Exposure – 5/31/2020 – TRANSCRIPT for The Morning Watch

Connie Rahbany

Disclaimer: The contents of this interview do not reflect the values or represent the values of  WDBM The Impact.

Interview Transcript

Connie Rahbany: Hello and welcome to Exposure. I’m your host, Connie Rahbany, and today I’m interviewing with The Morning Watch. Thank you for joining me.

Emma Crabtree:  Thanks for having us on.

Sergei Kelley: Thank you very much.

Connie Rahbany: So can I have you introduce yourselves and tell me a little bit about you?

Sergei Kelley:  Yeah. My name is Sergei I’m the editor in Chief of The Morning Watch, uh, a senior here at Michigan State studying political theory and fisheries and wildlife. We started publication just a little over a year ago. Um, it’s going great and we’ve grown very expansively.

Emma Crabtree:  My name is Emma Crabtree and I am the social media manager of the Morning Watch. And I’m a sophomore here at Michigan State University and I am studying anthropology.

Connie Rahbany: Perfect. So what is the Morning Watch about?

Sergei Kelley: So, the Morning Watch is a independent watchdog or a conservative publication. Our main objective is to find, you know, cases of leftist bias or indoctrination on campus. Or related to MSU and to objectively report it, uh, in an unapologetic manner with as much detail of it and clarity as possible.

Connie Rahbany: Now, that’s an interesting take on that. Are you guys not journalism majors? Does this involve all parties.

Emma Crabtree: Yeah. So anybody can join the morning, watch if they have little writing experience or, um, we also have a lot of roles that you can fill on the staff side of things. So like, personally, I, don’t really have an interest in writing a ton of articles, so I’ve written one. But, um, my passion lies more within like the social media and the graphic designing. So there’s a role here that fits me for that. And we have people who enjoy just like editing articles so we have roles for that. We have a photography chair. So if you just like taking pictures, there’s like roles for everybody in the Morning Watch.

Connie Rahbany: That sounds awesome. So tell me what got you involved with the Morning Watch?

Sergei Kelley: So we’re very young, very young. Um, both of a friend of ours, Chrissy, she now works at the Federalists. Uh, she’s a journalist there. Um, she had the original idea of starting a publication on campus, a watchdog publication. So, myself and a few others who are still on staff and some aren’t. But we started the publication. Um, she was really, Chrissy was really on board we don’t have this at MSU. There’s so much content that needs to be, you know, exposed or reported. And so really, she reached out. Um, I’m not a journalism major by any chance. I’m not a huge, you know, writer before then. But she kinda got me involved, mentored me a bit. And I know I’ve loved it ever since. Just the, you know, getting objective, uh, facts out there. Just getting, you know, light on things that have been, I would say, kind of hidden for years, if not decades really out there. So just, that’s what’s really gotten me into the Morning Watch. And obviously now I’m heavily involved with it and it’s a great time.

Emma Crabtree: And for me, I always had an interest in politics and I always was kind of right leaning, but never really found like a club at Michigan State where I’ve felt that my views were like heard, I guess you could say. So I saw a poster for the Morning Watch just several months after they had started. So it was second semester of my freshman year. So I saw a poster and I decided to email them, um, got in touch with Sergei and I just really felt passionate about the mission that we have at the Morning Watch and exposing leftist bias and leftist indoctrination because it only took a few classes here at Michigan State for me to see that a lot of that was going on here.

Connie Rahbany: Okay. So you guys touched on it briefly. You said that past experience is not required. Um, I know Sergei, you said that you didn’t have past experience, but Emma, did you?

Emma Crabtree: I have no past experience in social media, but the Morning Watch has opened a lot of doors for me in social media. And from the work that I’ve done for the Morning Watch in social media and all the experience I’ve gained, I’ve designed logos for other brands of conservative publications, and I’ve helped friends out with graphics. So it’s been a really great learning experience as well. Even though I came in with only knowing what I know about being on my own Twitter feed and Instagram. So it’s definitely not anything like that.

Connie Rahbany: Okay. So what does a typical work day look like for you?

