Meet Will Cleveland


The Man behind the hops

Tymoni Correa-Buntley
February 2017

Photo provided by Will Cleveland

Photo provided by Will Cleveland

From craft beer recommendations to tater tot pairings, there is no doubt that the Democrat and Chronicle’s Will Cleveland is every Rochesterian’s BFF in their head.

Cleveland, who is most known for his beer column at the D&C, is also a breaking news reporter. 

The Irondequoit native pursued a Bachelor’s in print journalism at the University of Montana and started out as a part-time sports reporter at the Missoulian. Following graduation, he pursued a Master’s degree in English at the University of Maine and soon after moved back to Rochester to begin teaching locally. 

“Journalism was kind of always what I envisioned myself doing. My dad used to read 2-3 newspapers a day and seeing him read sparked my interest. In high school, I joined the paper and that just cemented everything for me,” said Cleveland. 

In 2008, Cleveland was hired by the D&C as a sports reporter. However, after four years, he left to cover sports at the Ithaca Journal, another Gannett paper. Within nine months, Cleveland was laid off.  He then moved back to Rochester and applied for another sports position at the D&C

Not long after being rehired, a new opportunity was presented. Cleveland was offered to take over the paper’s biweekly beer column.

“In college, I lived across the street from this amazing brewery called the Kettle House. I was miles away from home and I didn’t know anyone. I used where I lived to make friends—actually I met some of best friends in that place.”

He continued, “We have a very passionate beer community in Rochester so I’ve kind of been able to ride that wave a bit and become a bigger voice in Rochester beer.”

Most recently, Cleveland swapped sports for breaking news. Although this new beat has proven to be challenging at times, he remains focused.

“It’s really hard to detach yourself from what you’re seeing. But at the same time, you have to think about it in terms of telling the story and gathering facts to present something very important to the community,” said Cleveland.

In August 2015, just weeks after taking up his new role, he responded to the Boys & Girls Club mass shooting.“That shooting was one of the most intense scenes I’ve ever seen. It felt like the whole 19th Ward was out there. We were all hurting.”

Cleveland said although it’s ‘interesting’ balancing the columnist hat with being an unbiased reporter, he loves his job.

“With everything going on with fake news, it just highlights the first amendment and puts more pressure on organizations to be transparent and provide facts to readers.”

He continued, “It’s a tough industry and none of us get paid well but it’s still an opportunity to do what I love. As long as I have the money to pay for student loans, dog food and a nice beer, I’ll be okay.”