Final days at The Improper Bostonian

After 8 months of tucking my shirt in, morning commutes on the T and free K-cups, I’ve finished my internship at The Improper Bostonian. Looking back, it is the third longest job I’ve held – behind my on-campus job at Student Financial and Academic Services and my over 8 years of working for my family’s irrigation company (P.S. that’s my dad – like 20 years ago at least – on the tractor on the home page.) It was a great experience and I will definitely remember it as the place where I really launched my career in writing. Being able to continue working over the summer through the WOW program exponentially increased my skills, since I was able to build off of my existing experience.

I met the learning goals I defined for myself at the start of the semester, for the most part. I pitched and wrote a few different articles throughout the summer (my favorite being one about some local t-shirt designers), but not as many as I originally hoped. Overall, I wrote four different pieces over the summer, which really isn’t that much when you consider most online publications look for writers to contribute at least three different stories per day. My lack of writing was due to a few different factors, such as trouble with scheduling interviews and a lack of ideas worthy to pitch but I am still proud of the work I completed and will use them as samples when applying for jobs later on. The portfolio of work I’ve put together from my time at The Improper is enough to get my ‘foot-in-the-door’ at other publications, especially when pitching and submitting articles as a freelance writer.

The portfolio of work is the most important thing, career-wise, I gained from continuing on at The Improper for the summer. I came to the conclusion that I want to be a free-lancer, at least right after I graduate, and not be tied to a specific publication. I would much rather write and submit that work to be published instead of applying to different editor positions and hoping to get one. The freedom associated with writing strictly for the sake of writing and hoping to get paid for it afterwards is exactly what I’m looking for after graduating. I don’t want to have to show up to an office everyday and have to work through some of the intra-office problems that occur every day; I would like to simply focus on what I’m passionate about and mainly work for myself. Most likely later on in life, I will look for a stable job with a regular paycheck but working piecemeal and trying to broaden myself across different publications is much more exciting right now. That’s really how the career ladder works for writers and editors. Before any publication hires a writer full-time, they want to make sure the candidate can be counted on in the freelance capacity. This is exactly how it worked for one of my supervisors when she was hired for The Improper. She had told me she had done some freelance work for the magazine previously, and when her job position opened up, she was a much stronger candidate since she had already worked for the magazine.

As for other students looking to work in this field, and this definitely applies to working at The Improper as well, I would tell them to not be timid. Don’t be shy about your ideas for articles and other pieces, and just keep thinking. Don’t be complacent with what you’ve done so far; there is always more you can submit or work on – both for actual article submissions and just working as an intern. That is definitely my strongest takeaway from my entire summer intern experience. Simply work hard. Of course there will be times when you have to relax a bit and take your mind off of your work, but any writer or journalist knows that the mental effort that goes into the job never really takes a break. Ideas for stories and articles pop up everywhere, and keeping an efficient working habit, you can make the most of them.

 

Mid-Point Update – The Improper Bostonian

Now that it’s more than halfway through the summer, here’s an update on what I’ve been doing at The Improper Bostonian. First off, I’ve done a lot more writing, researching, etc. for stories to appear mainly on the website but also in the printed edition if it’s needed.

For example, I interviewed the Director of a new circus show at the Cutler Majestic Theatre by Les 7 Doigts de la Main, a Montreal-based offshoot of Cirque du Soleil, for a Q&A piece. Originally, this was just going to be published on the website but when the original Q&A piece that was set to run in the print edition fell through (the subject was unavailable I’m assuming, though I never heard a definitive answer to that), my piece filled that space. It was great to contribute and feel that I was helping more with the print edition than just fact-checking articles. Of course fact-checking is very important for every publication but there’s physical representation of that work. With the Q&A piece that ran in the front-of-the-book (which is basically the first half of the print edition, which has all the big feature stories), you could actually see my exact contribution. These clips are extra important because every publication, whether its an online blog/digital publication or a printed daily/weekly, wants to see clips from applicants. Building a personal portfolio of clips is vital to breaking into the editorial industry.

 

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While it might not seem like there would be any drawbacks to having your byline in the front half of the magazine, one annoyance did come out of this. This start-up energy/nutrition bar company has emailed me twice and also started following me on Twitter (PS: follow Hiatt on Twitter when I take the account over on August 9 and share about my day interning. I’ll try to refrain from tweeting about mid-90’s Disney films) to try and get me to write about their new product. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of pull with the magazine to get something about this energy bar in the magazine. Even if I did, I know nothing about their product to warrant covering it.