Sergei Kelley:  So, generally we have, so it’s split up between the staff and contributors. The staff, you know, we don’t have like a, that like a daily, you know, this is what we do each day, but we have weekly staff meetings, which kind of, we’ll lay out the week, you know, article roster to do lists, what we have to get done in a week or two or upcoming things. So we kind of plan our weeks out in that manner and then, so say we set up a schedule of articles, certain posts, we need, tasks get done. Um, and we work, you know, kind of in that manner where, you know, it’s expected if you are assigned a certain task that it’s done by a certain time within a timeframe. Um, but we’re always communicating. We always have, you know, generally the process starts once a pitch a sent to us or we send a pitch to a contributor and then that gets the ball rolling and then hopefully within anywhere between 24 to 48 or 72 hours and you have it up on the website. And so that’s really kind of the staff, you know, more management side. For contributors, obviously it’s a lot more loose in a way they don’t have as much like of a, you know, a daily regimented schedule. Um, it’s, you know, essentially once they, they have a requirement of a story every two weeks at minimum. Um, and so once they start that process of sending a pitch in, it’s fully expected that they’re, um, in full communication. They’re able to provide, you know, photos, documentation of all the whole story, and they’re able to work with the editing team. We have three editors to, you know, go through any edits, all that kind of stuff, within a very timely manner. Again, 24 to 72 hours. Um, so that, that’s the general model.  We don’t have a large enough operation where we’re doing, you know, nine to five work day and in the office it’s a much more, um, mobile, online communication. And, like I said, again, a lot of it, you know, planning the week ahead, um, and going that way

Emma Crabtree: And definitely always making sure that like contributors, um, day to day, especially when we are on campus, um, that they are looking like in dorms and paying attention in their classes to like what is actually being said in posters. Um, if there are different leftist events that they can go to, that’s part of their job to find those and send them to us.

Sergei Kelley: Absolutely. And we, um, on that point, we have general meetings too with the contributors. Obviously now they’re online, but, um, and that goes every two weeks. And we always, you know, work with the contributors on, you know, doing workshops and, you know, if this happened in the classroom, how do you report it? Um, so there’s always, you know, constant, you know, feedback loops, training and stuff like that with contributors.

Connie Rahbany: Okay. So how do you end up finding those contributors?

Emma Crabtree:  Pretty much the same way that I was found. Um, we do a lot of like on-campus flyering. Um, and then we also host tabling typically every Monday in Wells hall. Um, so we set it up with some of our merchandise and people are free to come and talk to us and we can explain a little bit better about what we do.

Sergei Kelley:  We’ll get some people, uh, you know, sometimes we actually get people just they see an article of ours or they see us referenced, um, in another publication, or they just, they, they just see crossreferences, the name. Um, so we’ve actually gotten a few people that way too.

Emma Crabtree: We’ve had stories featured on Bright Bar, um, Fox news, Daily Wire. um WILX 10. I personally have had an interview on Newsmax TV, so that was a super cool experience about the one article that I had written. Um, not many college students get to say that they had been on TV before, so that was pretty cool.

Connie Rahbany: So you would have to say that this organization has opened many doors for you that you didn’t necessarily expect.

Emma Crabtree:  Oh, certainly. And before I hadn’t really seen myself, um, working in politics after college because I was like, Oh, like I’m not fit to be in that role. But now I’ve found different ways that I can like use my abilities to help in politics, so I think that that’s really cool too.

Sergei Kelley:  Since starting with the morning watch, um, helping get going, and since then, um, definitely have a lot more interest in, you know, the journalism field or, you know, conservative politics or, you know. stuff like that. Um, related to that. And so doors have opened certainly with, you know, different conservative or watchdog groups, uh, like, uh, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. I’ve done a lot of work with them now. Um, and then also getting connections to different publications. Uh, I just got an internship with the Daily Caller. Um, so that’s going to be in the summer. A really cool opportunity. And it was really set up through the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. They look at the work that we’ve been doing with the Morning Watch. Um, and so really, you know, going to different conferences, being able to advertise the name of the Morning Watch has been really cool opportunity gets in to talk to other publications. Um, so definitely, you know. Before the Morning Watch, I would never projected, you know this to go this far.

Connie Rahbany: Perfect. And for anyone that is just tuning in, you’re listening to WDBM East Lansing. I’m Connie Rahbany, your host of Exposure, and we’re talking to the Morning Watch. I’m going to go ahead and continue. Do you have a favorite moment or experience that you can thank the Morning Watch for?

