Meet Jason Parsley: He is the associate publisher and former editor-in-chief of the South Florida Gay News and president of the SPJ South Florida Pro chapter.
Side note: He’s only six years out of college.
“I always ask the students, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” said Michael Koretzky, SPJ Region 3 director and the former newspaper adviser at Florida Atlantic University, from which Parsley graduated in 2007. “He said, ‘I want to be editor of a gay publication within five years.’”
Parsley was named editor in 2011. But he hasn’t always been a journalist. Parsley, 35, had an eight-year career as a hair stylist and decided he wanted to move on.
“My passion in life was writing, and I thought, ‘How can I do what I love?’” Parsley said. “I’m naturally very curious. This is the perfect career.”
He studied journalism at FAU and was editor of the University Press. Gideon Grudo, now-editor of the South Florida Gay News who attended FAU after Parsley graduated, said Parsley was known at the paper for his University Press legacy: investigative journalism exposing fraud and embezzlement in the student government.
“Because of my stories I saw student government change,” Parsley recalled. “That left a long-lasting impact on me and really I guess just made me think, ‘This is why I’m doing this.’”
Upon graduation, Parsley took a job reporting for West Boca Forum, of the Forum Media Group. Parsley was in his third year of hyperlocal reporting with Forum when someone sent him a job posting for the South Florida Gay News.
The paper hired him the same day he applied, and within six months he was promoted to editor. He rose to associate publisher in March. Grudo, formerly managing editor, became editor-in-chief.
“The fact that he was in another profession and to decide what he loves and go do it — that makes him heavily qualified as a journalist and an SPJ leader,” Koretzky said.
A few years ago, Koretzky recruited Parsley and a collection of other young journalists to take the lead with the South Florida chapter’s board of directors.
“The knock on that particular board was that they were too young,” Koretzky said. “I think Jason proved that wrong.”
Parsley and the other chapter leaders have emphasized programming as the way to strengthen the group. Since Parsley became president in December, the chapter has seen varying success in its programming and member-engagement efforts: Google hangouts for the whole chapter, weekly Q-and-A’s with local journalists, and creative events like an obituary-writing contest.
“Jason’s goal is to win chapter of the year,” Koretzky said, adding that every time Parsley does something, he’s determined to achieve his goals.
“The quality that really fed his continued success is that he’s never satisfied or happy with the status quo,” said Grudo, who is also vice president of the South Florida chapter. “The product can always get better, the process can always get better.”
In Parsley’s time at the publication, he has worked on a redesign of the newspaper and website, transitioned the digital product to be a daily news source and introduced a quarterly magazine to the SFGN readers.
“Our goal is to be the resource for every gay person in South Florida,” Parsley said. But the priority is to be a newspaper first, a gay newspaper second.
“Jason’s focus is on news,” Grudo said. “I started as a freelancer while still in school. I reached out to him because he needed a writer, and he said, ‘As long as you don’t write about entertainment and nightclubs.’”
Successfully running and improving a niche publication aside, Parsley has other goals in mind. He would eventually like to serve an audience beyond South Florida, and he hopes to write a book someday.
“Come up with your own definition of success and go from there,” Parsley advises, reflecting on his career trajectory. “If there’s any opportunities out there, take them, jump on them, continue to learn.”