Nov. 10, 2015  

SPJ Florida Presents at Florida Scholastic Press Association District Conference

Some of SPJ Florida’s board members lead sessions at the Florida Scholastic Press Association (FSPA) District 7 conference on Nov. 7, furthering its mission to educate and advocate for student journalists.

Hosted for the first time at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, more than 700 middle and high school students from Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward County came out for the day-long conference.

“It was great to see so many young students excited about journalism and media,” said Christiana Lilly, vice president of SPJ Florida. “We never regret participating at FSPA’s annual meet.”

Lilly and Dori Zinn, SPJ Florida president, lead two sessions on a vital part of journalism: the First Amendment. Telling stories of past court cases where youngsters fought for freedom of speech and freedom of the press (ie the Tinker Standard and Hazelwood Standard), students could see the path paved for them by kids no older than they are. Afterwards, they were given “Cure Hazelwood” bracelets generously gifted by the Student Press Law Center. See the full presentation here.

Cure Hazelwood bracelets

Lilly and SPJ Florida Secretary Abbi Perry hosted a mock press release session to a packed room of nearly 100 students, teaching them the process of fact finding and interviewing.

press conference

Here are some questions the students asked during the fake press conference with a public information officer:

Here are some students reading their final articles. They got a press release, interviewed “sources,” and wrote an entire article in under 45 minutes.

Armed with a fake press release on a celebrity’s mishaps, tweets from witnesses, a statement from the celebrity’s rep, and an opportunity to ask questions during a press conference and phone call, the students worked in groups to put together a story on the incident.


Brandon Ballenger, immediate past president, lead a popular double session with students about the different ways that drones can be used to cover stories. He then took the group outside to try flying SPJ Florida’s very own drone. The chapter hopes to launch a Loan-a-Drone program, but are waiting on the Federal Aviation Administration to make rulings on drone use — the FAA missed its deadline of September 30.

It was also important for the chapter to meet with journalism advisors to find out what their needs are in the classroom. Zinn and Lilly hosted a pow wow with media teachers and advisors to ask questions and gauge their interest in programming the chapter has in the works. Megan Fitzgerald, a board member and also an NSU associate professor, was able to help advisors in her capacity as a Journalism Education Association mentor. She will be attending next week’s JEA conference in Orlando from November 12 to 15.

“Every classroom has different needs and struggles, as each advisor has varying levels of journalism experience,” Lilly said. “It was invaluable to meet with the advisors to see how we can help.”

Have ideas on how we can partner with high school journalism classrooms? Let us know! Email us or contact us on Facebook and Twitter.

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