You won’t hear me say “I never won anything” because I have. I even won a free trip to Rome! But I have to tell you that my day in Fort Myers with the News-Press runs a close second.
Winning this raffle item at the Press Club of Southwest Florida luncheon to benefit our scholarship fund for journalism students was particularly exciting to me. Many know that I have done a lot of writing for the Naples News, so the prize was right up my alley.
Executive Editor Cindy McCurry-Ross greeted me at 9AM in her office and took me to the morning business meeting, where I met Dana Deluca, the Digital Producer; and Wendy Fullerton Powell, the News Director. It was a behind-the-scenes look at how the paper decides which stories to print and which go online. While they were talking about online news, I realized that the benefit of getting your news online is that, unlike the printed page, you can read stories as they are changed or added to over the course of a day.
Then I went with reporter Thyrie Bland to Florida Gulf Coast University to interview the university president, Dr. Mike Martin. He outlined his plan to make FGCU the go-to place to find out about water issues. He envisions all departments being involved with studies involving water—from biology to physics, chemistry, geology and even music. He hopes that eventually people from all over the world will consult with FGCU about water issues.
I couldn’t help but get excited about the scope of Dr. Martin’s vision. He was an impressive gentleman with the ability to make quick and thoughtful responses. He is also a jaunty dresser and his wide green suspenders on almost Saint Patricks Day brightened up the rainy day.
Cory O’Donnell, Digital Engagement Editor, spent time with me when I returned from FGCU. He told me that the News-Press has a Citizen Editorial Board. He explained that five community members are chosen every six months. Members from varying walks of life and age groups can give the newspaper different perspectives to consider. For example, The News-Press stopped endorsing specific candidates for political office based on input from this board.
Cory also educated me on how digital viewership is constantly monitored using a computerized system. A glance at a wall-mounted screen tells the newspaper who is reading what, how long they spend reading any article and what is called “recirculation,” meaning how many people stayed on the website. They can also tell if the readers were referred to the web site from Twitter or Facebook!
The next part of my “prize” was scrumptious. Cindy took me for lunch at a charming restaurant in Ft. Myers. Between bites I had an opportunity to quiz her on her journalism career and her current position as executive editor of the newspaper.
After lunch I met with two reporters. David Dorsey covers Cape Coral and now writes the popular “In the Know” column covering what’s new in business. David had a cochlear implant recently and he wrote for the paper an excellent in-depth article about his experience and the nature of cochlear implants. In my other life I was an audiologist, so I could relate to his experience.
I also spoke with Melanie Payne, the investigative reporter. She told me about some of the stories she has covered. She has investigated scams, corruption and bad deals and gives opinions on consumer issues. She is also a hotshot Scrabble player.
Everyone at the News Press bent over backwards to be welcoming to me. It was a day well spent, and, to boot, my donation went to help a journalism student. Couldn’t be better!!