Wesleyingiversary: On the Third Year, Our Dear Leader Returns

“I’m a…professional…media…person…asshole. I don’t know.”

zschonfeld

I did not make this. Pyrotechnics did.

This is part of our series of Wesleyingiversary interviews. You can find the rest here.

A core element of any Wesleying lore is talk of Our Former Dear Leader Zach. It has been three years since he last graced our presence. And now he rises from retirement to do this interview. He once said that the highlight of his Wesleying career was when he “posted a birthday message for Michael Roth and he reposted it as his Facebook status.” Said birthday message was just one of the 1569 posts that Zach wrote in his 4 years at the Tech, ranging from campus marsupial reports to armed robberies in the Nics.

He always did say you could find him in a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, but different from the one you are in now. Well, I wasn’t in a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell when we talked about his time writing for the blog. I was in my bed. Read after the jump for our convo.

wilk: So, you wrote something like 1200 posts. [Correction: Zach wrote 1569 posts] I was just reading pyrotechnics’ tribute to your 1200th post. Have you ever written 1200 posts for any other site?

Zach: Have I written 1200 posts for another site? Uh, I don’t think so. I don’t know how many articles I’ve written for Newsweek, but probably not 1200. Yeah, I wrote way too many Wesleying posts. I kind of spent all of my free time at Wesleyan doing that. I had a pretty obsessive relationship with the blog for most of that time.

Zach: I wrote like 1200 blog posts. A large chunk of them were written in my bed at 3am while I was procrastinating writing a paper. I would write posts at 3am, schedule them to go up at like 11am the next morning and they would go up while I was in class. And I would repeat the whole process the next night.

wilk: Yeah, so I asked this question of Samira as well. What is…what is Wesleying?

Zach: It’s a platform for whatever Wesleyan students want to ramble about pretty much. I think its a digital reflection of student culture. I think it’s probably the best digital reflection of student culture at Wesleyan that there is..or that there was when I was there.

wilk: You were the founder of the Wesleying twitter, right?

Zach: I didn’t found the Wesleying twitter. It was Marisa Stotter ’13s idea. This was back in 2009 when no one was really using Twitter. I mean, obviously tech people were using twitter, but no one in college was really using twitter back then.

And I remember Sheek was the editor of Wesleying. And Marisa was like ‘We should join Twitter.’ And Sheek was like ‘Okay, I don’t really know what the point of that is, but whatever.’ And she set it up so that the Wesleying twitter would automatically tweet every post that went up.

I didn’t really get into twitter until a few years after that, until my Junior or Senior year of college. Then, I took control of the Wesleying twitter. I made it more voicey. I made it less like a robot tweeting every link. But I cannot take credit for starting that twitter, no.

wilk: Do you have a favorite article?

Zach: One that I wrote or one that someone else wrote?

wilk: Both?

Zach: I have a lot of favorites. One of my favorite articles that I wrote was an interview with the guy who sleeps in a different place on campus every night. Which sparked a lot of discussion for some reason. Like, people were really outraged by this guy. I don’t know. People thought he was like appropriating homelessness or whatever.

wilk: *laughs*

Zach: I don’t know if you’ve ever read this feature. It was a really weird feature that I did.

wilk: I looked at it earlier today. It actually has the same photo over and over again. [Correction: The only observable difference between the images in this post is a half-eaten peanut butter fudge bar]

Zach: Yeah?

wilk: I think it might! Yeah.

Zach: One of my last posts for Wesleying was when I posted the email addresses of every member of the board of Trustees, including Bradley Whitford ’81. And I encouraged students to email the board of Trustees.

The very last week of college I posted a series of interviews with the former presidents of Wesleyan, William Chace and Colin Campbell.

And I scheduled my very last Wesleying post the morning of my graduation, and it was an event post. It was a 50 word event post about some dance group. I made it so that my very last Wesleying post would be the most inconsequential and unimportant thing imaginable. And I scheduled it to go up while I was graduating.

wilk: Do you feel like there is an underrated Wesleying post? Like one that you thought was going to get a lot of traction, but just didn’t?

Zach: One that I did towards the end of my senior year where…um…so what happened was…for many years in a row, Wesfest fell on 4/20.

And there would be all these prefrosh on campus when everyone was getting high. And admissions didn’t like this. They didn’t like the fact that these prefrosh were being exposed to so many stoners, you know, so much weed.

And so, during my senior year, they really awkwardly made it so that WesFest was on like a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…or no like a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. It wasn’t on the weekend. Because they didn’t want it to fall on 4/20. And I wrote this post where I kept emailing and calling the admissions office to try to get them to admit that they changed WesFest so that it wouldn’t fall on 4/20. And they kept finding different ways to change the subject and pretend that that wasn’t the case. They just refused to admit that they didn’t want prefrosh to be at Wesleyan on 4/20. And they were acting really bureaucratic and evasive about it.

And I wrote this post and I thought it was really funny. It didn’t get that much attention, but yeah. That’s one of my favorite posts that I wrote. Just kind of me like harassing the admissions department.

wilk: *laughs* yeah that sounds pretty funny. So, uh, what do you feel like is the most…and this could be the admissions article, or it could be anything. What do you feel like is the most important article that you wrote?

