Senior Spotlight: Final thoughts from The Mac Weekly’s class of 2020

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Seniors and former Editors-in-Chief Abe Asher and Liam McMahon. Photo by Kori Suzuki ’21.

Hannah Catlin, Managing Editor

We sat down with The Mac Weekly’s graduating seniors to talk about their time working for the paper, their favorite memories, and each other. 

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The Mac Weekly: What famous duo are you most comparable to and why? 

Abe Asher: I think we’re like the Everly Brothers because we like to sing and we have great beards. 

[Neither Abe nor Liam has a beard]

Liam McMahon: I don’t know…

TMW: Are you saying you don’t know if [the Everly Brothers have beards?]

LM: They did not have beards.

AA: My answer stands.

TMW: Why did you join The Mac Weekly and what made you stay?

LM: I did the school newspaper at my high school and loved it and wanted to get involved right away at Mac. And the preceptor of Abe’s and my FYC [first-year course], Max Horvath ’17, was a managing editor of The Mac Weekly. At our very first FYC meeting he was pitching coming to an open house, getting involved in the paper. I came, started writing, really enjoyed the group of people that was there. [I] had a good time in the sports section initially as a writer and then coming into layout and helping out.

AA: Yeah, I loved working on my high school newspaper, so I always figured that would be something that I would do here. And Max was important in reaching out to me. I was also in a class with Jake Greenburg [’17], who was one of the editors-in-chief that fall. He did not successfully recruit many people. So I would not say that he was perhaps the most effective recruiter The Mac Weekly has ever seen, but he was very kind in bringing me into the fold. I joined like the second week and have been here ever since. 

TMW: I was going to ask how you two became the last ones standing.

AA: People were very intimidated by Liam.

TMW: This Liam? Was it like a height thing?

AA: Look at this hair, nobody can compete. 

TMW: Did there used to be more of you? 

LM: There were a few more. I think a couple of people left Macalester. 

TMW: That bad, huh?

AA: That’s true. They hated it so much, they not only left the paper, they left the college. 

LM: And then, for whatever reason, there were people who wrote our first year and then just kind of tailed off. 

AA: Some people exited in unusual ways.

LM: In an ignominious fashion, if you will. 

AA: Yes. That’s as much as I’m willing to say.

TMW: What are some of your favorite memories from your time at the paper? 

LM: I think both junior and senior year, coming back for the first meeting in the fall, just seeing people again who it had been — my junior fall it had been four months and senior fall it had been eight months because I studied away. And having really missed being in the newsroom with those people, missed putting the paper together, just hanging out, eating snacks, shooting the shit — as we do.

Also, the day the “Colonial Macalester” special issue arrived — kneeling down in the campus center entryway, taking apart the packaging labels, and shoving it at people and getting it in the cubbies. Then, seeing people actually read it that day and the following days. 

AA: I will give you two, both connected to the special issues I was a part of.

The first one was when we were laying out the mental health special issue. At about, I would say, five o’clock in the morning, ML Kenney — the esteemed ML, class of 2018 — was copyediting all of the articles and, out of the blue, announced that all of the ledes had to be rewritten. And Celia Heudebourg ’18… and I were sitting on the opposite side of the office by computers, and when ML said this, we looked at each other and started laughing hysterically for about ten minutes straight. We could not stop laughing. It was so late, and we were so exhausted, and it was just a preposterous situation that we found ourselves in. I really felt that I was outside my body at that point. 

But about three-and-a-half hours later, at about 8:30 in the morning, Celia printed out all of the 16 pages, laid them all out on the floor, and started going through them with a pen and doing the final copy edits — and catching all kinds of mistakes. At 8:30 in the morning, after we had been there for probably 13 hours at that point. It was extremely impressive. It was one of those moments where I felt really lucky to be part of a group like we had that year.

This last fall, the special issue moment that sticks with me is when the facilities guy — the lone facilities man — was sent out to remove the Neill Hall sign. Somebody texted our staff chat [that that was happening], and I was sitting in the FYC that I precepted that fall which was in the library. It was in the middle of class, I got up out of my chair and sprinted across Shaw Field to get to where, of course, Kori [Suzuki ’21] was, to a) make sure there wasn’t any problem but b) kind of just see that happen. Those are two of my moments. 

TMW: If you could only eat one Trader Joe’s snack for the rest of time and no other food, what snack would you choose?

LM: The cool mint creams. 

TMW: You might as well have said toothpaste. 

AA: I would, of course, drink the grapefruit juice because somebody has to. And I would drink it by the carton. By the carton from the carton.

TMW: Is there anything left on your Macalester bucket list that you haven’t had a chance to do that you’re going to try and squeeze in this summer, as graduates? 

LM: I feel like there are a lot of things that are not possible because of the pandemic. Just saying goodbye to people in person at some stage. I would be very surprised if there are in-person classes this fall, but I’m planning to stick around the Twin Cities for the next year or so. If the opportunity presents itself to be back on campus, I would love to come back and just see people in person, come into the office, go into a couple of departments to talk to people face-to-face. 

AA: I mean, yeah. I would love to graduate. And I hope that whenever it is possible I will be in a position to come back to campus and partake in whatever the college has planned for the class of 2020. I hope that my parents will be able to come. I think that will be certainly a sad moment in a lot of ways, but also a really triumphant one if we’re able to be there together in however many months or years it takes. 

TMW: If The Mac Weekly had a uniform, what would that uniform be? 

LM: It would be a grey Mac Weekly sweatshirt with TJ’s snack crumbs on it, maybe a little bit of a juice stain on a sleeve or something.

