Maria McGinnis is a 2021 spring intern with The Land. We recently caught up with her to ask her a bit about her background and what she hopes to learn through this experience.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, where you’re attending school, and what you’re studying.
I grew up in Ravenna, OH, but I’ve been living in Stow for about three years now. I attend Kent State University and I’ll be graduating in May with Bachelors of Science in journalism and minors in advertising and psychology.
What do you like most about reporting? What drew you to the field in the first place?
I’ve always been a writer and storyteller and I think I was just naturally drawn to journalism for those reasons. I like that I can feel like a voice for the voiceless and like the work I do has meaning and potential to enact change and emotion.
What have you learned so far about Cleveland as a result of your internship?
I grew up in Northeast Ohio and always had a knowledge of Cleveland and had gone downtown for things like the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center, Playhouse Square and concerts at the House of Blues, but that was about all I knew Cleveland for. Through working with The Land, I’ve learned so much more about the area and the people in it. Cleveland is more than just the attractions downtown. While I think I still have a lot to learn and experience in terms of the city and its surrounding neighborhoods, I’m thankful to The Land for exposing me to it thus far.
What are some of your favorite stories you’ve worked on so far?
I enjoyed the story about Sweet Bean because it was a light, fun feature and I like that kind of reporting. I also liked my first story about the Know Your Neighbors initiative. It was my first piece for The Land which was exciting because I was able to showcase my skills and experience reporting for The Land for the first time and I think it’s always rewarding to see your first piece for a new outlet published online, or in print. I also liked working with Lee on the story about public comment at Cleveland City Council meetings. I enjoy more investigative reporting and I think I got a lot of good experience from helping with this piece and seeing how to put it together effectively.
You work with several magazines on the KSU campus. Tell us more about those and how this fuels your passion.
I’ve worked with three of the student media outlets on campus and have worked my way up to serving as editor-in-chief for each one. The Kent Stater/KentWired is Kent State’s student newspaper and here I gained and improved my skills in daily beat reporting and breaking news coverage. I also worked with The Burr Magazine, which is Kent State’s general interest magazine. Here I was able to foster my preference for longer feature writing that doesn’t have to have a hard news angle. I’ve also worked with A Magazine, Kent State’s fashion, beauty and culture publication. I love fashion, beauty and culture and reporting similar to The Cut, so I had a natural gravitation toward A Mag where I could continue writing feature stories, but focusing on some of the topics that interest me most. Working with these publications helped me learn that I have a strong passion for editing and the editorial process in general. While I love reporting and writing myself, I also love reading and editing other people’s work and organizing it to publish online and on social media. These publications also helped build up my leadership skills and reveal that I have a passion for leading just as I do storytelling and these experiences showed me that there are jobs out there that will let me do both of those things at the same time.
Plenty of news organizations are having a tough time during the pandemic, but there are others that are seeing increased traffic, as well as startups like The Land. What gives you hope about the future of journalism?
I think there is always going to be a need for storytellers and information providers, like journalists. I know the industry has been shifting online for quite some time now, but I think the rise of working from home and the increase tech use we’ve seen over the past year — while scary in some ways — provides journalists with an opportunity to reach more people and create more interesting digital experiences with our content that our audience gets excited about and wants to engage with. I also think that the pandemic has brought more awareness to supporting small businesses, local startups, etc., so outlets like The Land have an opportunity to benefit from people wanting to support their efforts.
As a young person, you’re part of the audience that news organizations are trying to reach. What advice do you have for The Land about creating appealing and interesting content for your demographic?
Hard news is important. It’s key to know where I can get a Covid-19 vaccine and what motions pass at city council meetings, but that’s not all I want to hear about and that’s also not the first kind of story I’m going to click on. People my age want their need to know info, but they also want things that are uplifting, thought-provoking and engaging in a way that doesn’t always have to focus on the daily beat. I think it’s also important to present information in a way that feels conversational. Journalists have some obligations to present information a certain way, but it’s important to soften the edges and appear as a friendly entity rather than an almighty keyholder of information. That will allow people, specifically in my demographic, to feel like they can — and want to — participate in conversations around the news.