The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

A note from the editor on race, Spotlight and The Mac Weekly

By Zac Farber

In the opinion section this week, Celeste Prince raises questions about how The Mac Weekly selects which students to profile in its Spotlight section and how the paper addresses issues of race. These questions merit a response. I believe, and the Mac Weekly staff believes, that representing the entire Macalester community is integral to the role The Mac Weekly plays on campus, and we always welcome feedback about the inclusion of the complex and diverse identities of the student body.

I want to address Prince’s comment that “a little representation is even better” when it comes to race. On this, I am in wholehearted agreement. While I do not believe that The Mac Weekly has purposefully disenfranchised students of color or neglected to include them in stories, there is no disputing the fact that the paper’s staff is lacking in students of color. Our editors are culled from our writers, and our writers are recruited primarily through a beginning-of-semester meeting that we advertise in the pages of the paper and in fliers around campus. We don’t really select writers, and everyone who is willing to write is welcomed. This approach seems inclusive, but for whatever reason, it has not succeeded in attracting students of color to positions on the paper. We have always had a disproportionately white staff in relation to the makeup of the student body, and this semester the trend has been exaggerated and we have almost no students of color on staff. Informal social networks surely play a role in this pattern, and I would agree that this homogeneity is detrimental to our ability to cover the entire campus. We are welcome to any suggestions about how to make The Mac Weekly more accessible to students of color.

Prince also asked about the details of the Spotlight selection process. The Spotlight section editor-this semester, Liz Scholz-makes the selections of whom to profile. While we do try to cover a wide cross-section of the senior class (the section is, with some exceptions, reserved for seniors), the aim of the section is not to bestow an honor upon students or even to highlight student accomplishments. Instead, in choosing students, the Spotlight editor tries to show the relationships that Macalester has helped foster and the fun things that students do together. We have already tentatively selected the Spotlight subjects for the rest of the semester. Partly in response to Prince’s concerns, we have added a form on the Web site where students can nominate themselves or their peers for a future profile in the Spotlight section.

I also want to address Prince’s concerns that the voices of students of color have been “silenced within the newsprint pages.” I do not believe this to be the case. Prince mentions that there have been four students of color in the spotlight section this semester. In choosing students to be featured in the Spotlight section, The Mac Weekly does not have numerical quotas or limits for students of color, and I think it is uncontroversial to say that such a system would not be beneficial.

However, after thinking about Prince’s concerns, I did some calculations and research. Before this week, The Mac Weekly had chosen 25 students for Spotlight this semester, and exactly 16 percent had been students of color. (Three of the eight students featured in this week’s Spotlight are students of color, so 21 percent of the students chosen for Spotlight this semester have been students of color.) In comparison, 18 percent of Macalester students are students of color, according to the college Web site. Inclusion is not a statistical computation, but these numbers do not seem on par with an institutional bias on the part of The Mac Weekly. It may be the case that perceived tokenism in the Spotlight selections is related to the pool from which the selections are made, a student body whose demographic makeup is not as diverse as the country or the world. (See staff editorial.)

I also want to respond to Prince’s implication that there are exclusionary policies in the paper as a whole. Prince specifically mentions the Oct. 9 “Up in Arms” article. I dispute the characterization of the article as “tiny”: at 528 words, it is a near average length for a Mac Weekly article. I do not understand Prince’s point regarding the article’s lack of a mention of Linda Nguyen. The article quoted Julianna Hu Pegues, an organizer of the event, and Tou Ger Xiong, the emcee. A newspaper article cannot mention every contributor to an event, but I think this article’s coverage of the benefit concert was satisfactory, and I do not see how the reporting was conducted in a manner exclusionary to students of color.

Prince also praises students such as Daniel Soto and Elyse Dempsey, who, she says, have done “extraordinary things” that are worthwhile of recognition from the campus community. We do sometimes write features and news stories about student accomplishments, and I have no doubt that Soto and Dempsey could make for interesting profiles. Unfortunately, we have relatively few consistent writers, and we often must triage our resources for the stories about the largest campus issues and events. This lack in manpower means that many deserving students-students of color and other students-do not get recognition in the pages of The Mac Weekly. However, there are other places on campus where remarkable students can receive recognition. In Daniel Soto’s case, I know he has received attention in the Daily Piper and on the English Department’s Web site.

I would like to thank Celeste Prince for writing an opinion piece, and I encourage Macalester community members to continue to engage The Mac Weekly with questions, suggestions and criticism.

View Comments (7)
More to Discover

Comments (7)

All The Mac Weekly Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • O

    Olivia McLeanSep 8, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    This piece of writing will assist the internet people for creating new webpage or even a blog from start to end.