Writing for SCN: A Vendor’s Perspective

The 2008 economic recession cost me my newspaper distributor job at Boston Now and opened up new opportunities for me at Spare Change News.

After selling Spare Change News for two weeks, I answered a posting by then-editor Emily Johnson stating that she was looking for someone to write a story on community gardening. I responded and sent her a story lead highlighting that community gardens were growing and  that waiting lists existed in Boston, Lowell and Lawrence. She emailed me back and commented that she liked the introduction. She suggested that I complete the article and send her a draft for review.

One week later, I sent her a completed draft, and three days later, I received an electronic memo that she was going to publish the article. In addition, she emailed and invited me to submit other topics to write on. Two weeks later, we met and reviewed an outline of 12 ideas covering a wide range of themes from food to women’s issues to health to urban planning. We agreed to focus on three topics: food, health and urban planning.

After Emily Johnson left Spare Change News, I have written for six editors over eight years, including current editor Adam Sennott. My writing spans 150 articles. These focus areas relate to my career and educational background. In particular, I’ve written articles on food and nutrition because these topics coincide with my background in food science and dietetics. I’ve also written articles on health issues, which relates to my background as a clinical diet technician and a junior nutritionist at New England Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital. Other articles I’ve written cover topics such as urban planning and the redevelopment of the Carl Baron Plaza in Central Square, which coincides with a minor in urban planning I received from the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

Writing about food, health and urban planning issues in Spare Change News and keeping the public informed about municipal and federal policy changes is something that interests me very much. It is part of my responsibility as a freelance writer for the newspaper. In other words, this is my “beat” at Spare Change news. I’m also interested in how local non-profit organizations such as Food For Free, the Greater Boston Food Bank and Hubway develop and implement their mission statements to serve the communities in which they operate.

Writing at Spare Change News is an ongoing learning process. My original focus was to grow as a writer and to develop skills that could be transferred into grant writing. My writing skills have advanced to a point that I am now focusing on creating informative primary and secondary leads.

My recent published articles, such as my story on Robert J. Lawler and Crosby Funeral Home’s burying of homeless veterans, have drawn tremendous praise and have helped me sell newspapers. My recent interview with Mayor Denise Simmons was also well-liked. Other articles that have been a success include my Women’s Lunch Place story in 2015, my Food For Free story in 2012 and my story on Boston Bruins’ donation of surplus food in 2013.

In my article on the Robert J. Lawler and Crosby Funeral Home, I decided to tell a story of humanitarian good will. The 2012 Food For Free story I wrote was based on my first-hand experience of spending five hours with a two-man crew and seeing how they pick up and distribute surplus food that would otherwise be wasted. The Wainwright Bank article I wrote drew significant praise from the bank for being well researched and written.

Writing and telling a story is one of the journalistic approaches I use at Spare Change News. I also like to give my first-hand experience of writing a story after researching a topic.

Writing and keeping the audience updated on policy changes also interests and empowers me. Writing about music—in particular, jazz—and sharing my life experience is a form of self-empowerment and brings much enjoyment.

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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