PARTING SHOTS: A tradition of excellence

My grandparents used to have The Times of London delivered to their doorstep every morning. As part of a generation of glass milk bottles, lifelong neighbors, rationing and tripe, they clung to tradition. When I was a teenager a young family took over the post office and they stopped hand-delivering the newspapers every morning. Even then, though, my grandparents would sit at the kitchen table they had brought from the family farm 20 years before and read The Times, never The Independent. Even when I was too young to understand the words within the thin, papery pages, I read. Journalists seemed sophisticated, adult, intelligent — in short, everything a precocious 11-year old might aspire to be. I read sitting alongside my grandparents as they indecorously slurped oatmeal with a generous helping of milk and salt — a way in which I swore I would never eat oatmeal and which is the way I eat it now, long after their deaths.

I carried the passion for the page they had planted in me to high school. When I was 16 I moved to a small international school perched atop an imposing mountain. At Waterford Kamhlaba in Mbabane, Swaziland we published semesterly. A scrappy newsmagazine, we burned onto CDs in the basement of our dormitory. Eyes screaming, begging for rest in the wee hours of the morning, we were determined not to be defeated. We ploughed our own money into the venture, so convinced were we of our own abilities.

That same hubris undoubtedly defined many of my actions at The Cavalier Daily. As those reading this article (probably online) will know, nostalgia did not impact the decisions I made as editor-in-chief of the 124th Managing Board or as managing editor of the 123rd Managing Board. This time last year we began phasing in to a new digital-first model. In the last year the print edition has hit the stands twice a week with online content published every day. It would be a mistake, however, to think that I did not mourn the decline in the sustainability and popularity of print production with the rest of our readers. I did. As an international student, you all became one of my many surrogate families. For those of you who read The Cavalier Daily regularly that might not be such a far-fetched concept, but for the occasional reader I understand why you might be a little confused. But give me a chance to explain.

My mother has never been particularly strict. She has never given me a curfew, she has never chastised me for drinking, and she has only ever kicked me out of the house once. For the record, I absolutely deserved it. I spent my teenage years making decisions I am surprised to this day did not end more catastrophically. But there is one thing that my mother made sure I never took lightly: my own abilities. It began before I was even born, like many great things with some really great music. Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Monkeys: they were my in utero pump-up jams, preparing me for a life in which my family supported and encouraged me and I pushed myself. She wouldn’t like to hear herself described this way — as a “helicopter parent” — but my mother’s dogged determination and tough love made me better.

In the same way, The Cavalier Daily readers and The Cavalier Daily staff provided an endless supply of constructive criticism. I read every online comment, every tweet, every letter to the editor and every email you ever sent. I lambasted myself over typos. I cried over distribution failures. I beat myself up most of all about the decisions I believed needed to be made, which some of you did not. But every time you made me obsess over a mistake we had made, I felt myself and this newspaper improve. I loved The Cavalier Daily, its staff and its readers like a family. Like any family we fought, facing seemingly insurmountable disagreements, and like any family you were not shy about offering your opinion. But as the newspaper industry’s walls were crumbling around us we built something. We could not have built it without your tough love. Thank you for that. And thank you for letting me read alongside you all. I don’t know what you were eating, but I was eating oatmeal.

Kaz Komolafe was the 123rd Managing Editor and the 124th Editor-in-Chief of The Cavalier Daily.

Published April 10, 2014 in Opinion

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