2020 SPJ Florida Candidates
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Florida Pro Chapter’s annual elections are scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 16. The election shall be by simple majority vote of eligible chapter members, cast via virtual ballot. Candidates were able to declare candidacy from Aug. 17 through Aug. 29.
Meet the 2020-21 Florida Pro Declared Candidates:
President: Emily Bloch
Bloch is the current SPJ Florida president and is running for her second term. She’s an education reporter for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville and a regular contributor to Teen Vogue and Cosmopolitan. She’s been an SPJ member since 2012 and a board member since 2016. Under her leadership, she led SPJ Florida Pro to being named the 2020 Society of Professional Journalists Chapter of the Year, recognized for media literacy and newsroom union campaigns.
Executive Vice President: 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. Alexander is running for her second term as executive vice president. Previously, she served on the board of directors.
Vice President, Programs: 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. Ramadan is running for her second term as vice president of programs. She previously served on the SPJ Florida board of directors.
Vice President, Membership: Kristen Grau
Grau is the social media editor for Debt.com, a personal finance site, and Parkland Cares, a mental health nonprofit. Grau studied journalism at FAU and served as the student newspaper’s editor-in-chief. She has been published on MSN and South Florida Gay News, among other publications. In 2019, she served as SPJ Florida’s student representative.
Secretary: Sommer Brugal
Brugal is the education reporter for TCPalm, part of the USA Today network, where she covers Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie County school districts on the Treasure Coast. Previously, she was the Investigative Reporting Workshop graduate fellow. The workshop is housed at American University, where Brugal completed her masters degree in investigative reporting. The fellowship also granted her the ability to work at The Washington Post throughout the year, where she assisted on various investigations and research projects. Prior to that, Brugal was a freelance writer in Austin, Texas, where she covered City Hall and the city’s food and music scene for various publications. Brugal was born in Miami, Florida, but grew up in the Dominican Republic. This would be her first year on the board.
Treasurer: Michael Koretzky
Koretzky is editor of Debt.com and SPJ’s Region 3 coordinator. He was a reporter for the Sun Sentinel, Florida Times-Union, and Athens Banner Herald Daily News before creating and selling two magazines, one to the Tribune Company and the other to the one-armed heir of the Listerine fortune. After both failed, he became managing editor of the world’s largest jazz magazine and a designer and copy editor for the National Enquirer, Star, and Globe tabloids. For the past two decades, he’s also advised the student newspaper at Florida Atlantic University, first part-time and then volunteer.
Past President: Christiana Lilly (non-elected position)
Lilly is the Election SOS fellowship coordinator at Hearken and a freelance journalist who has been published in outlets like the Miami Herald’s Indulge magazine, Fort Lauderdale magazine, South Florida Gay News, Fox News, Newsweek and Fusion. Previously, she worked at Luxe Interiors + Design, Boca magazine, Newsmax, HuffPost Miami and the Sun Sentinel’s Forum Publishing Group. Lilly graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism and a minor in anthropology. The daughter of a foreign service officer, she lived in five countries Asia before moving back stateside for college. The board President from 2017 to 2019, during which the chapter was runner-up up and the winner of Chapter of the Year. She has also served as Executive Vice President and Secretary.
Board of Directors
In elementary school, Anthony’s music teacher cast him as a news anchor in a school play, because she thought he resembled NBC Today Show Host Bryant Gumbel. The rest, he says, is history. Austin joined First Coast News in Jacksonville, Florida in January 2016 as an anchor and reporter. He now anchors the evening newscasts with Jeannie Blaylock and Heather Crawford. He headed to the sunshine state after spending two years as the primary anchor at Time Warner Cable News in Raleigh, North Carolina. Austin grew up in East Texas. He graduated from the University of North Texas, where he majored in Broadcast Journalism and minored in Social Science. For nearly six years, Austin was an anchor and reporter at the CBS affiliate in his hometown of Tyler. He worked his way up from weekend anchor to the anchor of the 5 p.m. news while he was there.
Lee is a news reporter at 104.5 WOKV in Jacksonville. She is a graduate from the University of North Florida where she was Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper, UNF Spinnaker. She was recently named the 2019 Sunshine State Awards College Journalist of the Year. Lee previously worked at Action News Jax (WJAX/WFOX) and interned at the Florida Times-Union where she worked on a variety of news and features articles. She is a working mom of one and is always looking to learn something new.
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.
Mercer is a journalist who fiercely believes in the idea that reporters are a “voice for the voiceless.” As a cities, data and environment reporter at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, they find that valuable stories can come from anywhere: in numbers, in science and in community. They attended UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication majoring in Print/Digital Journalism, was a Dow Jones News Fund data intern at the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, VA and spent time at the Orlando Sentinel as a web producer. In their free time, they rock-climb, play Dungeons and Dragons and scroll through TikTok.
Chris Persaud is a data journalist for the Palm Beach Post and programmer. He has done data journalism for outlets including 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.
Giuseppe “Joe” Sabella
Sabella works for the Bradenton Herald and the residents of Manatee County as an education reporter. He previously served SPJ as a historian and social chair for SPJ UF during his time at the University of Florida, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Previously, he interned at the Florida Times-Union and the Gainesville Sun and worked at the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia as a crime reporter. Throughout the years, Sabella was honored to accept first-place awards from the West Virginia Press Association, the Florida Press Club and the Florida Society of News Editors. He earned second place for education reporting during this year’s Sunshine State Awards.
Student Board Member
A senior from Atlanta, Georgia, Jordan Lewis has been committed to pursuing a career in journalism from the moment she stepped onto the University of Miami’s campus almost three years ago. She joined The Miami Hurricane—UM’s official student newspaper—almost immediately as an arts & entertainment writer for its culture section. She later took over as section editor. At the same time, Lewis voluntarily took charge of TMH’s social media presence until being named manager in fall of 2019. Since then, she has increased their following by well over 500 across all platforms and has over quadrupled their engagement. Simply put, Jordan is the ultimate culture-obsessed, social media-dependent “Zoomer.”