AA: It’s exactly that. It’s almost what Matt Glover ’22 wears at least once a week. That Macalester sweatshirt with a few crumbs on it, some crumpled jeans. That’s newspaper stuff. 

LM: Maybe you’ve got an ink stain on an arm because you’ve been taking notes hurriedly and the pen slipped out of your hand. 

AA: Hair disheveled, glasses askew. Eyes bulging out of your head.

LM: You really have to look like you’ve been up until 5:30 in the morning putting a paper together. You slept like three hours. 

AA: The Mac Weekly uniform is a state of being. 

TMW: What are you going to miss about The Mac Weekly now that you’ve graduated?

LM: The people. Both the people on campus who we get to interact with and who we cover — there are people who I have met in reporting who I would not have met otherwise, and it’s led me to get to know the campus a lot better than I would have. And the people who put our paper together because they’re great and I love spending time with them. 

AA: I’ll also miss the people for sure. And I’ll miss Macalester as a whole. The Mac Weekly was, for me, almost the optimal place to be a Macalester student and to be somebody in the Macalester community because of — as Liam was saying — all the people we got to interact with [and] the platform we had to try to change things for the better. To be a reporter in a place that attracts the kinds of students that we have on the staff and the kinds of people we got to talk to was really a privilege. I’m not sure when next I’ll have that opportunity, so I’ll miss that very much. 

TMW: What would you like The Mac Weekly to look like ten years from now when you return? 

AA: I hope that it looks like a better version of what it looks like now. I hope that the staff has the resources that it needs throughout this next period of time in order to do the great work that it does. I hope it’s still in print, I hope it’s printing more than eight pages, in truth. I hope that the stories are good enough that I’m reading it throughout the intervening ten years. 

LM: I’d echo a lot of what Abe said. I hope it’s still in print, I hope there’s an even more robust online presence than what we have now — more stuff on social media, more podcasts. I hope that we have a more diverse staff that can better capture a lot of the stories that I know we missed in our four years working on the paper. I would also hope that everyone on staff is getting paid in some form, because they do a lot of really hard work that is not seen by people, and they do the work of professionals while they are students who are not getting paid for it. And that is part of what makes the paper inaccessible and if we want to make it a more accessible place that has to change.

AA: I hope that Rebecca’s [Edwards ’21] op-ed about why Mac Weekly editors should be paid is engraved on the wall of a gleaming new office in the middle of Weyerhaeuser Hall. 

LM: The Mac Weekly occupies Weyerhaeuser. 

TMW: If you could steal anything from the office today and take it with you, what would you grab?

LM: I would take the brick we signed when finishing the special issue. Both, if possible. But the “Colonial Macalester” one means a little bit more to me because I had a much more active role in putting that one together. 

AA: I would say a computer, but I believe the minute you unplug one of those computers it is never coming back online. I would say at least a few pictures of some of the wall quotes and things, because that, more than anything, encapsulates what the experience was about. Much of it very funny and lighthearted, but some of it very meaningful and serious. 

TMW: If you could get a wall quote tattooed on your body what would you get? 

LM: I think a lot of the funniest ones I would not want to have tattooed on my body. 

AA: I would like a little keychain that says “Oh my gosh, Anne Lindbergh, come on now.” 

TMW: Do you have any advice or warnings for students who are joining The Mac Weekly next fall and will never know you personally?

LM: The first piece of advice is to join. The Mac Weekly will be a better place for you joining and you will be a better person for joining The Mac Weekly because the collection of people who work there is so great that they amplify the best things about you. 

AA: My advice would be, in all seriousness, to read The Mac Weekly, and to read it going back a few years. It’s something that helped me a lot when I was first getting to know Macalester, helped me know where the pressure points were, and I think honestly is an underutilized resource throughout the college. 

TMW: Are there any Macalester mysteries that you wish you had a chance to solve? 

LM: There are people in Macalester’s history that I would love to go back and talk to. I would be very curious to know just how favorable of an opinion DeWitt Wallace had of Adolf Hitler. I think it would be really interesting to know what he really thought given what Reader’s Digest published in the 1930s.

AA: For all the stories we’ve been able to do, there are a lot of stories we’ve not been able to do. Oftentimes, they’re stories about what happened to people at this institution who were not in positions of power. Those are the stories that we haven’t told as frequently or as well, and I can certainly think of a few of them — things I’ve heard over the years — that I would have loved to have gotten somewhere with and didn’t. But I hope that that work continues in the future. 

TMW: Anything else you’d want to share? 

LM: I would just say thank you to the seven different Macalester classes that we’ve interacted with in some way, shape, or form. On the paper, directly or indirectly. This has been one of the best experiences of my life. 

AA: I would echo that wholeheartedly. I remember the summer before I came here as a first-year, reading the Senior Spotlight for the Class of 2016 and not understanding a word of it — all about ‘We’re in the basement, at three o’clock in the morning, eating Toppers.’ It’s a wonderful feeling to have come full-circle. And it’s sad in a way because it’s a hard place to leave, The Mac Weekly. It’s also been one of the great experiences of my life. As we were saying earlier, there’s a certain irreverence and progressiveness about Macalester that is different from pretty much any other institution I’ve ever been a part of, and The Mac Weekly was a great window into that. All good things. 

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Abe and Liam’s contributions to the paper over the past four years can hardly be measured. We didn’t get to send them off this year in the way they deserved, and The Mac Weekly will miss them dearly. Thank you for everything, and until next time.

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