Interview by Beatriz Silva
Photography by Eliana Radaelli
When the current Executive Committee was handed this newspaper last June, we came full of plans and dreams. But as Gustav put it, what The Beaver needed above all else was to be nurtured and for someone to care. A year later, Angbeen, Gustav, and I are ready to say our goodbyes after dedicating every day of our final year at LSE to this paper, and are overjoyed to know we are leaving it in good hands. For my last Flipside cover article, I interviewed the Executive and Managing Editors of this paper, my best friends, and the people without whom bringing The Beaver back to life would not have been possible.
Angbeen walked into the Media Centre for the first time in week 3 of her first year at LSE, in October 2019. At first, it felt daunting: “The Media Centre has always been a place that is full of people – everyone is shouting and talking and screaming at each other. This is a group of people who have worked and known each other for so long. What am I doing here?” Despite feeling slightly out of place, beyond contributing to the news section, Angbeen would soon join the newly created podcast team, where we met. Gustav joined the paper as copy editor a year later. Before that, we like to joke that he was one of the few avid readers of The Beaver. “I was strangely obsessed with the way LSE runs itself and that was enough to read the paper.” When he noticed spelling errors in some articles, however, Gustav felt his calling to join the team: “There’s no way a serious newspaper can claim to have copy editors yet have spelling errors.” Our Managing Editor only came into the Media Centre for the first time at the start of this academic year, when we were given access to the room for the first time in over a year and a half: “It felt like Santa’s grotto but abandoned, cardboard boxes lying around. It was still a special place”.
Looking back, neither Gustav or Angbeen could have anticipated that they would be this involved with the paper in the long run. We see this recurrently happening at The Beaver. Being a relatively small publication in a university known for its corporate focus, people tend to stumble into writing for the paper, rather than having planned it beforehand. “I don’t really know why I wanted to do it [be a part of the Exec]. I just thought I needed to do something with my time. The Beaver’s exciting,” Gustav confessed. But the task ahead was no small one. After a year of no print issues, the paper was barely alive. In hindsight, Angbeen can see that some of the plans she had envisioned would end up not coming to fruition. “With time, I realised how unrealistic many of those were.” But what we did achieve, however, exceeded expectations. When the Student Publication Association announced its national awards shortlists last week, we were surprised to find out that we had been shortlisted for six different categories. For our small publication, this was an extraordinary achievement, especially considering all the obstacles we faced at the start of the year, from a small staff team with hardly any editing experience, to little to no knowledge of how to work with Adobe.
If there’s one word to describe this past year? Chaotic. “That’s the first word that comes to my mind. It’s been intense,” Angbeen shared. “I haven’t had the time at all to sit with how I feel about any of the things we’ve done…We had one issue after the other and were kind of desperately scrambling to put things together.” Gustav is too harsh on himself, as per usual. “I feel like a failure,” he said straight away. Many of us struggle with the fact that we didn’t get to make the big, structural changes we had in mind last Summer. In reality, when the academic year began we were working hard to just keep our heads, and the paper, above water. Both Angbeen and Gustav’s inability to talk about the past year with a sense of clarity, at least for now, also stems from the fact that this paper means so much more than just the place where we do student journalism. Anyone who has ever written or been an editor at The Beaver knows that it all comes down to the community we have here. “There are so many people on the team that I consider great friends that I might have never spoken to had it not been for the paper. People who I can see being a significant part of my life even after I graduate…The Beaver interfered with a lot of things in my life and my grades can show that, but it’s been so rewarding to have that community,” Angbeen added.
Working for the newspaper has also taught them a lot about LSE itself. “It’s made me appreciate the student community more. It’s also made me a lot angrier at the management, and more disillusioned with how the structures of higher education work. Because a lot of these problems are not specific to LSE and that’s just the tragedy of it.” Gustav agrees, and has a more sympathetic view towards management: “I feel like the LSE management has been vindicated through my time at The Beaver….LSE stands out for being broadly good, and they’re prospective rather than reactive in most of their decisions.” Wanna feel a part of LSE? There’s no better (or quicker) way to learn both the good and the bad about this university than by joining one of our section meetings. But what makes The Beaver and its print issues very special, is that we make other people feel a part of LSE, too. As Gustav explained, “seeing the paper around campus and reading it, this makes students feel like there is actually a university here, not just these buildings that you go to for classes. This is an institution and they are a part of it.”
None of us know what our life at LSE would have been without this paper, but we do know how privileged we were to get to be a part of this. And so the advice of our Executive and Managing Editors for students curious to join the publication is simple and a great cliché: “Just do it!” No matter how many give it a go events a society might organise, “everyone has to kind of push themselves off their comfort zone”. One of the best parts of this experience has been to witness the growth of our writers and editors: “Seeing so many people come into their own makes me feel proud…It’s really nice to know that The Beaver can be a part of people’s personal journeys. We joke about being co-dependent but it’s really a transformative experience in some ways.” And there are so many different things you can get involved in. If for nothing else, as we always say, come for Tuns!
As our conversation neared the end, Gustav played the interviewer and asked me what I learned from eight in-depth interviews that sampled widely from what LSE has to offer. “I think it was a weekly intellectual effort to hold onto the very best things at LSE and to remind me why I love this place even when my week is shit.” It also came from a selfish place: “One day I’ll look back and feel like I am a little bit a part of each of these things.” But there was something deeper to it as well, related to the fact that I can’t know whether I will ever be able to just interview whoever I want again. The intellectual freedom I had for the past year was unmatched. “I think that is something I’ll never have again,” Gustav said. Whether it’s the freedom to write about what we want at The Beaver, or to shape our degree according to our interests, life at university is flexible, and all the three of us will miss that.
My bond with these people comes from many nights at Tuns and dinners at Hiba, but most of all, it comes from being there for each other through everything this year. When I look back, I’ll remember the Sunday evenings in the Media Centre during formatting weekends. Angbeen, Gustav, and I whined about not having done anything apart from Beaver work all weekend and having no life beyond these four walls, even though deep down we knew that we would not have it any other way. After graduation, Gustav is toying with the prospect of graduate school, but is most likely going to devote himself as a faithful servant to the legal corporate machine. As for Angbeen and I, we will try our luck in the journalism business. For now, we want to graduate from LSE with dignity and hopefully not a lot of ugly crying. Wish us luck.