That’s a minor complaint and of course I can handle bizarre spam emails if my work gets published in the magazine. This wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill issue of The Improper my Q&A was featured in, it was the Boston’s Best Issue. I mentioned in my first post from my summer internship experience that I had started already fact-checking the blurbs about each winner. The most worthwhile aspect of working on this issue, in terms of community impact, is that I see how much pride these restaurants, shops, artists, etc. take in winning. Its great publicity for these firms first off, but I really got the impression when I reached out via phone or email to the winners—before they knew they won—to fact check their blurbs. I could only tell them that they were nominated for an award and they would have to check the issue to see if they won but they were excited at the possibility. I think the recognition of their hard work is what they appreciate the most, not the publicity or boost in clients.

It’s odd to know that I’m almost at the end of my time with The Improper. I’ve interned here since January and I’ve probably logged over 400 hours of work up to today. I have a month left and I want to make sure I get the most out of it. My main goal for the last few weeks I have is to solidify the relationships I’ve built with my supervisors and co-workers. The clips I’ve produced and the general experience I’ve had are great, but what makes any experience worthwhile is the relationships you take out of them. Specifically speaking, networking is a skill that can always be honed. Whether it’s while waiting for the Keurig machine in the office kitchen to finish my coffee or at an actual networking event, I’ve definitely gotten more comfortable in that scenario during this internship experience.

 


 

Comparing my working/interning experience with my academic life is difficult because I’ve never valued my academics in the way I value my work. Of course I work hard in classes and am attentive but I’ve always been more receptive to a work environment than the classroom because the fruits of my labor are much more tangible and immediate. Over the past year, I have been more focused on my future career and work than my coursework. The world of work comes pretty natural to me, though I never rule out that I could be missing something completely and don’t get it, as if I’m Richard Hendrix sitting on Bighead’s boat holding a prototype Hooli phone. Either way, I feel perfectly competent and capable to jump into the professional world once I’m finished with school.

My “First Week” at The Improper Bostonian

Like everyone else here on the World of Work Summer Internship Blog, I’m writing about the first week of my summer experience. I’m interning in the editorial department at The Improper Bostonian, a lifestyle magazine focused on restaurants, events, trends and shopping in Boston. However, it’s not really my first week at The Improper since I’ve interned here since January, hence the quotation marks in the title of this post.

The location of The Improper’s offices on Berkeley St. in the Back Bay.

Even though I’m familiar with my supervisors and workspace from the spring, it’s been my first week of a completely different experience. Instead of interning twice a week in the midst of classes and other extra curricula activities, I’m able to focus more on the work I’m doing at my internship while taking a step outside the comforts of Brandeis. Thanks to the WOW scholarship, I’m able to sublet an apartment in Somerville and practice living like an actual young professional—cooking dinner for myself each night, commuting on the T, etc. Aside from the opportunity to continue pursue my dream of being a professional writer, I’m most grateful for the freedom granted by this scholarship.

Improper Intern Desk
Intern computers and work area

Before I get sidetracked, I should mention what I’m actually doing each day at The Improper. The foundation of the editorial internship experience and what I did throughout the spring is fact-checking articles for print, laying out calendar pages in InDesign and writing short blurbs—’callouts’—highlighting upcoming film screenings, performances or book readings around the area to be published in the print issue. It was comforting to get back to the same “meat and potatoes” work after a few weeks off but my goal for the summer is to move beyond these tasks and conduct more research, investigations and generate articles and online posts. The Improper’s website is pretty out-dated and bogged down but is in the process of a complete remodel.

Once that gets up and running, I’ll be able to focus more on different topics and trends around Boston to write about. In the meantime, I’ve been relentlessly fact-checking for the magazine’s biggest issue of the year—Boston’s Best. While I can’t share any of the winners (you’ll have to check out the print issue once it’s published next month), it is exciting to read about the best wedding caterers and local musicians as determined by our panel of judges. In the midst of my work this past week, I was reminded of a passage from a book I read for Professor McNamara’s Ethics in Journalism class I took this past spring.

Talking about the lure of journalism, especially while working at a publication like The New York Times, Seth Mnookin explains why journalists go into this stressful, typically underpaid, field. It’s the immediate access to the news and being among the first to learn about something makes it all worthwhile. While I might not be interviewing global leaders or reporting on multi-million dollar business deals, the access I have in The Improper’s editorial department is still enthralling. Not only do I get to read the magazine before it’s published, but I get to learn all about what’s going on around the city. If anything, interning for The Improper has made me a more well-informed citizen. Even if it concerns the newest restaurants and shops opening in Boston.