We’re proud to announce the finalists for the Todd C. Smith Florida Student Journalist of the Year award.

These seniors submitted portfolios in writing, design, photography, broadcast journalism and online media, and they all showed excellence in student journalism. Judging was supervised by a highly qualified, out-of-state professional involved in scholastic journalism. Our judge wrote: “I was VERY impressed with some of the web sites the students set up. Keep building those and use them as your portfolio to get into college and to get jobs. This is a GREAT start. And it’s something I wish my college students would emulate.” Good advice for all journalism students, not just our finalists.

Congratulations to our four finalists this year, listed here in alphabetical order:

  • Kristi Cook, American Heritage School
  • Erika Orstad, Cypress Bay High School
  • Elina Rodriguez, Hillsborough High School, Tampa
  • Aaron Michael Sortal, American Heritage School

The winner will be announced at the state convention awards dinner on Friday, April 24, and will represent FSPA at the national level. Three of Florida’s winners in the past decade have been honored as finalists for the Sister Rita Jeanne Scholarship,  the national Student Journalist of the Year competition.

Follow us on social media on Facebook or Twitter for more convention and award updates throughout our April 23-25 convention at the Wyndham Orlando Resort. We use the hashtag #FSPA2015.


2014 Convention Opening Session

Registration is open for the 2015 FSPA State Convention on April 23-25, 2015, at the Wyndham Orlando Resort. Here are the details and steps you will need to take to bring your student publication:

  1. Convention Invitation & Information (2015 Convention Invitation in PDF format)

  2. Register for convention at our online registration site (Early registration closes March 9). Contact Executive Director Wayne Garcia if you need assistance.

  3. Read the Adviser Survival Guide, along with the student behavior contract and adviser responsibility contract (Download the 2014 document as a .pdf file as a guide, but please do not use last year’s form. The 2015 update will be published in February).

  4. If you are a high school publication, download the 2015 hotel form. You book your rooms directly with the Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive using the 2015 hotel form.

  5. If you are a middle school publication attending all three days of the convention, download the 2015 middle school hotel form. You book your rooms directly with the Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive using the 2015 middle school hotel form.

  6. Register for contests that we will hold on Thursday at convention, our annual On The Spot Contests. The On The Spot convention contest registration closes on March 22.

Documents for convention:

2015 OTS descriptions

Convention At a Glance

2015 Convention Invitation


Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 11.31.52 AMWe’ve got a full week ahead, beloved FSPA members. In honor of the Journalism Education Association’s Scholastic Journalism Week, which starts on Monday, we’re launching a state-wide social media challenge. The staff that participates the most in creative and engaging ways will win a pizza and ice cream party, courtesy of FSPA plus special recognition at #FSPA2015 convention in April.

We’ve chosen a theme for each day of Scholastic Journalism Week (Feb. 22-Feb. 28) and we’re asking you to tweet, Facebook, Instagram and or Vine us according to that day’s theme.

Without further ado, here are our themes for each day of Scholastic Journalism Week:

Your staff at work: show us how you get stuff done during your daily grind. Be creative!

Tell us your favorite story: send us your favorite journalism (design, writing, broadcast, etc.) and we will highlight them all in a Storify at the end of the day.

First Amendment day: tell what you appreciate most about the amendment that protects arguably our most important freedom—freedom of speech.

Superhero Day: as journalist, we look up to our own set of superhero reporters and editors. Share with us who is your favorite journalist and why?

Treat Yo’ Self: pamper yourself and your adviser. Show us how you treat yo’ self.

Please make sure to include the hashtags #SJW2015 and #FSPA2015 in your tweets, Vines or Instagrams. On Facebook you can either tag us or share your post directly on our Facebook page.
We look forward to your participation!


The late Todd C. Smith, for whom Florida's Student Journalist of the Year contest is named. Smith was killed while on assignment in Peru covering the drug war. The late Todd C. Smith, for whom Florida’s Student Journalist of the Year contest is named. Smith was killed while on assignment in Peru covering the drug war.

Get those Student Journalist of the Year applications in by midnight tonight and be in the running for hundreds of dollars in awards and possibly competing at the national level.

And for students who have never been to convention and who have demonstrated financial need there are 12 $150 Foundation Scholarships to help pay for convention in April. We have extended the deadline to Wednesday at midnight. Apply on our Foundation Scholarships page.



Here are the forms to register for rooms at the convention hotel, the Wyndham Orlando Resort. You must use this form and contact the hotel directly. FSPA does not book or reserve hotel rooms for the convention.

2015 middle school hotel form

2015 hotel form


Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 11.31.52 AM


Under our FSPA bylaws, we hold elections for President and Vice President every two years. 2015 is an election year. It will be held this year at our annual business meeting on Friday, April 24. Per the bylaws:


A.         The nominating committee shall submit nominations for the offices of president and vice president at the business meeting of the state convention. Nominations may be made from the floor. If more than one candidate is nominated for the position, the vote shall be by secret ballot. The candidate receiving a majority of votes cast at the state convention shall be elected.

B.         The president and vice president shall be elected for two year terms at the state convention held in each odd numbered year.  Their term of office shall begin at the close of the state convention and continue until their successors in office are elected and qualified.

To nominate yourself for one of the two offices, please submit to Executive Director Wayne Garcia at waynegar@ufl.edu the following materials by March 15:

  • Your name, publication advised and school name
  • Office you seek
  • A statement of candidacy in MS Word format no longer than 500 words
  • A .jpg photograph of yourself, no wider than 500 px and 72 dpi
  • A resume in .pdf format

After the March 15 close of online nominations, further nominations may be made from the floor at the business meeting or by contacting Executive Director Wayne Garcia.



We are currently accepting applications for newspaper, yearbook and online media publication critiques. More information is available on our Evaluations page. Newspapers need to be mailed by Jan. 31. Online media and broadcast programs are submitted electronically, with a Jan. 31 deadline for online media and Feb. 7 deadline for broadcast.

You can also review the categories for our 2015 Spring Digital Contests. We welcome entries in 61 different categories. The cost for most is $6 per entry, with some exceptions. For most categories, members publications are welcome to submit three entries. Good luck!




The Todd C. Smith Journalist of the Year contest is going digital. The Journalism Education Association has significantly revised its portfolio process for the national Student Journalist of the Year Competition. Since our state winner advances to the national competition, our criteria has changed as well.

In an effort to make this a smooth transition, JEA has created an online toolbox. Advisers should give the links to eligible candidates. Part of the process is to see what candidates will do to market themselves. This should be the student’s project; however, advisers may guide them however much or as little as they see fit.

In addition to the online entry requirement, work examples need to be organized differently than how it has been done in the past. The toolbox site will address these portfolio-building changes for eligible contestants. Advisers and students should visit the websites below to familiarize themselves with the new criteria.