Sergei Kelley: So one of them was this, actually just this last October, we had a really good news cycle for us. Um, it all kind of started with the culture appropriation board on campus and stuff like that. Um, and so what happened was, you know, some of the dorm, there were different flyers posted by RAs, intercultural aids, and also just different admins on what you should wear, shouldn’t wear, what might be considered offensive and whatnot. And so obviously as the publication that was, you know, a case where we thought that needed to be, you know, highlighted to the world, to MSU students who want to be seeing this, um, you know, and pointing out the, you know, bias here. It’s a one sided argument. It’s a very ideological argument and there’s not much room for, you know, fair discussion in this, you know, and in the dorms here. Um, so we got that out. Um, very successful story. It was a, you know, an article went to campus or forum. It was picked up also through Fox News, um, other conservative publications. And then what I thought was, you know, even more what I thought was actually better in a way than it going, you know, really far nationally, was a lot of local outlets that are reaching out to us saying, Hey, can we do an interview with you? Can we like actually see what the boards are saying? We had a lot of, you know, on TV, you know, local station, um, you know, just down the road type, like WLNS uh, WILX different, just local places coming out. Um, and I thought that was really, in a way more impactful and more important than going national with the story because. The people that were watching, you know, WLNS or WILX 10. These are people right around in the MSU community, they’re students, they’re parents and students, they’re alumni, they’re donors. Um, so in the end, you know, that’s what we’re trying to impact is, you know, people that aren’t seeing this day to day, people that were here, you know, 20, 30 years ago, but haven’t seen how the college has become. Um, so that I think was a really cool moment. And, um, we, we actually got a lot of the administration on campus. I heard from multiple sources, just they had meetings about, you know, the reaction from this article going out and how it was, you know, really not a good look to them. Um, and so at least based on people’s reactions. So that I think has been my favorite moment so far.

Emma Crabtree: Um, I think my favorite moment was when I got to do the Newsmax interview. Um, that was really cool just because I’d never saw myself being a good writer or anything along those lines by any means. So I just kind of went out on a whim and tried to write that article and the staff was like extremely helpful in like editing and giving me tips on how to like improve for further, um, if I ever decide to write another article. So it was really cool that, um, not only did my article turn out amazing, but it ended up going pretty far and I got to do an interview and kind of explain more about, um, why I was so passionate about that.

Connie Rahbany: Ah, so you touched base a little bit on how it impacted more of a professional side of your life, but how has this affected your personal life?

Sergei Kelley: So definitely socially we’ve have, you know, student government obviously isn’t the biggest friend of the Morning Watch by any means whether the organization itself or individual people, you know, they, they can kind of like, if we’re at a meeting, we’re likely gonna record something. It’s going to be out there. Um, so that, you know, maybe hasn’t been so good with people in student government. Um, and then also on campus, you know, there are people that just do not like the Morning Watch. They kind of say, you know, we’re, we’re not really exposing anything. We’re just trying to shove down a narrative. Um, and so then there’s also, we, for example, we’ll do videos on campus on the street trying to get people’s perception and we’ll walk up to professors or different students, and they ask who we are, and then they just huff away. So definitely socially, I mean, some people just don’t like it. They just don’t like what our aim is at all. Um, which I mean, comes with the business.

Emma Crabtree: I can kind of speak on the other side of that a little bit. So since I am the social media manager, I tend to post a lot of the stuff on social media. Um, and one of the main target groups I have are student class of group chats that are restricted to students only because a big aim of what we do at the Morning Watch is to expose this stuff to students so that they are aware. Because a lot of times, um, stuff goes really unnoticed that our university’s doing. And a lot of students are left completely blind to what’s even happening. Um, so I had a really cool experience when I was in my anthropology class at the beginning of this semester. And I started talking to the girls who I was sitting next to me. I was like, Oh boy, you know, 8:30 AM we’re going to be here together every day, all semester. Kind of started making conversation. It came out a few weeks later and she was like, you know, I was really skeptical as being your friend because I saw all of the things that you posted in the group chats of the on Facebook, and I don’t really agree with a lot of it, but you know, you’re, you’re really nice. And I was like, you know, thank you. So sometimes what I was trying to say is, um, once the people actually get to know you, um, they have a little bit more respect for the work that you do because they see how much time and effort you put into it and how much it really does mean to us. And we aren’t just running around campus doing this to cause a scene and get people, you know, angry with the university. We really believe that this was something that needs to be exposed to the public and people need to see it’s happening at our university.

