​PARTING SHOT: A promising future, with some regrets

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The Cavalier Daily has more than its share of problems. At its core, every person in the editing chain believes they are better writers, editors and reporters than those below them. To fully harness the paper’s talent, The Cavalier Daily must fight this culture and trade writing quality for writer motivation. But, throughout, I have valued the News section’s dedication to fair, unbiased coverage.

I have actively worked with five managing editors, trained an editor-in-chief and edited hundreds of articles with dozens of writers. I never made a lasting impact on the paper. I have to guess others feel the same way.

Writers have their stories rewritten. Editors choose to reject writers’ hard work for only marginal improvement, if any. As an editor, I was no less guilty than others, but I remained close to writers and tried to hold the editing chain accountable for changes.

Managing Board members and assistant managing editors send the careful work of junior or “section” editors back down the chain, often failing to recognize how much already went into the story. Once articles fail to make the print edition, section editors lack substantial incentive to fight for their writers, and managing editors consistently belittle section editor concerns.

I get it: MB members and AMEs live, breathe, eat and [don’t] sleep Cavalier Daily. They deserve respect for their hard work, but they do not “deserve” the overwhelming power they currently exercise. Concentrating that authority diminishes the perceived return to section editors’ work and gives writers no incentive to care about, well, writing. The paper needs a culture and policy shift.

As I wrote a story a few weeks ago, I saw promising signs. Managing Editor Chloe Heskett worked with reporters while they wrote. Editors, stuck under time pressure, chose to trust high-quality writers instead of relying on an overlapping, rote editing process.

But there was work to be done. The MB needs to intentionally reduce workload. Yes, editors down the chain are less skilled writers, but five people cannot will a daily paper to completion. Intentionally delegating significant responsibilities will improve operations and editor sanity.

So, looking back, I have to ask myself why I kept going. I lost a News editor contest, a senior associate appointment and a major battle about daily print production back-to-back-to-back. Dejected and disheartened, I nearly quit. But I stayed because I enjoyed the work, and I loved the people.

I cut my teeth on the Charlottesville City Council and complex City-County cost-sharing agreements. I covered “Occupy Charlottesville,” the Living Wage protests and the Michael Mann investigations. I learned the intricacies of the Honor Committee, University Judiciary Committee and University budget.

I worked with numerous leaders, from Honor Committee and UJC Chairs Stephen NashEvan Behrle, Nick Hine and David Ensey, to University President Teresa Sullivan, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Richard Shannon, Prof. Larry Sabato, and House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell.

And, all the while, we maintained a clear and unbiased vision of delivering timely news. To the many who pummel The Cavalier Daily’s “liberal slant,” I’d like to point out that I’m a registered Republican and helped run the News section.

But the real reason I stayed was my colleagues. Owen Robinson, Katherine Wilkin and Chloe Heskett are keeping the News section running strong. And Kaelyn Quinn and Caelainn Carney were consistently some of my best reporters. Conor Kelly will continue his great work at Opinion.

Matt Comey brought a great deal of dedication to news, sports and copy editing, while Peter Simonsen successfully ran some part of pretty much every department. Emily Hutt and Peter Nance have proven it is possible to have a life beyond the paper and succeed as writers. Kelly Kaler beat everyone in spirit, energy and volume, and I may never work with better writers than Krista Pedersen and Aaron Eisen.

But a few people deserve special praise. Rebecca Rubin trained and inspired me as a News writer during my first semester of my first year. She made me an associate editor and quickly trusted some random first-year with significant responsibility.

Andrew Elliott was the most dedicated member of The Cavalier Daily staff, from first-year to fourth. He never made a decision — personally or professionally — without the best interest of the paper at heart. He always heard my concerns and pushed us to excel.

But no conversation would be complete without mentioning Daniel Weltz. His relentless dedication to sports coverage is exceeded only by his genuine interest in others and the world around him. I continue to live in awe of his demeanor and body of work.

So, with something about getting more sleep and missing 100 percent of shots you never take, I say thanks. Oh, and I worked with Moshe Goldberg – he was pretty cool too.

Joe Liss was the 125th News Editor of The Cavalier Daily.

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