UC alumna rises from intern to editor of CityBeat

From mentee to mentor: Maija Zummo inspires next-gen Cincinnati journalists

By Olive Collins Niesz

Maija Zummo has lived the dream of every journalism student: She rose in the ranks of the publication that gave her a start as an intern to become its editor-in-chief.

Since she graduated in 2006 from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in journalism, Zummo has become one of the best-known voices in Cincinnati journalism as editor-in-chief of Cincinnati’s alt-weekly publication, CityBeat.

“Maija arrived at UC with a virtual suitcase full of skills, the creativity of polished poet, and the gumption and confidence to go after her dreams,” says Jenny Wohlfarth, UC educator journalism professor.

Studying journalism wasn’t part of Zummo’s plans when she enrolled at UC. She intended to study Classics for her undergraduate degree and attend veterinary school for her graduate degree. Then she took a newswriting and reporting course and promptly fell in love with journalism.

Wohlfarth’s magazine writing course was the final factor in Zummo’s decision to change her career path.

“The class made me realize not only how much I love telling people's stories, but also that in journalism, you get to research and write about anything you want to write about,” Zummo says.

“It opened up the fact that I could keep learning for the rest of my life about everything that I was interested in. That would be my career — being able to constantly research and learn and share that information.”

Zummo has been doing exactly that since graduation.

Rising through the ranks

Her relationship with CityBeat began when she was an intern for the publication during college. After graduation, she worked as a freelancer until an editing position became available and she was hired full-time. Since then, she has served as dining editor, managing editor and editor-in-chief. She’s also pursued passion projects such as launching the literary magazine “Milk Money” and a women’s magazine called “A-Line.”

Zummo says that her time in the College of Arts and Sciences helped prepare her for her career path.

“A lot of the UC professors in journalism had journalism experience,” Zummo says. “They could tell you what it was like to work in a magazine or what it was like to work at a daily paper. They had the experience of going to a news conference or doing an investigative story and shared that insight.”

Zummo is now recognized for her mentorship to CityBeat interns and journalism students.

“I’ve lost count of how many young journalists from our program who have Maija to thank for the coaching and mentorship that she provided,” Wohlfarth says. “She inspires, guides and uplifts young writers in ways that amaze me.”

It was very meaningful to hear from my professors and peers at UC that I had done well.

Maija Zummo, A&S grad, editor of CityBeat

In 2019 Zummo was recognized among the Department of Journalism’s first class of “Young Alumni Award” honorees. The award recognized UC Journalism alumni whose news media careers are on the rise with notable achievements approximately 10 years after graduation. 

“It was very meaningful to hear from my professors and peers at UC that I had done well,” Zummo says. “It's kind of hard to ever feel like you've done enough, or you've succeeded enough, or if anyone even knows what you're doing.

“I tend to be so involved day to day with CityBeat that I never really understand the impact of what I'm doing on the broader community or what it means. It was nice to be reminded of why journalism in general is important,” she says.

Zummo says that she is happy with the work she is able to do for both the next generation of journalists and for the Cincinnati community as a whole. “I feel my job is very important,” she says. “I just want to continue making [CityBeat] the best I can make it.”

This profile is one of a series exploring the career paths of graduates from UC’s College of Arts and Sciences. Student Olive Collins Niesz wrote this story for educator associate professor Bob Jonason’s Journalism capstone class at UC.

Featured image at top: Newspapers. Credit/Kalhh from Pixabay.