Sep. 6, 2014  

Will Write For Food 2014

Now in its sixth year, the Will Write For Food program brought 21 college journalists from around the country to Hollywood, Fla. to take over the Homeless Voice, one of the largest homeless publications in the country.

From as far away as Fairbanks, Alaska and as local as Miami, students arrived on Saturday, Aug. 30, for a 4 p.m. meeting at the hotel they would barely stay at. They met each other, learned about the shelter, and eventually piled into a COSAC van to eat dinner with residents and visitors.

photo 1

After dinner come tours of the shelter, and immediately following, they gather in the makeshift newsroom next to the shelter to meet with their editor, who is chosen from the previous year’s group, to discuss possible story ideas.

At 9 a.m. Sunday morning, they started their news meeting. Assignments went out and interviews were set. A couple were done with their first stories by mid-afternoon. Some searched for more assignments or helped out a fellow student with their work.

Many work late into the night. This year all 21 students were around for the annual midnight pizza binge, usually reserved for the handful designing and copy-editing. The first ones left just before 2 a.m.—many to prep for their flights before dawn.

photo 3“This edition is always the most popular one, ever year,” says COSAC Founder Sean Cononie. “They have great pictures, better writing, and it shows we aren’t so secretive about what we do.” Cononie brags about past staffers he befriended on Facebook. Some have gone on to work at Good Morning America and on the front lines in Afghanistan. “I like following the careers of the students.”

I asked Cononie why he lets nearly two dozen college journalists take over his newspaper every year, and he smirked.

“They evaluate us,” he says. “They come in with fresh eyes and show us how we’re doing. But we know our method to treat the homeless is right and it should be duplicated by others.”

photo 2                Photo by Mike Rice Photography

SPJ Florida has been helping fund Will Write For Food since its inception six years ago. This year, SPJ Florida matched funding from SPJ Region 3, while the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the South Florida Black Journalists Association chipped in $500 each.

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