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Five Questions: Michael Koretzky

Thu, Apr 2, 2009

5 Questions


As told to Kenny Malone


Michael Koretzky, you are the very first interviewee for our new web feature, “5 Questions,” where we’ll be asking interesting, South Floridian characters a number of questions about life, the universe, and everything.  Sweet, huh?

If I’m first, it can’t be all that sweet. But I assume you’re starting at the bottom of the food chain and working your way up.

Who are you?  Please send a photo that confirms the following excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for “Michael Koretzky”:  “His appearance has been compared to that of Chuck Norris.”

I’m the part-time adviser for the student newspaper at Florida Atlantic University, even though I don’t have a college degree.  I also copyedit one day a week for the trashy supermarket tabloids Globe and Examiner, even though I can’t tell Brangelina from Bennifer.  And I just wrapped up eight years as associate editor at the world’s largest jazz magazine, even though I can’t read music.  Basically, my entire journalism career has been a fraud.

But I do look like Chuck Norris — from the neck up.  From the neck down, I look like Woody Allen.

‘Unconventional ’09’ - break it down for us in an unconventional way (i.e. iambic pentameter, Morse Code, emoticons, 7-9-7 haiku, etc.)

The most unconventional way, I suppose, is to tell you what this isn’t — it’s not a typical, expensive convention in a chilly hotel conference room with an old person reading PowerPoint slides in a monotone to supposedly literate people with no vision problems.

My theory is that, if newspapers are being killed off by the Internet, their conventions are next — I can get PowerPoint slides online and read them myself.  What I can’t get is networking, camaraderie, and fun. So UnCon ’09 is cheap, includes lunch, and occurs at Dave & Buster’s in Hollywood.

If it bombs, I will forever shut up about how conventions should be run.  But if it works, I plan to become insufferable on this topic.

Last things first, I always say.  A haiku about the last journalism conference I attended…

Dry, dusty desert
no food for brain or belly
I paid for this crap?

Emoticons representing my mood swings during that conference…

It costs $120? :-o
Then again, look at all these groovy-sounding sessions =)
Wait, this guy is monotonous and obvious :o
What a friggin’ bait-and-switch =/
And it’s so cold in this hotel conference room :(
So I’m going outside to smoke a cigarette :-Q
Which is the most fun I’ve had all day :-7

Morse code….

…. ..- -. –. .-. -.– /  … – — .–. /  -… .-. — -.- . /  … – — .–. /  .–. .. … … . -.. /  … – — .–. /  … . -. -.. /  -. . .– /  -.-. — -. …- . -. – .. — -. /  -. — .–

(Hungry stop broke stop pissed stop send new convention now)

Finally, I’m not smart enough for iambic pentameter. Limerick is the best I can do…

There once was a writer named Mike
who thought all conventions were alike
So he said, “Screw you guys,
I’m going to improvise
And if you don’t like it, take a hike.”

In all seriousness, Saturday’s event with the Homeless Voice caught our eye at Under the Sun.   Could you explain a little bit about the event and how you came up with the idea?

I’d volunteer as the copyeditor [at Homeless Voice].   Sean Cononie, who runs the shelter that publishes the paper, would email me stories.  I’d edit them in the evenings after work.  Essentially, I edited homeless stories from home.

Most South Floridians don’t realize that the Voice is the second-largest homeless newspaper in the country (after Chicago’s). Most people don’t read it, either. If they did, it would blow their little minds. While the writing is average — although in some cases much better than the dreck my students turn in — the stories can be gut-wrenching.

I always thought it would be enlightening for mainstream journalists to spend one day working at the Voice.  So that’s what we’re going to do. Next week, 60 journalists from all over Florida will eat dinner at the shelter (baked ziti) then work all night writing, shooting, editing, and designing a special issue of the Homeless Voice.

That issue will be sold on the streets of South Florida and mailed to every major journalism organization in the country.  We’ll also mail a copy to each participant — at their *home* address.

You are the adviser for University Press, FAU’s student run weekly newspaper.  As the newspaper world crumbles around them, what are you telling your journalism students?

I tell them to rejoice in the industry’s misery. Because our students are still getting jobs — just not at newspapers.  Even a decade ago, they didn’t want to be ink-stained wretches.  And I couldn’t blame them.

They realized early on that corporate journalism has always been the worst of both worlds — a corporate culture on a journalist’s salary, when it could’ve been a journalist’s culture on a corporate salary.

So Ben is assistant editor at Florida Fishing Weekly and goes to the Cayman Islands for work.  Joanie is a fashion writer for City Link and goes to nightclubs for work.  Rachael is a staff writer at a Christian charity and goes to remote clinics in Ethiopia and Haiti for work (where she and interviews and photographs doctors and patients).

Just two weeks ago, Jake was hired as a media coordinator for PETA in Washington, D.C.  And just a few months ago, Dori was hired as an assistant editor at a Hollywood-based trade magazine for retailers.

They’re all doing much better than my former peers at the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald, and Palm Beach Post.  In fact, I won’t be surprised if I walk into the homeless shelter next week and see someone I know…

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