by Amy Vandervelde ’21
Last year at the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester, I joined Macalester’s student-run newspaper The Mac Weekly (TMW) staff as a Copy Editor. My friend, Morgan Doherty ’21, a Web Editor for TMW at the time, thought that I’d have fun with the role given how much I proofread posters at the Kofi Annan Institute for Global Citizenship. And since I had wanted to join during my first year, but didn’t have the time, I decided to take Morgan’s advice.
It has honestly been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my time at Macalester. I met a ton of new people — making a great group of friends to spend long nights within the TMW Office. Over the past year, my role with the paper has changed from being a Copy Editor to a Managing Editor to my current position as Opinion Editor.
Back in the Fall 2018 semester, I was one of two Copy Editors with Evan Meerscheidt ’19, a recent Mac graduate who was also an English (Literature) Major. As both of us were new to TMW, we spent the semester trying to figure out what the AP Style guidelines were and how to apply them the articles. We eventually figured out what we were doing with the help of other editors who had been working on the TMW staff for a while. For me, copy editing is like a puzzle. There are tricks to following all of the AP Style rules, if you know what to look for. That first semester, it felt a lot more daunting because I had no clue what to look for in that process, but three semesters into my time at TMW, I feel a lot more confident in the task.
In addition to being a Copy Editor during my sophomore year, I added the role of Managing Editor in the Spring 2019 semester. And now when I bring up TMW, many of my friends immediately jump to the question, “How late were you there this week?” referencing the long Wednesday night layouts. The six or so Managing Editors switch off who stays the whole night of layout with the Editors-in-Chief (EICs). Meaning some nights, I might be up until 2:00 am and others until 4:30 am, completely dependent upon the various stories that we covered that week or the occasional InDesign or technology problem. Last spring, I also became the only Copy Editor, when Evan transitioned into the Opinion Editor role. Becoming a Managing Editor was an easy transition for me because I often ended up staying pretty late during the Fall semester anyway, wanting to help read the pages that weren’t finished until later in the night. When returning for the 2019-2020 academic year, I remained in my role as Managing Editor, and I stuck with the AP Style Guide like I did during my Copy Editor days. But I did transition roles again from being Copy Editor to being the Opinion Editor, which has been a very different change to make this year.
As Opinion Editor, I’m now in charge of one of the six newspaper sections, which means that I’m not just working on things for TMW on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I have to make sure that the opinion section has articles each week — including a piece for our new opinion column, “The Last Call,” and usually at least one other opinion piece, if not more. I hold an opinion section meeting every Sunday to meet with writers, talk about articles that they’re working on, and to help them structure new article ideas for future issues. This also means that on Tuesday nights, I’m not just helping copy edit articles for other sections as I’ve always done. Now I must also make sure all of the opinion articles get read, so I can share the editing feedback with my writers. Then on Wednesday nights, I actually have to format the opinion pages in InDesign — something I’d never been familiar with until this semester. All of the other section editors were super helpful in teaching me all of their tips on how to make the layout a much smoother process. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed the transition to Opinion Editor because I’ve also been able to continue copy-editing too. In fact, this year TMW got an updated copy of the AP Style Guide book, so we now have a 2019 edition instead of our former 2009 and 2012 editions, supplemented by Google.
Each year, there is always at least one time when the layout occurs in an unusual manner. This is for our yearly production of The MOCK Weekly. Each Fall semester the TMW staff creates a special edition of the paper that is full of humorous content to distribute at Midnight Breakfast just before the campus-wide study days. This layout process is one full Saturday from mid-morning or early afternoon until later in the evening. We get everything written and then we edit and lay out the whole thing. It’s a lot of fun because we also order pizza and spend a lot of time not really stressing about the deadline making the office a really cheerful environment. Last Fall, our EICs, Jen Katz ’19 and Will Milch ’19 let Evan and I be “EICs” for that day. Part of the Mock is changing up our roles in the staff box, but Jen and Will gave Evan and me one caveat in being EICs in the staff box — we had to work in the role of EICs for the actual layout, complete with a letter from the new EICs on the back page of the issue. It was a great experience to work on the Mock last year, and I’m really excited to see the content this year. (Be sure to pick up your own copy at Midnight Breakfast at 10:00pm on Wednesday, December 11 this year!)
I’ve really enjoyed my time as an editor for The Mac Weekly, and I decided to reach out to a TMW friend who was also an English major — Carrigan Miller ’19 — to ask and hear more about what working on The Mac Weekly was like for him.
What was your favorite aspect of working on The Mac Weekly?
My favorite part of working at Mac Weekly was the community. Macalester can be a difficult place to navigate without a [community], and I was lucky to have found mine early, and that it was high quality.
Are there any skills that you gained working on TMW that you’ve taken with you post-graduation?
In terms of skills I learned at The Mac Weekly, I’m working as a reporter right now so it taught me the foundation of basically anything that I do in a day. Sometimes I need to brush up on AP style but aside from that The Mac Weekly taught me everything I needed to know and put me in a great place to continue learning.
Do you have a short anecdote about your time on The Mac Weekly staff that you’d like to share?
I think people involved with the weekly have really started to understand the power of the platform over the past few years, like with the mental health issue or the humanities building issue. That reporting has real-world impact. The biggest pride I’ve ever felt as a reporter was knowing that Mac did change some of its policies around mental health, like applying for a JED grant. I hope the humanities building reporters feel the same, and know that that sort of accountability changes a lot more than a name.
Do you have any other thoughts that you’d like to share with the readers of The Words?
My favorite memories are being sleepy and huddled up in the Mac Weekly room with a ton of snacks some cold Wednesday night. I miss that dearly.
Thanks, Carrigan, for sharing all of your thoughts on TMW! Those of us here wish you the best!
For more insight into what our time in the office on those cold Wednesday nights looks like, check out TMW’s “Night in the Life” video. And don’t forget to read our last issue of the Fall 2019 semester which comes out this Friday, December 6.