If proper nouns were allowed in Scrabble, Koretzky would be a high-value name. But we’re not playing Scrabble. We’re writers, and without Michael Koretzky, region 3 director for Society of Professional Journalists, we wouldn’t have programs like Will Write For Food. Also, I wouldn’t have made it home on Labor Day.
A whirlwind 36 hours of chaotic reporting, lede creating and nut graph recreating taught me and 21 other student journalists the value of getting out of the newsroom and out of our comfort zone. I expected nothing less from the adviser who hooked me on SPJ with his engaging programs.
In his closing email to the students, Koretzky wrote, “This weekend, some of you accused me of being negative and melodramatic. You’re probably right – I’m not objective enough to journalistically debate that. But if we agree on this point, it means when I say nice things, those definitely must be true.”
Then, he went on to compliment the group.
I’ve seen the debates, battles and wars waged with Koretzky at the wheel, and regardless of what professional journalists or otherwise think of him, he is nearly single-handedly inspiring students to get active in building their journalism careers.
Not only did Koretzky tell me the personal magazine I toiled over for seven years had no place as a line item on my resume, he said anyone thinking about applying for Will Write For Food was considering doing something “really stupid.”
I think that’s part of his charm.
Koretzky appears viciously blunt in print, and in person. He won’t sugarcoat shit, and if students develop a thick enough skin, they will realize how effective Koretzky’s criticism is.
Underneath all the ink covering his heart, Koretzky cares immensely for the students he advises. Several times over the weekend, he told us he wished he could help more financially. One student traveled from as far away as Alaska, but each student only received $100 toward travel. And we slept 3 to 4 to a room. Just kidding; we didn’t sleep.
Sadly, Society of Professional Journalists doesn’t chip in for the Will Write For Food program. It was funded by the South Florida Black Journalists Association, The National Association of Hispanic Journalists South Florida Chapter, The South Florida pro chapter of SPJ and Koretzky himself.
After overcoming the unsurprising yet still overwhelming smell of the shelter dining room, filled with people swollen with Florida summer sweat, I endured the fast-paced storytelling and cruised through a 3-hour nap before catching a ride to the airport.
This blog was originally going to be more like the one I wrote after Koretzky’s Interviewing the Undead program last year, where I castigated Greyhound, but I realized this blog needed to be about Koretzky himself.
While another student heading home to Atlanta and I hopped out of Koretzky’s jeep an hour before our flight, aggravations and airline-created delays caused us to get to the gate one minute after its closing. The plane sat behind one Spirit Airlines attendant and us, but she refused to let us on our flight.
We had to go back to the ticketing counter and Spirit Airlines told me I couldn’t get a guaranteed flight until more than 30 hours later. That’s enough time to put together an issue of The Homeless Voice. My friend couldn’t guarantee a flight until two days later. The stress of the whole weekend rained over me, but I did not cry. Even when Spirit Airlines told me I would have to pay more than I originally paid for a round trip ticket to Florida, to fly home.
As I contemplated renting a car to make the 11-hour drive back to Atlanta, Koretzky saved the day. He, through a series of texts, promised to reimburse us for any ticket to get us home. At any cost. To a homeless student journalist, this was winning the lottery.
Without excess hyperbole, Koretzky helped me craft my career. I haven’t even finished my degree, but I fine-tuned my resume using Koretzky’s tips and landed a part-time job as a staff writer on a newspaper. When I joined SPJ, I did so for the line item on my resume. When I found Koretzky’s programs, I got involved. I believe getting involved and networking is the key. That, and trials by fire.