What Jacksonville’s Void Magazine is all about

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Void Magazine’s Zach Sweat announced his one-year anniversary as the publication’s editor-in-chief in the release of February’s “Food Issue.”

“It’s officially been a year since I took over as editor here at Void, which means I managed to not screw anything up too much,” he said in the latest issue’s editor’s note. “I have always had the best intentions for our community in mind, and I hope to see us continue to improve as we dig into the new year.”

Jacksonville’s own Void Magazine revolves around the community, after all. This year’s food issue, titled “Tastes of the 904”, focuses on the wide variety in Jacksonville’s cuisine. The issue is organized into flavor categories: salty, spicy, savory, sweet, and sour. Each flavor spotlights a beloved local eatery. Orange Park’s The Urban Bean Coffeehouse secured the “Sweet” spot with their fruity glazed donuts, while Southside’s deep southern hot-spot Gilbert’s Social snagged the title of “Sour” with the heavy emphasis on pickles and apple cider vinegar in their dishes.

“Tastes of the 904” also includes a page dedicated to hyping up restaurants that are currently under construction. With Void’s circulation of 91,000 readers per month, this large-scale word-of-mouth advertisement can have a significant impact on these up-and-coming businesses.

“I definitely like the community aspect [of Void],” Sweat says. “It’s crazy to see someone just start out, and then you do a little story on them, and they get really big. It’s cool to see how you can help someone like that.”

Void also heavily promotes the community from within by giving local writers and photographers a chance to have their work published. Aspiring writers can write for VoidLive.com, the magazine’s website, on nearly any topic they like. Sweat oversees every article, makes any necessary changes, then sends it out to be seen by all.

“Zach published my first photograph for Void when I was still in high school,” says Ian Zawacki, a surf reporter and intern photographer for Void. “I kept seeing him at promotional events and things like that, so that’s how I got to know him. As I improved at photography, he started sharing my photos on the Void Instagram page. For a kid who’s just starting out, that kind of social media thing is a big deal. Eventually my photos made it into the magazine. Void definitely played a role in jump-starting my career.”

Sweat graduated from UNF with a degree in Print Journalism in 2014, while working as an intern at Void. He tries to give other talented writers and photographers the same opportunity. Since Void doesn’t sell to readers, hiring volunteers and interns is mutually beneficial. Aspiring talents get an outlet to have their work seen and build their portfolio, while Void gets to boast many stories from a wide variety of authors.

“Zach mainly just wants skilled writers who have something fun to write about,” said Void staff writer Heather Hennerson. “One time I was hungover at work, so I wrote a funny article about being hungover at work [laughs]. Void’s an entertainment publication, so as long as it’s interesting and not heavy or controversial, Zach is open to publishing most things.”

While Zach also stresses that Void wants nothing to do with controversy, that’s not to say they haven’t had their fair share of it.

“One time I wrote an article that was supposed to be light-hearted and facetious,” Hennerson said. “I made a comment about Radiohead being boring, which was clearly just my opinion, and Void got so much crap from bitter Radiohead fans [laughs]. I think Zach became a bit more careful about what we publish after that, but we try to be laid-back.”

While Sweat said controversy is bound to happen from time to time, he still finds the magazine’s emphasis on the community to be his favorite part of the job.
“Void’s always been really positive in the community,” he said. “We always try to promote the good people who are doing cool stuff and share their stories.”

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