Will Write For Food

WILL WRITE FOR FOOD… Labor Day in a homeless shelter

If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re thinking about doing something really stupid.

You’re contemplating an uncomfortable Labor Day weekend in a Florida homeless shelter with 19 other college journalists from across the country. You’ll take over the nation’s second-largest homeless newspaper and assemble an entire 24-page issue in 36 hours – starting with a tasty dinner in the shelter on a Saturday night and ending with cold leftovers in the wee hours of a Monday morning. It’s called Will Write for Food, and 2014 will mark our sixth twisted year. We’ll pay for all your meals and a no-frills hotel room you’ll share with three other WWFFers. (No, you don’t sleep in the shelter, although you’ll spend nearly all your weekend there.) We also pay for some – but not all – of your travel.


We demand a lot in return from our reporters, photographers, and designers. And most of your friends and family will call you crazy. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? So before you apply, read the rest of this post and seriously consider if this is for you. Because it’s not for everyone. And we like it that way…


WWFF13 staffCheck out what the last WWFF crew did…


 { Web }

{ Print }

{ Flickr }

{ SPJ Florida’s (behind the scenes) coverage }


What kind of students are you looking for?

Those who don’t mind getting trapped in a crowded elevator. The shelter’s elevator is a real piece of crap. So far, we’re alternating years – two years stuck, three years not. If this post and all the links don’t fascinate you, then don’t apply for WWFF14. Seriously. This isn’t some reverse-psychology marketing ploy. If you’re not comfortable being uncomfortable, you’re gonna end up being miserable. You have to really want to do this.


The Shelter

For more than a decade, the COSAC Foundation has run this homeless shelter near downtown Hollywood, FL. The building is rumored to once have been a sex motel – used by local prostitutes and their johns. Now it’s a 21-room private shelter that supports itself by selling the Homeless Voice newspaper on the streets of South Florida. It’s reportedly the second-largest street paper in the nation, after Chicago.


Is it safe?

We get asked this a lot. And it’s a fair question. Will Write for Food has four official advisers, and no less than two will be in the newsroom at any given time. Joining them throughout the weekend will be professional journalists who will assist with writing, editing, photography, video, design, and multimedia. Our newsroom, while part of the shelter complex, is not accessible to residents and has its own bathroom. When we work late, a shelter security staffer sits outside the newsroom door. (He’s a chain-smoker, so he doesn’t mind.) Rarely will you be alone. You’ll meet the shelter staff, and they’ll never be far from you. Many assignments – like nighttime outreach, where the photo above was shot – require more than one student to cover it right. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, one of the advisers or pro journalists will join you on your assignment. We’ve done that often, and it’s very OK to request it.



Will Write for Food is best described chronologically…

  • You arrive Saturday afternoon at the Ramada Inn in downtown Hollywood, FL. If you’re flying, we pick you up at the Fort Lauderdale airport only a few miles away.
  • At 4 p.m., we meet in a hotel conference room to introduce ourselves and sketch out the next 36 hours. Then we caravan over to the shelter a couple miles (and a world) away.
  • We eat dinner with the residents in the cafeteria, tour the shelter in small groups, and set up our newsroom in a musty, narrow office on the premises. This will be our home for the weekend.
  • We hold a quick news meeting, and you’ll also meet in small groups with an adviser – one each for news, multimedia, and photo/design.
  • Then we head back to the hotel. This is your only free night, so befriend your fellow WWFFers and hang out in downtown Hollywood. But…
  • Get a good night’s sleep because you’ll eat a free breakfast at 8 a.m. and caravan to the shelter at 8:45 a.m. From 9 till dinnertime, you’re gonna be slammed. (We’ll bring you lunch and frequent snacks to the newsroom.)
  • We’ll dine together – at a diner. We’ll talk about how things have gone so far, and how we’re going to wrap everything up before 4 a.m. (That’s when we finished last year.)
  • Monday morning, eat your last free breakfast, meet one last time, and head for home. We’ll mail you a couple issues of the Homeless Voice when it hits the streets.



Applying for Will Write for Food is simple…

  • You must be enrolled as a student this fall. Doesn’t matter if it’s at a small private college, a big public university, a community college, or some fly-by-night online school.
  • Type up a resume and make sure it doesn’t suck. (Here’s some advice on not sucking.)
  • Find links to three of your clips that move you. Doesn’t matter what they’re about. If you’re a reporter, we want to see your favorite stories (print or video). Photographers, your favorite pictures. Designers, your favorite layouts. Write a sentence or two (no more) about what made each clip special to you.
  • Write a letter of no more than 500 words. Tell us why you’re willing to sacrifice a holiday weekend. Tell us something about yourself that a resume and a clip can’t.
  • Past WWFFers will select the 2011 WWFFers, so be honest in your application. In other words, you’re being judged by people close to your own age. So they’ll know if you’re bullshitting them.
  • Email everything to journoterrorist@gmail.com. Deadline to apply is 11:59:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, June 1, 2014.
  • We’ll email everyone who applied by Sunday, June 15. You’ll know then if you’re accepted or an alternate. (We’ll explain the alternate thing to those it applies to.)
  • Questions? Hit us up at the email address above.

The annual Will Write for Food program is sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists Florida Pro Chapter. You don’t have to be members to get accepted into WWFF, but it sure helps.

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