2021-22 SPJ Candidates
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Florida Pro Chapter’s annual elections are scheduled for Sept. 20. The election shall be by simple majority vote of eligible chapter members, cast via virtual ballot. Candidates were able to declare candidacy starting Aug. 23. SPJ Florida members can find details on voting in their inboxes, coming soon.
Meet the 2021-22 Florida Pro Declared Candidates:
President: Jason Parsley
I am an award winning journalist and Executive Editor of the South Florida Gay News, a weekly LGBT newspaper with a daily online edition. At SFGN I’m responsible for all of the editorial content of the newspaper. Over the years I’ve reported on a wide variety of topics affecting the LGBT community. I also am currently president of the South Florida Chapter of NLGJA — the association of LGBTQ journalists.
Executive Vice President: Kristen Grau
Grau is a copywriter for the tax and accounting firm DiMercurio Advisors based in Orlando. Grau studied journalism at FAU and served as the student newspaper’s editor-in-chief in 2020. She has been published in MSN, TCPalm and South Florida Gay News, among other publications. She has served on SPJ Florida’s board since 2019.
Vice President, Programs: CD Davidson-Hiers
CD Davidson-Hiers is a Florida journalist working as a research assistant with the Florida Center for Government Accountability. She formerly covered K12 public education and state COVID-19 data for the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper. She also founded and manages the Florida Student News Watch, a journalism mentorship program for college students interested in news writing.
Vice President, Membership: Giuseppe “Joe” Sabella
Sabella works for the Bradenton Herald and the residents of Manatee County as an education reporter. He joined SPJ Florida as a member of the board and the scholarship committee in 2020. Sabella also served SPJ as a historian and social chair during his time at the University of Florida, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He interned at the Florida Times-Union and the Gainesville Sun before working 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. This will be Sabella’s second year on the board.
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 will be her second year as secretary.
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: Emily Bloch (non-elected position)
Bloch is an education and youth culture reporter for The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Florida. She’s spent her career working at newspapers and magazines across the state spotlighting community news and inequities. She served as president of SPJ Florida for two terms, leading the group to back-to-back Chapter of the Year accolades. Bloch also serves on SPJ’s national board as an at-large director.
Board of Directors (6 open positions)
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. This will be his second term on the board.
Lilly is an award-winning journalist based out of South Florida, covering the gamut in content from social injustice, community news, people doing extraordinary things, and Florida’s restaurant and bar scene. A full-time freelance journalist, her byline can be found in South Florida Gay News, Shondaland, Teen Vogue, Venice magazine, Boca magazine, Fort Lauderdale magazine and more. She served as the chapter’s Immediate Past President for the last two terms following a successful, award-winning stint leading the group. Lilly graduated from the University of Florida.
I’m currently the associate editor of the personal finance news and consumer debt solutions site Debt.com. In my spare time, I run the award-winning craft beer blog, BrowardBeer.com. In 2018, graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in multimedia journalism. While attending FAU, I served as editor-in-chief of the award-winning student-run newspaper the University Press. This would be Pye’s first year on the board.
I was born and raised in South Florida and have always had a love for the wild and bizarre stories that our state seems to generate on a daily basis. As an alt-weekly reporter for most of my career, currently working at Miami New Times, I think I would bring a unique perspective to the Board and be a voice for alternative weekly journalism as it fights to stay alive. As a Board member, I intend to collaborate with other members to put on trainings and programming about alt-weeklies, literary journalism, and resources for early-career journalists.
In my current position, I help advise student journalists (namely the University Press) as the assistant director of student media at Florida Atlantic University. My reporting experiences include stints in Virginia, Florida, and Colorado, and I have a passion for helping students figure out how to find and approach story ideas. Reporting is in many ways an inexact science, and I appreciate helping folks understand that almost nothing happens in a vacuum — they are as capable of reporting of the institutions that help share their experiences as anyone else.
Student Board Member (contested)
Meleah Lyden, a senior at the University of Florida, is SPJ Florida’s 2021 Molly Turner Broadcast scholarship recipient. She is a multimedia reporter and producer for WUFT News with writing, radio, podcasting and TV experience. She’s used to balancing different facets of the industry. For instance, when starting her career, she was a staff writer for The Independent Florida Alligator while simultaneously reporting for radio. She has served as an ambassador for UF’s College of Journalism and Communications since 2019, alongside other leadership roles on campus. Meleah sees journalism as a privilege and the best way to serve her community. She loves to pour into and help other reporters achieve their dreams.
I am a first-generation college student of Puerto Rican descent, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing.
I have written about brain surgeries, heart transplants, rape victims and undocumented immigrants. I have spent days navigating through the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in pursuit of public records. I have tucked my trembling hands into my pockets and asked people to relive the most painful moments of their lives.
In the past, I served as the Editor-in-Chief of Hillsborough Community College’s award-winning, student-led newspaper, The Hawkeye, and an Editorial Intern at TAMPA Magazines. I was this year’s SPJ Florida College Scholarship recipient. Currently, I am a News Apprentice at Axios.