Zach: Hmm. When I was a Junior, I broke the need blind story. The news that Wesleyan was no longer need blind. The administration kinda tried to bury that. They waited until after most students had left campus to push it through.

A lot of other people worked with me on that. I don’t want to take all the credit. But I was very proud. The Argus didn’t really follow that story. I was really proud that Wesleying broke that story. It got a ton of attention. A lot of alums were really upset about it. A lot of alums were either offering to donate more money to the university so that they could afford to keep need blind. Or threatening to withhold donations to the university because of need blind.

That became a huge issue. There was a protest that took place during the Class of 2012’s graduation that year about need blind. There was a banner drop during that ceremony. So yeah, Wesleying broke that story. And we followed that story during that summer. So that was cool. I think that was one of the pieces I’m proud Wesleying was involved with.

Zach: So many of the best stories that we did didn’t have any great social importance. Just like the random shit that we reported on. Like the kid who sleeps in a different place every single night. Like that kid was a total weirdo.

wilk: Like the deer head.

Zach: Yeah, the deer head. And, the igloo, after that huge fucking…you probably weren’t on campus. But there was like this ridiculous blizzard my senior year. And these kids built an igloo in WestCo.

wilk: Maybe this is just for my own personal pettiness, because I’ve gotten this criticism, but is Wesleying “real journalism”?

Zach: Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. That’s what I like about it. I think that blogging is it’s own form. I think that Wesleying is the purest distillation of student blogging. That’s what it is. I didn’t really identify as a reporter when I was doing Wesleying, even though a lot of what I did was reporting. But I never really saw myself that way. We were bloggers. A-Batte posted a lot of hysterical Wesleying stuff. A-Batte was brilliant. One of my favorite posts was when…let me try to find it…give me one minute. I’m trying to find a really funny post.
*Typing*
*Typing*
*Typing*
Okay, I found it. Just emailed it to you.

wilk: Word, thanks.

wilk: What is the story with the Wesleyinger?

Zach: With the what?

wilk: So there’s this post…and it has very large text. Um, it’s private now. It’s called “A Letter from Our Editors” announcing that Wesleying was becoming a physical publication.

wesleyingerZach: Oh, it was an April Fools joke. We announced that the cost of maintaining a website was too expensive, so Wesleying was gonna transform into a print publication, and you’d be able to pick it up in Olin once a week and we actually printed out this announcement and left it in Olin.

Literally no one on campus fell for it except for like this one alum who works for ThoughtCatalog. And he emailed me and he was like “Wow I’m so bummed to hear that.” I think he’s the only person who fell for that.

But the best April Fools joke that we ever did was “Weasleying.” We turned Wesleying into a Weasley fanblog and it was nothing but posts about Ron and Fred and George and Ginny Weasley for an entire day. We had a custom banner of the Weasleys. That was pretty great.

wilk: Nice. Nice. Uh, what are you up to these days?

Zach: Yeah, I work as a writer for Newsweek. Um, takes up a lot of my time. I’m a…professional…media…person…asshole. I don’t know.

I was a little self-conscious when I was a senior. I felt like I was the first Wesleying person who like actually wanted to do media as a career. Instead of just like blogging as a side gig. I was the first Wesleying person who tried to turn that into a career. And I did. And it worked out.

I remember when I went into journalism I thought that all the editors who were hiring would want to hire young journalists who have college newspaper experience, but that wasn’t the case at all. They wanted to hire more digital-savvy, blog-savvy writers. So right after college I got a job at the Atlantic Wire, which was sort of like the Atlantic’s version of Wesleying. It was a lot of aggregation, a lot of voice, a lot of breaking news blogging.

Now, there’s more of like a Wesleying mafia in media I feel like. Nick Quah ’12 has his newsletter, which is a big deal. And Holly Wood ’08 has been writing all over the place lately. She’s written a lot about the 2016 election. And Sheek has done some science writing. And..um..who else. Anwar has worked with the New Inquiry. So there’s a lot of Wesleying alums that are doing cool things in media now. Obviously hermes. So that makes me kind of happy. The only Wesleying alums who I knew when I was at college were Holly and Xue and they were like these mystical figures. They were basically like Adam and Eve. You never saw them in real life, they only existed online. But they were like these magical figured who had birthed this, you know, glorious baby unto the world.

Zach: I had such a great team of other bloggers working with me. It was such a labor of love. That’s how I learned to be an editor. That’s how I learned to be a blogger. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had never run a blog before. I had never been a reporter in any serious sense.

wilk: Anything to say to current college beings?

Zach: You mean students in general? Let me think. *long pause* Don’t take the Usdan vegan section for granted. That’s my advice for students.

wilk: Word. Word. That’s great advice.

Zach: And um. *long pause #2* Take classes with Cecilia Miller, if you can. And make friends with cool alums. Like me. No, like Holly and Xue. Make weird alum friends. And don’t be afraid of Martin Benjamin.

wilk: Oh shit, did you ever meet him?

Zach: I did meet him. He lurks in Olin a lot. He spends a lot of time in Olin. He lives in Middletown. He’s always on campus.

wilk: And, um, final question…what is Wesleyan?

Zach: It’s an all girls school in Massachussetts that Hillary Clinton graduated from.

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