, Zinn served on the board as Vice President of Membership, Executive Vice President, and President for the SPJ Florida Pro chapter, helping win SPJ’s “Chapter of the Year” in 2010, 2014, 2016, and 2017.

Directors-at-Large (six spots available)

Cassidy Alexander

Alexander is an education reporter for the Daytona Beach News-Journal, and previously covered local government for the Sarasota Observer. She graduated from the University of North Florida with degrees in journalism and graphic design, and was editor-in-chief of its student publication, the UNF Spinnaker. She was a contributing editor at First Coast Magazine and Perversion Magazine, and is the former winner of a Green Eyeshade Award for best columnist and a Sunshine State Award for best news story.

Michele Boyet

Boyet is the digital marketing manager for The Breakers Palm Beach, where she manages the resort’s social media, email marketing and overall digital strategy. A past president of SPJ Florida, Boyet currently serves as the co-chair of SPJ National’s communications committee and formerly worked as an associate homepage producer at the Sun Sentinel. She is the co-founder of the First Amendment Free Food Festival and received the Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment award from SPJ National in 2010.

Richard Gaspar

Gaspar is a full Professor of Mass Communication at Hillsborough Community College and has taught for 20+ years. He has been recognized as a site level, county level, and state level teacher of the year. He serves as a judge for national publications contests, awards and as a critique adviser for student publications. He has attended numerous state, national and international journalism and communication conferences. He is also a CMA Distinguished Two-Year Magazine Adviser, CMA Distinguished Two-Year Newspaper Adviser, and SPJ Dori Maynard Diversity Fellow.

Carina Mask

Mask is a South Florida freelance photographer. Her photos have been published in Miami Herald’s INDULGE magazine, The Miami Herald, POLITICO, HCP Media, Miami New Times, South Florida Gay news, Project We Forgot, Palette magazine and more. Carina is half Japanese and half American. Her father worked for the US Government and moved around a bit as a child but now calls South Florida her home. She was introduced to photography and documented her grandmother during her near decade-long battle with dementia.

Lulu Ramadan

Ramadan is a reporter at The Palm Beach Post, where she covers government, community news, crime and politics in southern Palm Beach County. She joined The Post in 2015 after graduating Florida Atlantic University with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Communication. At Florida Atlantic, she served as Editor-in-Chief of the student publication, the University Press, for a year.

Suzette Speaks

Speaks is a television and multimedia host based in Miami, Florida. The daughter of Jamaican immigrants, she enjoyed a successful career as an attorney before she felt called to follow her passion for journalism and communications. Suzette freelances on multiple platforms and has worked with Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and Caribbean National Weekly. She has also served as president of the South Florida Black Journalists Association, an affiliated chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).

Student Rep

Hope Dean

Dean is dual-enrolled at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, where she takes college courses while still in high school. At 18, she is the managing editor of the University Press — FAU’s student-run school newspaper. She works with more than a dozen writers and editors and while also running the website and social media accounts.


The chapter’s annual election meeting is scheduled for the evening of Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018, following the Sunshine State Awards ceremony in Miami.

Election shall be by simple majority vote of eligible chapter members. All chapter members in good standing are welcome to vote by in-person ballot at the election. Want to check your status? Email immediate past president Dori Zinn to see if you’re eligible.


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