Connie Rahbany:  So clearly this organization has impacted you both professionally and personally.  What has this organization meant to you?

Emma Crabtree: Um, I know that I’ve put a ton of work into this. I know Sergei has also spent many, um, late nights staying up and editing articles and me making sure that the captions are ready and planning our posts because we are still college students at the end of the day, and we have other obligations too. I’m on the varsity cheerleading team here, so that takes up a lot of my time. And I know Sergei is heavily involved with other organizations on campus. So seeing the success of the Morning Watch has definitely made it all seem like worth it because we do put so much of our time and energy into this stuff. So it’s definitely really awesome to see. You know, when stories take off or something changes because of a story that we put out.

Sergei Kelley: Yeah, exactly. Same sentiment as Emma shared. You know, I can recount many times where, um, you know, whether her herself, myself, or other staff where we feel like we’re doing. You know, just so much work just to, you know, keep things going. Just, you know, late nights getting work done or, you know, there’s a really big story and we’re trying to get this turned over and but in essence, you know, just to take a step back and just to see the dozens. And now we, I think we have over a hundred articles out and seeing all the views seeing where they’ve gone. Um, just knowing that people have, you know, changed their views of MSU, or at least taken a much more, you know, critical look at the university and what they’re doing that, that I think is the biggest meaning. You know, just seeing that.   Almost, you know, just over a year ago. And now we’re here. I mean, I couldn’t imagine any better outcome.

Connie Rahbany:  So if you could describe your overall experience with the morning, watch all in just one word, what word would you summarize it with?

Emma Crabtree: I would probably use, productive. Because it’s, you’ve taught me how to like, manage my time really productively and made me an overall more productive person. Um, and it’s also helped me become more productive in my future careers.

Sergei Kelley:  Um, I’d say, uh, perseverance, you know, um. There’s a lot, not, not just because we have to keep going this day to day, day to day type thing, as with any, you know, we’re innovation, but, you know, being able to, you know, report on almost, you know, the same repeated actions by a university time and time again, especially, you know, uh, through the criticisms by what we’d call the left on campus, but also from conservatives on campus, um, or just, you know, criticisms from how we’ve operated. And yes, we’ve had, you know, we’ve had actual mistakes that we’ve had to sort out. Um, but, you know, perseverance through, you know, the criticism through just the repeated articles and all the content we have to go through, um, and remaining, you know, level headed, open-minded and ready to, you know, work the next day.

Connie Rahbany: So, do you have anything you’re looking forward to for your next season?

Emma Crabtree: There’s always so much to look forward to with Michigan State and their leftist agenda because it’s pretty predominant in all that happens. Right now we’re kind of in a little rut because, you know, there’s not a lot of stuff going on on campus and good stuff but ASMSU, our student government is still running. Skype type meetings. So, um, hopefully there’s some stuff there. Then we are always looking to, because we are such a new publication, set up our future for a good time. So like if that’s me making Instagram story templates to save that are easy for somebody to pull up when I graduate or Sergei adding something into our constitution. Um, we are always like working and trying to make sure our future is set up well.

Sergei Kelley: Yeah, absolutely. Um, one of the big, you know, things you want for next year’s, cause you’ve done a lot of work this year with, you know, fundraising, go on the website, building the team. We’ve added a bunch of contributors and even more staff this year, uh, which is really awesome. So going into next year, it’s definitely going to be a very powerhouse here. Um, but also one of the big goals on top of my list is, especially towards any year graduation, is, you know, spreading the, essentially, the morning watch model that any model that can be used for a publication like this to other campuses. We’ve already been in talks with other campuses around the, around the state, the really thing, you know. Doing it successfully here, but how can we inspire or transform other campuses to have their own, you know, watchdog publication. That would be something other branches pop up or other separate organizations pop up like ours. That would be huge. You know, really huge goal and really huge accomplishment, I think, um, going into the next year.

Emma Crabtree: And then of course, Michigan State gets so many freshmen every year. So I’m really looking forward to Sparticipation because we get to do a lot of, um, networking there and meeting a bunch of new people.

