Letter from the editor: Making the most of The Monthly

Wilson Chapman, Monthly Editor

Whenever Northwestern starts another quarter and The Daily kicks back up again, I ask myself: what do I want to accomplish?

Sometimes these goals are small and personal: when I was A&E Editor, the thing I wanted most was to get out of our newsroom before 12 a.m. every night (I mostly failed). Sometimes they’re more specific: my first quarter as Monthly Editor, I wanted to organize a special Pride Month-themed issue for June. That was one of the issues I worked hardest on, and I’m still extremely proud of how it came together.

This is the last quarter I’ll be Monthly Editor, and we’re producing one less issue than we usually do, so it’d be easy to ride out this quarter doing the bare minimum. But I want to have an impact on this small but mighty magazine, and I want to do what I can to make it better than it was when I first started writing it. So for this quarter, my goal is pretty simple, even if I think I’ll still probably fail: I want to do what I can to make The Monthly less White.

Every quarter, The Daily goes over the metrics for the stories that we produce, and the demographics of the sources each section interviews. As Monthly Editor, and as A&E Editor, I dropped the ball countless times when it comes to these metrics. I got lazy, and put down easy stories instead of looking harder. As a result, all of the sections I’ve led have had an overwhelming majority of White sources under my tenure. I can tell myself that it’s hard to improve metrics when NU is such a predominantly White school, that most of our famous alums are White, that the content I’ve produced is reflective of the diversity (or lack thereof) of the school’s various art scenes. But ultimately, I’d be a coward to give myself excuses like that. The content The Monthly produces ultimately falls on my shoulders, and I have a responsibility as an editor to make our coverage inclusive, both because it’s the right thing to do, and that’s when the stories we produce are at our very best. To not do everything in my power to do better isn’t just lazy; it’s harmful.

So the specifics of my goals are this. For both issues, I want our cover story to be on a woman of color. The Monthly cover story is our most important story, and we tend to feature mostly White people in it. By consistently placing White people on the front of our magazine, even if we’re featuring POC in other features and profiles, we’re sending a message that stories about White people take priority over everyone else. Second, I want the White sources we interview to account for less than half of our overall sources; for context, in the spring, they accounted for over 60 percent of the people we interviewed. Third, I want to produce at least one story each this quarter centered on the experiences of Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous people. This, in my mind, is that absolute bare minimum, and if I don’t achieve it then I’ll have failed as an editor.

I also am anticipating I’ll fail at this task. For this first issue, I had three stories budgeted that were intended to profile famous Black women affiliated with Northwestern. A few weeks before the issue was due, two of those stories fell through, and I had to scramble for replacements. As a result, this issue is already way Whiter than it should be, even if all of the stories in it are fantastic. That’s still not an excuse, frankly; I could have come up with other story ideas profiling or centering Black people, and it’s on me that that didn’t happen. If I fail in my goals, I should be held accountable, and I’m not going to make excuses for myself, because ultimately this isn’t about me. It’s about making The Monthly a magazine for and about everyone, and that’s something I haven’t prioritized nearly enough.

Read more from The Monthly: October Edition here

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @wilsonbchapman