The 2021 FSPA Conference has attendees saying FSPYAY

The FSPA conference is an annual event where students of journalism can learn and compete with each other.

Vikram Sambasivan and Charlotte Stone

Editor’s note: This article was written as a submission for the “On the Spot” newswriting category at the FSPA District 4 workshop. The entry received first place in the competition.

Three hundred and fifty students, experienced presenters, “On the Spot” competitions, fun, friendship, and above all, a common love of journalism. 

The Florida Scholastic Press Association (FSPA) is an organization focused towards young and burgeoning journalists. “FSPA believes that the responsible exercise of freedom of expression involves adherence to the highest standards of journalism,” and that this is something students interested in journalism need to learn. 

After being forced online due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, FSPA is back this year with a full schedule of contests, speakers – including Jackie Callaway (ABC Action News investigative journalist), Sean Philips, Daylina Miller, etc. –  and sessions aimed to help aspiring journalists. 

After an entire year online, organizing such a large event proved difficult for many districts but, it was no problem for Executive Director of FSPA, Adam Livesay and District 4 Director, Julia Pappacoda. 

“It was like riding a bike where we could pick it up and jump back on it,” said Livesay, Executive Director of FSPA. 

One of the largest challenges of organizing FSPA is generally getting a venue, but with District 4’s longstanding relationship with USF, the largest challenge was out of the way. However, COVID-19 protocols presented a separate, and almost equally daunting of a challenge. With many districts in the state of Florida having different COVID protocols that are changing constantly, it was difficult, but ultimately achievable, to create a single set of standardized safety rules. 

Venues and safety are very important parts of FSPA, but they were not the only factors affected. 

“Another difference was getting speakers to come here, that was a big one, and finding enough speakers, like for the virtual one we could have 500 people in one [virtual] classroom, but here we’re limited by the size and shape,” Livesay said.

In this respect, Jackie Callaway was a great choice for this year’s Keynote speaker. 

“With the Keynote Speaker, especially in a year of COVID, I wanted someone who was reliable and dependable, and comfortable being in a room full of people,” Pappacada said.

All the hard work is worth it to fulfill their goals of producing great journalism in the state of Florida, starting with Florida high school students. 

Their efforts haven’t gone to waste though, students greatly appreciate the lengths officials have gone to, to put this event together. 

“I thought the lead speaker [was very exciting], having an actual news reporter come in and share the behind the scenes and her internal thought process and a more personalized perspective of what directly goes onto what’s seen on the screen. I thought that was very interesting and unique,” said Lucas Johnson-Williams, a senior at Middleton High School.