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An interview without answers

A few minutes from now, at 3:30 p.m., Karl Etters will

interview for a job he’s already been hired for.

Etters is editor in chief of the Famuan, the student newspaper at Florida A&M University. But the j-school dean has shut down the paper and ordered the staff to reapply for their jobs.

Etters did just that last week, filling out the same application he did a couple months ago and including a resume, a cover letter, two letters of recommendation, and three clips.

So who’s interviewing him?

“I haven’t been told,” he says.

Are there other candidates?

“I’m not sure.”

Etters learned of his interview in an email from the new Famuan adviser – who he hasn’t met. In fact, the woman who emailed him never said she was the new adviser. But like a good reporter, Etters Googled the name.

“I think she’s our new adviser,” he says. “That’s what her Linkedin profile says.”

He hasn’t heard from j-school dean Ann L. Wead Kimbrough since Jan. 11. Everything he’s learned about her since – that she has no problem with his staff’s independent website but she’s unhappy with the Famuan’s finances – has come from media reports.

Etters doesn’t even know when he’ll find out if he’ll keep his new job or be replaced.

“I have my job back or I don’t have my job back. That’s just kind of how it is,” an exhausted Etters says. “It’s sad it worked out that way.”

Sad on so many levels.

Thanks for the memories

Earlier this month as the SPJ National Convention in Washington, D.C., I ended my third term as Region 3 director. After six years, it was time to step down. Your new regional director is Darcie Lunsford, real estate editor at the South Florida Business Journal. Darcie has done great work with the South Florida Pro Chapter. I leave you in capable hands.

I’ve so enjoyed meeting and working with all of you over the last six years. I am fortunate to have such a wonderful SPJ family. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for anything and do stay in touch.

Candidate for Region 3

After three terms (six years) on the SPJ board of directors, I’m stepping down as Region 3 director. I’m excited to announce this year’s candidate: Darcie Lunsford, current president of the South Florida Pro Chapter and real estate editor for the South Florida Business Journal. I’ll be leaving Region 3 in very capable hands.

Read more about Darcie and the other candidates for SPJ’s national offices online.

Leadership lessons

Please take a moment to read this posting from George Daniels at the University of Alabama on his experience at the Ted Scripps Leadership Institute:

The Scripps experience was just what I needed going into my first full school year as the campus chapter co-adviser here at the University of Alabama.  I’ve been so focused on the logistics of getting the chapter off and running that I missed the “bigger picture.”

Scripps gave me a “big picture” view of what we do at the local level. That’s not to say that making sure we have by-laws and programs planned and fliers posted aren’t important tasks.  But, the impact that we should be having in our area is not nearly where it could be. When you talk with other chapters at an event like the Scripps Leadership Institute, you see that.

The Scripps Institute also gave me a “big picture” view of SPJ at a national level. In talking with other chapter leaders from as far away as Alaska, I could see much more clearly the nationwide challenge we have in areas of ethics, freedom of information, diversity and journalism professional development.

Best of all, I came back with some great ideas to implement locally when the school year starts. In particular, I picked up a strategy for involving freshmen officers on the executive committee. The members of the “SPJ street team”  will bring their enthusiasm to the campus group while also working the streets to recruit other students to get involved. At the same time, they’re able to be groomed to be officers in future years. I hope to present the “street team” concept to my chapter officers as we meet this month.

You can read more about my Scripps experience in the posting on my

Reflections on the Scripps Leadership Retreat

Some of our Region 3 members went to Indianapolis earlier this month for the Ted Scripps Leadership Retreat. This program is an excellent way for new chapter leaders to learn more about SPJ while getting some awesome tips from fellow chapter leaders around the country.

I asked Ted Geltner, with the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Florida and the incoming president of the North Central Florida SPJ Chapter, to share some thoughts on his trip to Scripps Leadership Retreat.

From Ted: I did have a great time in Indy. The program was excellent, and it was interesting to meet SPJ folks from across the country and the share ideas and issues with them. It’s great to see that so many other chapters are motivated and enthusiastic about the organization. North Central Florida SPJ will be stealing ideas for events and programs from chapters big and small. We’re going to get together soon and put in place a plan for the next year based on some of the things I learned at the conference.

South Florida arrest inquiry

The South Florida Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has asked the Miami-Dade Police Department to open an inquiry into the February arrest of television journalist Michael Kirsch who had been investigating allegations against the department and its director, said Chapter President Darcie Lunsford.

A chapter committee began an informal investigation last month into the February arrest of Mr. Kirsch. The reporter contends he was assaulted and treated harshly with no provocation during a traffic stop near his home when he was off-duty with his family. The SPJ committee led by Lunsford and board members Sam Terilli, Julie Kay, Bill Hirschman and John Hopkins reviewed several documents and interviewed Mr. Kirsch.
While the committee continues to look into the matter and has requested police records, it felt there are sufficient questions meriting an official inquiry by the department.
As a result, the chapter sent a letter this month to Director Robert Parker requesting “a department inquiry into how the officer responded once Mr. Kirsch, employed at the time as an investigative reporter at WFOR CBS 4, stepped out of his automobile at the roadside.”

The letter continued, “Nobody should be subjected to detention that is not made necessary and appropriate by the circumstances and the actions of the individual. Nor should police behavior in any case degrade or punish a member of the public. Any punishment should follow charges and judicial action. Mr. Kirsch believes he was subjected to unnecessarily harsh treatment. “
The letter added, “This minor traffic stop and the exchange between the officer and Mr. Kirsch appear to have escalated beyond all reason. Even the state’s attorney appears to find the multiple felony charges against Kirsch, including assault on a police officer, questionable dropping all to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest without violence. Mr. Kirsch is contesting this. “
For more information, contact Darcie Lunsford at or 954-949-7523, or our website

2007 Sunshine State Awards

MIAMI, May 19, 2007 — The best in Florida journalism, from heart-moving accounts of personal hardship to dogged investigative reporting on government waste and inaction, was recognized this evening at the 13th annual Sunshine State Awards dinner.

The reporting team of Debbie Cenziper and Larry Lebowitz at The Miami Herald won 2007’s top honors, the James Batten Award for Public Service, for their series House of Lies, about years of failure by a Miami-based public housing agency to build promised homes and apartments for low-income families.

The same body of work also won a first in the large-newspaper category of the Gene Miller Awards for Investigative Reporting, presented in honor of the late Herald reporter and editor.  Among small newspapers, first went to Janine A. Zeitlin and colleagues at the Naples Daily News, whose reporting on “human trafficking” took them to Guatemala for a close-up look at families so impoverished they sell their daughters.

The complete list of winners is here.  The 1,282 entries of 2006 work by writers, editors, artists, broadcasters, photographers and web producers were evaluated by professional journalists from SPJ chapters outside Florida.  The contest supports the Society’s South Florida professional-development programs and scholarships for young men and women preparing for journalism careers.

Congrats Florida Award Winners

The South Florida Pro Chapter is hosting its 2007 Sunshine State Awards banquet May 19 in Boca Raton. Keynote speaker is Philip Meyer, Knight Professor of Journalism at the University of North Carolina and author of The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age. Tickets are $38; $20 for students. For more information and a list of the finalists, click here.

Essay Winners

Each year the SPJ student chapter at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., participates in SPJ’s High School Essay Contest. Students are asked to write about First Amendment freedoms and issues. Kudos to Winthrop for getting behind this great program. Read about this year’s winners here.

Conference pix

George Daniels, assistant professor at the University of Alabama, posted online some photos from the Region 3 Spring Conference in Gainesville, Fla., last month. Check out his pictures here. E-mail Holly Fisher at if you have conference photos to share.


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