That’s one of the hallmarks of the Thrill, the popular blog—at thekenyonthrill.com—created by the Collegian. The daily blog delivers irreverence, breaking news, and real (sometimes all too real) glimpses into Kenyon student life. The Bulletin interviewed David McCabe ’14, who helped create the Thrill in 2011 and edited it for its first year. (He was followed by Becca Hafter ’14, Leslie Martin ’14, Spencer Kaye ’14, Emma Specter ’15, and David Hoyt ’14.) McCabe is now one of the editors-in-chief of the Collegian.
How did the Thrill come about?
When I was a first-year, I wrote pretty regularly for the news section of the Collegian. It became very clear to me that the paper’s value-add was not in delivering news in real time. After all, Kenyon’s is a campus where news travels as gossip, so a weekly newspaper really can’t deliver information to students faster than they can pass it to one another. The Thrill was designed to help the Collegian erase that competitive advantage, but to do so in a way that was fun. I pitched it in late August of 2011, and was given a month to put a team together and get it set up, and then a month to prove it was worth anyone’s time. Thankfully, people caught on to our existence fairly quickly.
What was your inspiration for the name?
The blog takes its name from Kenyon’s official alma mater. It’s much less popular than “Kokosing Farewell,” and I think that our choice to adopt it as our name reflects that we don’t really care about the conventional or popular way of doing things—and put a premium on carefully considered eccentricity that is grounded in Kenyon’s traditions.
What’s the mission?
To deliver news, features, and cultural content to Kenyon students and other interested parties throughout the day and to drive campus conversation both on an interpersonal level and through social media.
Where do you find story ideas?
We get our material for posts from everywhere, including (but not limited to) the gossip we hear at Sunday brunch in Peirce, what our friends and acquaintances are saying on social media, and what our editors are pitching on a daily basis. The staff is pretty ruthless in getting to ideas first and being at the front of developing campus stories—occasionally much to the chagrin of staffers at the Collegian. When I was leading the Thrill, it was a lot of fun to torment my Collegian bosses by beating them to a scoop or conceptualizing an amazing feature. Now that I’m in their shoes, I have essentially created my own top competition.
What’s the ideal story lineup for the Thrill?
I think that the Thrill is at its best when it’s publishing a mix of feature content and harder, more granular news. Occasionally, it can be a great outlet for incisive commentary on campus issues. The best example of that a piece by former Editor-in-Chief Becca Hafter, which used the iconic Peeps O’Kenyon drag party to launch a discussion about homophobia and gender norms on campus.
That article was shared on Facebook over 500 times and generated 200 comments, and the online buzz translated into substantive conversations on campus. That’s a campus dialogue that the Thrill was proud to start, even though it was more serious than the usual content on the blog.
It can be racy at times. Do you ever get complaints? Have you heard from parents?
We rarely get complaints about how far we’re willing to go, at least for anything that’s “racy.” In general, we’re reflecting college life in all of its (sometimes horrifying) glory, and I think our readers value that part of what we do. Even parents, or perhaps especially the parents: some people are surprisingly nostalgic for their college days.
Are there stories you’ve rejected?
Every semester, someone jokingly pitches “The 15 Hottest First-Years at Kenyon,” modeled after a feature that the Harvard Crimson does occasionally. It was pitched in the first meeting we ever had, it is still being pitched to this day, and probably will be pitched in perpetuity. There are many reasons why the idea is rejected again and again, not the least of which is that it’s creepy and cruel. The Collegian also doesn’t have the money to pay for the litigation that would almost certainly result from that piece getting published.
Is there a story you’ve wanted to do that was too risky or not feasible?
Not really, though sometimes we talk about adopting a Thrill baby and live-blogging its upbringing. Again, though, we don’t have the money for the litigation, or private school.
What’s next for the Thrill?
I think they’ll keep doing what they’ve been doing—covering every aspect of Kenyon life in real time—but perhaps with a renewed sense of focus that comes from having an incredibly experienced and talented group of leaders.
Personally, I’d like to see the Thrill staff become more diverse, incorporating more writers of color, students who come from less-wealthy economic backgrounds, and students who don’t come from one of the coasts (though we do love the coasts). With my apologies to the fine folks in the Admissions Office, it isn’t a secret that Kenyon has lagged behind on diversity. That doesn’t sit right with me, and I think the Thrill could really help lift up the voices of funny, talented, and ambitious students who weren’t prep-school educated with an affinity for J. Crew. Basically, students who aren’t like me.