Sharon Holbrook joins The Land as managing editor

We caught up with Sharon Holbrook, an experienced editor and writer with a love for Cleveland neighborhoods who recently joined The Land as managing editor.
Sharon Holbrook, managing editor of The Land. (Photo by Katie Malone, Little Boo Photography)

After earning her law degree at the University of Virginia, Sharon practiced law before turning to a career in writing and editing. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Cleveland Magazine, Belt, Preservation, and many other national and local publications. She served as managing editor of Your Teen magazine from 2017 to June 2022.

Recently, Sharon accepted the position of managing editor with The Land. We caught up with her about her passion for local journalism, civic participation, and all things Cleveland.

Hi Sharon! Thanks for chatting with us. We’re so glad you’re here! Tell us, what interested you in working with The Land?

First off, I love Cleveland. Before moving here 20+ years ago, I’d lived all over the East Coast, and then I fell for 1) a guy from Lake County, and 2) the unpretentious charm of Cleveland. Both of us were drawn to live close to the city. I’ve always lived on the east side of Cleveland – first in University Circle, and then in Shaker Heights not far from Shaker Square and Larchmere Boulevard. One of the first books I got when I moved here was an old copy of Cleveland on Foot. I still have it, and I still love to explore and get to know Cleveland neighborhoods.

Before I worked for The Land, I was a reader, and I admired The Land’s deep coverage of issues that matter to Cleveland residents and neighborhoods. I’d been disappointed in the changes to Cleveland news media, and here was an organization doing terrific on-the-ground work when it was most needed. I also loved that The Land operates as a nonprofit – instead of reporting to the deepest pockets, The Land reports to Cleveland residents. I’m so glad to be a part of it.

You’re going to spend most of your time here planning, editing, and publishing stories that appear in The Land. What are you passionate about and what are some of the things readers can expect from you?

Here’s the most important thing to me: the quality of life of people who live in Cleveland. No matter whether the story is about city council, transportation, health, economic development, you name it, the question I will ask every writer to answer is, “How does this affect the everyday lives of Clevelanders?” That’s why I especially love stories that are based in neighborhoods, and it’s why The Land aims to collaborate with residents. Readers can always reach out to me with story ideas, inside scoop, feedback, and suggestions of people we should meet and places we should see. Email me anytime at [email protected]

You’ve spent the past five years or so working for a parenting magazine. What did you learn from that experience that you can use in your work with The Land?

There’s more overlap than you might think at first glance. At Your Teen, I got to work with a range of writers from seasoned journalists to beginners with a story to tell. That’s true at The Land, too, where we have professional writers as well as our terrific community journalists, who don’t have much (or any) journalism experience and are learning to report and write their on-the-ground stories. I have to be flexible and helpful as an editor, and I’m very comfortable in that role. And no matter where you’re editing, there are always the parts of the job that are just part of being an editor – reviewing pitches (pitch us!); publishing a dynamic range of stories that serve readers; ensuring factual accuracy; managing an editorial calendar; and, yes, making sure commas go in the right places.

You’ve also written a wide range of pieces for various publications, some local, some national, from personal essays to reported pieces. What do you like about being a freelance writer?

I’m a naturally curious person, so I find nearly everything interesting. Being a freelance writer has allowed me to explore a wide range of topics and stories. For freelance writing work, I might be eating lunch at a converted gas station for a historic preservation story or talking to an expert in Australia for an article about parenting during the pandemic. It’s energizing. And, to be frank, years of working mostly from home – even before the pandemic – has also been pretty sweet.

Some people love editing. Some people hate it. What do you like about trying to bring other people’s writing to fruition and, ultimately, publication?

Oh my goodness, I love editing. Great writing should be a pleasure to read, and it’s the editor’s job to make good writing even better. When I read a writer’s draft, my goal is to shore up the bridge between the writer and reader. What is the writer trying to say? Is it interesting? Does it matter, and does the piece tell a story? Is it accurate? Where do we need some more information? Is it clear? What might be confusing to the reader? It’s such a satisfying puzzle.

What do you like to do in your spare time, other than read articles in The Land?

Reading is right up there. Fiction, essays, history, design, architecture, biography – I can’t resist placing another library hold as soon as I hear about something interesting, so I always have an embarrassing number of unread books stacked in my bedroom. I also love to get outside in nature. This summer, I’ve been loving the Metroparks’ super-affordable “Try-It” programs, and my family and I have gotten to go kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, sailing, and rock climbing. We’re so lucky to have such terrific parks here in Cleveland.

Anything else we’ve forgotten to ask about?

I’d just like to reiterate that we say The Land is “Community-Powered Journalism” for a reason. We need collaborators, and lots of them. That might mean applying to our community journalism program. It might mean sharing our articles on social media. It might mean sending donations. It might mean sending us story ideas or, if you’re a writer, sending us pitches. We don’t know everything – none of us do! – and that’s why we’re here to offer a platform and professional guidance to tell your local stories, together. Thanks in advance for welcoming me!  

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