When you could see yourself doing a million different things when you grow up, how do you decide what should be your first job? Rosemarie Ho shares what a day in the life looks like working for a magazine, and how she’s thinking about getting from Editorial Intern to hotshot editor for The New Yorker. She also talks about how she navigated the troubled waters of recruiting in media, where she thinks her previous experience gave her an edge, and her advice for seeking a similar position before getting that full time offer.
Name: Rosemarie Ho
Job Title: Editorial Intern at Boston Review
Location: Cambridge, MA (we’re actually in an MIT building!)
College: University of Chicago
Year: Just graduated AB’18 baby!
Major: Philosophy and Allied Fields
What are you doing this summer?
I’m the editorial intern/editorial assistant for Boston Review this summer, which means that I fact-check, copy-edit, and review unsolicited nonfiction pieces for publication! Boston Review is a quarterly magazine dedicated to thinking in public about politics and society, with occasional poems and short stories included in print; our most current issue is “Once and Future Feminist,” which reconsiders the emancipatory potential of a feminist reproductive politics. We also have a website (bostonreview.net) where we post time-sensitive pieces.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
My dream job is to eventually become some hotshot editor for a major publication like The New Yorker, or a book critic for the New York Times. I’d also like to become a freelance writer myself, though I haven’t really developed a beat yet. I’d really like to also be a fiction writer or a poet in some capacity, and am technically working on my first novel (lmao, the one that got me the Les River Fellowship for Young Novelists). I mean, I *also* want to go into academia, and get a PhD in comparative literature or English, so I guess I just want to be the next Susan Sontag-Simone de Beauvoir hybrid person.
How did you get your internship?
Internship deadlines really vary across media companies, so I was checking listings on publications like BR’s website quite frequently between January and May 2018. I applied first thing when the summer internship applications opened, and heard back from my current supervisor sometime in April. Not sure if name recognition really plays a role here, but I have to acknowledge that UChicago gave me a really strong foundation in the liberal arts/general knowledge that is essential for someone interested in magazine publishing.
What do you wish you had known during your internship search?
Previous experience really helps. I interned at The Point Magazine (thepointmag.com) last summer, which also publishes longform pieces about ideas, and being able to talk about how I could leverage that experience for my current role as an editorial intern for Boston Review really gave me an advantage during the internship application process. I was fortunate enough to be taken in by magazines that are fairly well-respected, but for undergrads that are still thinking about going into media, it’s really important to work at media companies even if they’re not famous (yet). In media, regardless of the roles you’re interested in, such as social media, (post-)production, reporting, editing, and acquisitions, you need to have work experience that you can leverage for the next gig. It’s not uncommon for magazine folks to have 3+ internships before they’re hired as a full-time worker.
This also goes to show that publishing is still a business that tends towards the privileged. A lot of publishing internships aren’t paid, and those that are paid won’t actually help you pay the rent. Part of the reason why I can afford to be paid $2500 for the summer is that I also received $4300 after taxes from a fellowship I won while I was still at the University of Chicago. It’s really important to have finances in mind as you lust after the clichéd New York media lifestyle; always check with your school if they have stipends or course credit that you can use towards the cost of an internship. I love Boston Review and the work it does, and my supervisors and colleagues genuinely value my work. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how the industry in general is highly exploitative towards its interns.
What does a day in the life look like?
9 am – I wake up groaning about the fact that capitalism dictates an unnatural sleeping schedule for me. I make a latte (thank God for Nespresso, you guys should sponsor me), down it, make another one for the road in my trusty tumbler. Until this point I am still completely incoherent and impossibly slow. Somehow it’s already 9:30 am, so I grab whatever’s in my closet and run to catch the bus to the Harvard T-station. This is why I only have clothes I can pair without thinking and/or committing a fashion faux pas—I usually don’t have time to consider what a work-appropriate but cute outfit would look like.
9:45 am – The T sucks. Why am I still so tired? I am so tired.
10 am (ish) – At the office! I say hi to my boss and my coworkers, and we chat about the weather (it’s too humid in Boston), and get settled at my desk.
10:18 am – Slush time! That means that I go through all the unsolicited submissions from our Submittable, and read everything carefully. I flag pieces that could work for us, and reject everything else. This can take some time, as I also try to reread every potential piece.
11 am – It’s time for the weekly editorial meeting, which is when we FaceTime with our Executive Editor, who lives in an undisclosed location. The editors discuss the editorial calendar, scheduling content, current state of acquisitions, and so on. I usually keep quiet unless I have pieces from the slush pile that could prove to be worth BR’s time.
12 pm – Meeting’s over, and my boss asks me if I could help with proof-reading and/or fact-checking a piece for our website. Fact-checking is an involved process, and it usually takes me down a Google rabbithole ensuring that every verifiable claim is accurate. Sometimes even my Google-fu fails me, so I forward my queries to the author for clarification and sources.
1:30 pm – I eat my packed lunch; there aren’t that many affordable lunch options in Kendall Square, and so I’ve taken to meal prepping out of necessity. It’s usually a bento box consisting of Japanese staples I’ve been learning to cook—teriyaki chicken, oden, katsudon, and some vegetables I’ve stir-fried in sesame oil. I usually work through my lunch, reading more slush-pile pieces, or looking through trending topics on Twitter for ideas for web-exclusive pieces BR could commission. If I’m being disciplined, I also take this time to read new pieces in other major publications to get the lay of the land, so to speak.
2:30 pm – One of my favorite things to do during the workday is that I get to go to the post office and check what there is in our P.O. box. As a publication that thrives on book reviews, we get sent a lot of galleys from academic and trade publishers; I get to sit down with a ton of books, read them, and think of potential reviewers. We don’t really review fiction or poetry these days, so I just get to keep galleys of forthcoming titles and read them in my spare time. It’s really nostalgic for me to see the University of Chicago press titles, and it’s always nice to get forthcoming titles by former professors, like that of Prof. Irad Kimhi.
3:30 pm – Continue fact-checking and/or proof-reading. Did I say fact-checking? More reviewing the slush-pile. Emails galore.
4:30 pm – Time to leave work! I take the T back home, reading a galley that Boston Review has decided to pass on reviewing, or has already reviewed. If I’m being disciplined, I’ll work on my novel or potential pieces for publication, but if I’m being honest, I normally just spend my evening reading and/or playing video games and/or watching YouTube.
How has this job changed what you see yourself doing in the future?
It’s only reaffirmed my love for editorial work, and the importance of a workplace that values thinking and writing for me.