Call it a comeback

The Cavalier Daily explains its restructuring plans for August 2013

Friday we shared our plans to cut printing to twice a week starting in August as part of our shift to a digital-first newsroom. Some media outlets heralded our announcement as a tragedy. The University’s own UVA Today — which went online-only in 2007 — wished us luck in our transformation while “lamenting the newspaper’s demise.”

The eulogizing is premature. If The Cavalier Daily is on the brink of demise, we’re the last to arrive at our own funeral. Our newspaper is not falling, or failing, this fall. Nor will it undergo a name change — we will still feature daily stories online and in an electronic newsletter. But it is dropping a new look. A revamped newsmagazine with in-depth features and informative graphics will be yours to enjoy every Monday and Thursday starting in August.

To say finances played no part in our decision would be disingenuous. Print publishing’s economic landscape has quickly widening fault lines. No publication, ours included, can sidestep the cracks in the foundation. But while our rebrand will save us an estimated $40,000 a year, depending on how many pages we print in each issue, it will also save us from staleness. The rhythms of a daily paper can be consuming. Online coverage is more fast-paced and more flexible. We no longer need to cover stories that aren’t truly newsworthy just to fill a page. By the same token, we no longer need to cut newsworthy stories because of our print product’s space limitations.

Last year when we cut printing to four times a week some complained The Cavalier Daily was no longer a real daily. Since then, we’ve strengthened our digital infrastructure. Some of our online-only content, including breaking-news coverage of Hurricane Sandy, ranks among the strongest we published last term.

This year, some might accuse us of blindly following a media trend. It’s true that we’re not the first collegiate daily to scale back its print operations. Top-notch student newspapers such as The Red & Black at the University of Georgia and the Emerald at the University of Oregon are also reworking their online efforts.

Our decision to rebrand, however, arose out of faithfulness, not faddishness. We wanted to meet readers where they were, and many of them — some 62,000 unique visitors in the month of November, for example — were meeting us online. Refashioning may be fashionable in newspaper world, but we think our new incarnation come August will help readers better connect with our content. Those hungry for news are becoming more likely to open their laptops or pull out their phones rather than forage for a print paper. Through mobile and tablet apps and multimedia reporting, we plan to redirect some of our efforts from print to digital in accordance with the needs of our readers.

Though our newsroom will be geared toward the many digital opportunities this age of journalism has to offer, we want to emphasize we won’t be abandoning print entirely.

Like many of you, we retain a fondness for the print medium: our ink-smeared fingers have creased and folded many Cavalier Daily pages since we arrived on Grounds. In addition to the different types of online coverage we plan to offer in the fall, we hope you’ll enjoy our reader-friendly semiweekly newsmagazine. The redesigned print edition, by the way, won’t fit in our current newsstands. Our vision is too big — or maybe it’s just our pages.

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