SLAVEN: Taking stock of the 124th managing board
The turnover of management is an annual fact at The Cavalier Daily, but as the 124th staff finishes its work, I find them particularly worth taking stock of. Do you all realize what they’ve accomplished? If not, let me help.
Admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve loitered in the Newcomb Hall basement — perhaps evidenced by the fact that instead of commenting on the website, I’m writing an old-fashioned letter to the editor (do people do that anymore?) — but let me speak from my experience of having been editor-in-chief. You take over essentially unsure of yourself. Once you learn the ropes to the extent you no longer fear total failure at every turn — which takes a substantial part of the yearlong term you have to work with — you can then focus the rest of your time at the helm on staying on top of what’s happening at the University, on dealing with the sometimes all-consuming duties of the daily management of the newspaper, and on doing a few things better than before. Success means keeping things at the generally high standards you inherited while making some marginal improvements to needed areas. This mentality can make the institution somewhat hidebound, and that typically has been the case at The Cavalier Daily. But “the way things have always been done” is a powerful guide for what to do when every year, leadership finds itself suddenly steering such a massive centenarian ship.
The 124th staff, and in particular the managing board which is now leaving office, have not done things the way things have always been done. Instead, they have written an entirely new script at a time of great institutional need, and have done as fine a job as could be imagined. The staff leaving office now have completed an exceptional two-year run of student leadership that has transformed The Cavalier Daily into an institution that carries forth its historic inheritance, duties, and identity, but is also more basically equipped to survive in the 21st century.
The media landscape clearly has been changing for a long time, but recent staffs have faced far more fundamental challenges than in the past. From my perch at the Cavalier Daily Alumni Association, I had always assumed that this process would be so culturally and financially disruptive to the newspaper that, when students finally decided to take the plunge, it would demand some kind of intense alumni involvement. The leadership of the current managing board and the previous one has proven me precisely wrong. They have completely vindicated the concept of student self-governance. The 123rd managing board had the foresight after the paper’s leading (and entirely digital) coverage of the 2012 Sullivan saga to commit to the paper’s transformation at a time of community support and relative financial stability. The 124th managing board has been the one to take the leap, at every turn, they have thought innovatively on behalf of an institution that, frankly, time was starting to catch up on.
This reimagining and recasting of The Cavalier Daily as a digital-first enterprise occurred amid all the pressures the managing board faced of running the paper — as well as being students with all their other academic commitments. One even had the left-over intellectual energy to win a Rhodes scholarship. It’s incredible. This outgoing staff and the one before it have executed as fundamental a change in The Cavalier Daily as any that has occurred in its history. There will certainly be challenges ahead for the paper. Not all the decisions that have been made in the last two years have been “safe,” but that is precisely because the staffs have keenly sensed that there would be no future for a newspaper that played things to be safe in the short-run. Rather, they did their part to help a valued institution rise to very tall challenges and press forth better prepared into the still-uncertain future that stands before any media outlet nowadays. Alumni and the broader University community should appreciate their record of really incredible accomplishment. They are as talented as any group I’ve seen; they have set the bar high, and also have culturally equipped the newspaper to produce future staffs that can meet the standards they have set.