BROOM: New horizons
The Cavalier Daily should make its website more engaging by deploying links and updates with more savvy
Over the course of three issues in December 2013 The Cavalier Daily published long pieces on the University’s honor system. The three-part series is an excellent example both of what The Cavalier Daily does well and what it can do better. (Editor’s note: Read parts one, two and three here.)
Reporters writing stories for The Cavalier Daily need to talk to more people. Many articles have quotations from only one source. Beyond needing more sources, divergent viewpoints are also important in some cases. In the second installment of the series on the honor system, there is mention of opponents to changes made to the process of an honor case, but no source is quoted voicing opposition. The four people whose opinions were given voice in the article all basically agreed with one another. A particularly insightful email from a reader pointed me specifically to the second paragraph of the article in which ideas that are clearly opinion are presented as factual. There are those at the University who disagree with the statements presented in the article and the writer should have sought them out. This is especially true for this kind of piece because there is plenty of time; it’s not breaking news.
The Cavalier Daily has a good website from a design standpoint, but the promise of enhanced content hasn’t yet come to life. The website is still almost entirely stand-alone stories, a digital version of a static newspaper. When the paper was published five days a week, that was all right. The website was just another way to access the content. Now, though, the website is, or should be, the primary focus of The Cavalier Daily staff. Updating of older stories online is lacking. The third article in the honor series has links to the previous two articles and the second has a link to the first. There is no way to jump directly from the first article to either the second or third and no link to the third piece from the second. Updates to include relevant links like this should be standard. Further, readers would be well-served by the addition of links to op-ed columns and news pieces on the same topic.
The idea of having links to other stories and columns can be taken a step further, too. I noted last semester that where back-and-forth exchanges took place in the opinion pages, it strengthened the overall work of the paper. Those exchanges seemed to happen only when the opinion writer (or guest writer) felt moved to respond to something that was published. A more integrated approach in which various opinions are collected would allow for the writers to engage in a dialogue from the outset. Further, soliciting opinion pieces to dovetail with news stories could allow for a conversation to begin on important issues facing the University community.
One issue I’d very much like to see The Cavalier Daily explore in the coming year is how changes to health care coverage affects the University community. From changes to employee coverage offered by the University to insurance coverage changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act, virtually every member of the community will be affected. The Cavalier Daily is uniquely situated, given its independence as an organization and its access to students, faculty, administration and staff, to tell the story of how the new insurance rules are playing out in people’s lives. Further, we have some of the top health policy people in the country on faculty who can offer expert insights from a policy perspective. There is a 14-week series of talks by health policy experts starting next week and sponsored by the University’s department of public health sciences and the Batten School. There is going to be conversation about health care and health care policy going on at the University. I’d like to know how those policies are affecting people in our community.
Christopher Broom is The Cavalier Daily’s public editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CDPublicEditor.