Spotlight meets mixed feelings on future

By Brian Martucci

Macalester’s “Spotlight” publication appeared to little fanfare in student SPOs late last week, continuing a slow decline in student participation in recent years.
A Mac tradition, Spotlight gathers photos, phone numbers, and quotes from all interested students at the beginning of the year.Spotlight used to be the preferred vehicle by which students would disperse information about themselves to fellow members of the Macalester community. Nearly every student could be counted on to get their photo taken and provide their numbers at the beginning of each year.

A popular theory is that the relative convenience of Facebook, the online college student directory, has drained Spotlight’s popularity. Where Spotlight allows students only a few lines for their phone numbers and quotes, Facebook provides an almost unlimited amount of space for a much more detailed profile, not to mention room for dozens of pictures.

Spotlight co-editor Phil Chen ’07 echoed this sentiment. “There has been decreased student interest in having pictures taken, and I think Facebook has a lot to do with it. People don’t really see the need to come down and get their photos taken anymore.”

Even so, Chen said that working on Spotlight was a great experience and would recommend it next year to anyone interested. “It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun,” he said.

“The Spotlight is important because it’s been a consistent tradition here at Macalester, and it’s recognizable to faculty, alums and students alike,” Spotlight co-editor Veronique Bergeron ’07 said.

While some may feel that Facebook is edging Spotlight toward obsolescence, Macalester’s publication has some advantages over its online counterpart. Participation in Spotlight is restricted to Macalester students, which combined with its yearbook-style photo arrangement helps to foster a sense of community. At the very least, Spotlight provides a centralized phone directory of all current Mac students.

But Spotlight faces another problem in coming years in the form of Macalester’s yearbook, which will be coming out for the first time in many years during spring semester.

Yearbook, which widely expected to attract more student participation, will follow the same basic picture format as Spotlight. Since its staff is larger and it includes more features, many believe it is only a matter of time before it overtakes Spotlight as Mac’s annual student publication of choice.

Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) Vice President Jess Hasken ’07 stressed that no decisions had been made regarding the future of Spotlight or any other student publications. “Right now, we’re in a limbo period because we have these new things happening,” she said, adding, “Yearbook currently doesn’t receive funding because it’s a new organization.”

As for the declining popularity or relevance of Spotlight among students, Hasken mentioned Facebook as a possible culprit but suggested that the merits of a student publication such as Spotlight far exceed those of the networking site. “Part of what students do here at Macalester is build experiences, and the experience of putting together a publication like this is invaluable,” she said.