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PERSPECTIVES | FSPA 2023 Spring Convention
April 17, 2023
Editor’s Note: This was created for the FSPA 2023 Spring Convention On-the-Spot Newsmagazine Team Contest and placed third.
Prompt: In a team of up to four, create a newsmagazine cover (8.5 x 11”) and inside spread (2 8.5 x 11” pages) devoted to showing us the“faces of FSPA” – but find a better title than that! Produce great photography and strong writing to help us meet some of the 1,200+ people gathering for the 2023 convention. Submit as a single PDF document by 10 p.m.
Click the image to view the final submission.
The State Chair
Addison Gear takes leadership of the 2023 FSPA Student Representatives Board.
Newspaper, yearbook, broadcast, photography, TV production. No matter what type of journalism you are in, all journalists have one thing in common: their love for storytelling. From the East to the West Coast, all journalists gather in Orlando for one weekend of fun. This would not have been possible without Addison Gear (’23) and the Florida Scholastic Press Association leadership board.
Gear is a senior at H.B. Plant High School and the State Chair of FSPA. She is the Coverage Editor-In-Chief of the Panthers yearbook as well.
Gear has had a long history with Journalism. She was on her middle school’s yearbook staff and decided to join Journalism when she moved on to high school. But it wasn’t till her junior year of high school that she got a leadership position on the staff, which only furthered her love for Journalism.
“Junior year, I was given this position, which was a new position at the time, but it really let me focus in on what sort of book we wanted to have and what stories we wanted to tell,” Gear said. “I had a lot of fun with that and I kinda fell in love with the storytelling part of it all.”
In 2021, she decided to run for the District 4 Representative position. For Gear, the position meant more than just the title.
“Getting involved with FSPA, I decided I have to go all in on this and decide if this is exactly what I wanted to do as a career,” Gear said. “The more I went in with Journalism, the more I have just completely fallen in love with it.”
Going into senior year, Gear was elected to be the State Chair of FSPA. To no one’s surprise, the position was a challenge. This year, 1500 people are here in Orlando at the State Convention. The FSPA leadership board, consisting of eight student representatives, is in charge of almost all of the planning for the event. Surely, much preparation was done before everyone’s arrival.
“We met in December at this hotel and we spent three days working on what we wanted this year’s convention to look like… We wanted to move in a different direction, focusing more on the community and its importance,” Gear said.
The theme for the 2022-2023 FSPA convention is Stars Align. Gear and the others had one goal in mind for the convention: creating a home for Florida journalists.
“The word constellations kept coming up… We started with the visual: the little stars and how they all connected to one big Florida and this constellation of aligning at Orlando. We landed with [the theme] Stars Align, which was our vision for this entire weekend, creating this community and letting people branch out because we all have this shared common interest,” Gear said.
Meet the Mastermind of FSPA
This is Nancy “Joanie” Webster’s second year as President of the Florida Scholastic Press Association (FSPA) and advises Newspaper, Yearbook, TV Productions and teaches Journalism 1 at Robinson High School in Tampa, Fla.
Webster’s journey from high school to President was a surprise. Though Webster knew she wanted to work for a magazine, she never participated in Journalism in high school. Instead, she did Color Guard and Band. Webster’s acted on her desire to work for a magazine after high school at the University of Miami by working on magazines, attending national conventions, writing for the school’s newspaper and yearbook, and eventually working her way up from section editor to copy editor which would lead her to win a crown award for the magazine.
Webster takes a lot from her previous advisor at the UN and applies it to her teaching and advising as she now wants to reciprocate those actions by which she felt so inspired.
“He was such a good advisor to me,” Webster’s said. “So I always want to be someone who is there for my students and letting them thrive.”
As an advisor and now President, Webster has double the responsibilities but believes now being in this role affects not only her but her students as well.
“I think being president of FSPA has affected my students as well as it affected me just because it’s a lot of work. I’m the main event planner for this so all the little things that need to get done for a 1500 person convention has to happen in my classroom,” Webster said. “So students come and help me stuff bags or do this or that. It’s all hard to kind of maintain getting this workshop put together as well as finalizing the yearbook because they both kind of end at the exact same time.”
FSPA is the one time a year students from all over Florida come together and all share their love for journalism whether it be broadcasting, yearbook or newspaper. Webster believes it’s a convention with great accessibility and unity for all students.
“We all come to FSPA and we really get to bond as a group,” said Webster.
With a two-year hiatus without a convention due to the covid-19 lockdown, last year’s convention planning was a mess but this year the stars aligned and is back in orderly fashion.
Catching Up With Chris
Chris Lenerz is the District 5 Director of the Florida Scholastic Press Association (FSPA) and the advisor for the newspaper and yearbook at Pine View Middle and High School in Sarasota, Fla.
Lenerz enjoys the freedom that comes with advising journalism. Students take charge by doing almost all the work, from writing to editing.
“I love journalism because it’s student-run. I really just advise. The students run the publication, they make the decisions and they’re passionate about it because they know if they don’t get it done, it won’t get done because I’m not doing it. They appreciate the fact I give them ownership,” Lenerz said.
Lenerz enjoys witnessing the improvement of his staff from inexperienced staffers to super-star editors. Not only does their writing improve but their confidence as well.
“The other thing I love is being with the same kids for four years,” Lenerz said. “You really get to see their growth. They come in all shy; they can barely look you in the eye. By the time they graduate, they’re an editor, they’re interviewing administrators, they have leadership skills… seeing that growth is really satisfying as a teacher.”
FSPA holds a special place in Lenerz’s heart as he believes it motivates his publications to try their hardest. Especially after COVID-19, the lost in enthusiasm in journalism is discouraging, but being connected with other journalists at FSPA has allowed his staffs to find their spark yet again.
“I think FSPA is so special especially now because our morals after those two years of COVID, trying to get people motivated to get their stories done and do work, I think a big part of it was not going on any field trips. The kids come back energized, excited about journalism, and all sorts of things they want to put into place for next year,” Lenerz said.
Lenerz is excited to see the stars align as his staff gather with other student journalist at the 2023 FSPA State Convention.