Connie Rahbany: So Emma, you touched on freshman coming to campus and trying to reach out to them. What would you tell them about the Morning Watch if they’re looking for information.

Emma Crabtree: Um, I would say definitely don’t be afraid to reach out. I know for a few days I like sat and kind of pondered like, should I do it? Would I be good enough to email them or they’re gonna think my ideas are kind of stupid. Am I not conservative enough? Am I whatever, you know, I had all these doubts and stuff like that but definitely just reaching out and seeing how you can join, um, we have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter the Morning Watch at MSU. So even if it’s just sending a DM and saying, Hey, I really liked photography and I kind of want to be involved in this, um, letting us help you find a way that you can get involved and yeah.

Connie Rahbany: And Sergei, I’m going to go ahead and forward the same question to you. What would you tell someone who has probably never heard of the Morning Watch and might be interested in joining.

Sergei Kelley:  Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, that might depend on the person who walks up and, you know, political affiliation, but essentially just describing a bit like the situation at MSU and really encouraging them that, you know, it, it’s always good no matter, you know, where we are. That we’d want to, you know, have an education that is the most honest, the most free. We can have, you know, multiple viewpoints in the classroom. We can have celebrations, discussion, and really talking to them about how do you want to help keep your university accountable? How do you want to help be a voice where we can, you know, expose the wrongs of the university, expose the indoctrination that’s going on. you know, if no one’s here to tell the story or tell what’s going on, then there wouldn’t be any change or any improvement or possibility of improvement in the education here.

Connie Rahbany: And besides publication, does the Morning Watch do other things?

Sergei Kelley: Yes, we have like articles like

Emma Crabtree: So we have like the watchdog series, I think he’s like referencing where typically Sergei and I walk around campus and ask students just kind of a handful of questions. So, um, for example, we did a Thanksgiving day one where we went and showed a picture of like a nice family eating a dinner. Then like, um, on native American genocide taking place, um, and ask students which one they think most accurately represents Thanksgiving, and kinda had a handful of questions that we’d ask them about that. So, that’s a really cool, um, kind of side thing that we do. And we also have opinion pieces on our page, and satire pieces that are both labeled as satire or opinion. So those are kind of fun to read too, sometimes.

Connie Rahbany: And Sergey, did you have anything to touch on that or did Emma pretty much cover it?

Sergei Kelley: No, she, she pretty much covered all that. You know, In addition to the articles and the videos we have gotten to a lot of always talking to different groups on campus, you know, different outlets. So there’s other ways know, we’ve been able to reach kind of our different audiences about what we do.

Connie Rahbany:  Perfect. So, how can someone who’s interested get involved with you.

Sergei Kelley:  I mean the quickest way is they just have to, you know, send us a direct message or an email through any social media platform. And then we will be in direct contact with them. Um, it’s a very easy process. You know, we just want to, you know, get to know what they’re interested in. Cause obviously  as was mentioned before was we have different positions and roles. So it’s a great way if someone’s interested, they’re not just walking into a place where they are only going to have, you know, one option available. They can choose something that’s more fit to their capabilities or interests. So it’s a very easy process. The first step is them just reaching out and sending us a message

Emma Crabtree: And if they’re more comfortable coming and talking to somebody in person. During a typical school year, we host biweekly meetings that we advertise across our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. So coming to one of those meetings and just introducing yourself and kind of getting a feel for more of what we do would be a great way to start too, and those will start up again next fall.

Connie Rahbany: Okay. So is there anything else that you would like to add and touch on.

Sergei Kelley:  No, I think we pretty much covered it definitely meetings, you know, reach out on social media if you’re at all interested. Um, the website, also have YouTube. Um, so yeah, just, you know, there are people who are interested in learning more there’s plenty of online forums they can take a look. Um, so yeah, and we hope to definitely remain an organization on MSU for a very, very long time and hopefully, you know, it impacts some of what’s actually happened in classrooms. And hopefully, you know, maybe one day there’ll be less leftist bias or leftist indoctrination.

Connie Rahbany: All right. Well, I thank you guys for being available to interview with me. This has been Exposure with the Morning Watch. I spoke with Sergei Kelley, the editor in chief and Emma Crabtree, the social media manager. Thanks for being available.

Emma Crabtree:  Thanks so much for having us on.

Sergei Kelley: Thank you very much.