When I applied to be an editorial intern at Cleveland Magazine, I was seeking something practical, something I could apply to my work as a student-journalist and beyond. During the two previous summers, I had worked at the same place I had worked at in high school – Buelher’s Fresh Foods, a grocery store in Brunswick, Ohio – while fitting writing in when I had extra time. At Cleveland Magazine, I hoped to improve my grammar and writing, expand my comfort zone beyond sports while working in a professional office for the first time and – fingers crossed – building professional connections.
I did ultimately check each one of those boxes. What I ended up learning was practical, just not in the way I expected. It started when an editor by the name of Kim Schneider assigned me a story about tacos that would open The Dish, Cleveland Magazine’s food section.
The story was about a new upscale taco joint called Bomba Tacos & Rum that opened up in Rocky River, a suburb of Cleveland. Its name indicates what the restaurant is about – tacos and rum. The owner and founder, Andy Himmell, crafted a menu with 19 tacos and over 60 kinds of rum. And Bomba doesn’t offer traditional meals — you order each taco a la carte and no taco costs more than $4 —meaning you can try a variety of tacos in one sitting and pair them with handcrafted mojitos. In the summer, there is an open patio with tables seating parties of 10 to 12, making it somewhere you can go with a group of friends and socialize over cocktails and tacos.
My first draft was boring, dull and lacking any fun. My angle argued that Bomba’s tacos were a great value and that the restaurant was new. As Kim would tell me, my draft wasn’t fun. The piece read like a plain news story and I’m not even sure she finished reading the whole piece before sending it back.
After getting some edits back, we talked about the piece. We played a little word association game. Kim said tacos, I said awesome. And then I got it.
A fun tone isn’t always appropriate – some topics require a heavier, more serious tone. But when the topic is fun and something on the fluffier side, you need to operate with a ligher touch. And when writing about something enjoyable, it has to be enjoyable to read too. Taking the awesomeness out of tacos and mojitos isn’t possible in real life, so it shouldn’t be passible in writing either.
At varying points of the internship, other editors, namely Jason Brill and former Backdropper Lauren McGrath, gave me the same advice when I wrote about gelato, an over-the-top road race in Youngstown and a 10-day sugar cleanse, which ironically wasn’t very much fun to do.
So while I took a lot of practical experience from the internship, the biggest lesson was that while this is a job, it’s also supposed to be fun. Without fun, it’s just a boring 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. desk job.