Tuesday, I received an email from the Communication Sakai page. Usually, these are job listings and internship postings for local companies or non-profits, but this one was unique. The title was “Will Write for Food,” and their opening pitch was: “If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re thinking about doing something really stupid.”
The gist is this: you fly to Fort Lauderdale where you meet 19 other college aged journalists, and together you put together a 20-page newspaper. But here’s the catch – you only have 36 hours.
Oh, and did I mention that you’re writing a newspaper called “Homeless Voice” from one of the most hardcore homeless shelters out there?
By most standards, the pitch sucks. The anecdotes include a source that started masturbating in front of the journalist who was interviewing him, getting stuck in a decrepit elevator, and you don’t get paid. I repeat: none of the journalists get paid to do this.
In fact, it costs money. Journalists get some funds to cover the cost of traveling to the event, but rarely ever does it cover the whole cost.
So why bother? Well, that argument is pretty solid. The deadline is arguably the hardest ever, making any school paper deadline pale in comparison. The stories are real, and you talk to real homeless people, who call you names, refuse to talk, and others that open up completely. In the end, it’s the most real journalism you can be involved in. College classes don’t even come close to teaching the things this weekend could, and that’s the point.
The posting says explicitly that this is not for everyone, it’s just for people who want to be serious journalists.