The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Ending errors through more careful editing process

The Cavalier Daily Online Edition

FOR THOSE who haven't yet looked for their University news online, there is a new reason for doing so. This week, The Cavalier Daily unveiled its new "Dailynews" feature. Now readers can have the paper's headlines delivered to their e-mail accounts. The feature is especially useful if your e-mail program allows you to connect directly from the message, but, if not, the article summaries help point you to interesting stories in either the print or online editions.

"Dailynews" is an addition to an already impressive line of features only available on the paper's Web site, including additional graphs, charts, and a free, searchable archive. As yet, the online archive only goes back until 1995, so if readers want any older information, their best bet is still the University library's archive on microfilm. However, for recent news and features, the search engine online is very helpful (especially if you happen to be an ombudsman).

A reader wrote and commented that the online poll seemed flawed since he had been able to record his vote twice. However, I tried this myself and found that, while anyone can cheat anywhere if they really want to, it isn't so easy to do so with the online poll. The semi-technical explanation is this: Each computer has an ID (whether stored in the hardware or software, I don't know) that the polling device picks up and records so that readers can't log into a poll twice from a particular computer. Obviously, you could move to another computer and vote again, but what's the point? Polling isn't a perfect process and it's quite possible to vote twice on many online polls -- I won't say which ones since I don't encourage such deception (except in the case of research). Given that most of the University's computers are networked, the only possible solution I know would be to have readers log into the Web site -- which would defeat the paper's purpose as an open source for the community. So, only vote once, please.

I do have one suggestion for the online staff: Please add a link at the bottom of each article so readers can move from one story to the next in a section without having to constantly use the "Back" button on their browser.

Edit, Edit, Edit

Knowing the involved process articles supposedly go through before finding their way to their newspaper pages, I was surprised at the number of errors in this week's issues. The most glaring example occurred in Tuesday's Life article, "Students unleash artistic talents, creative juices at Espresso Corner." Apparently, this article made it to layout without being spell-checked. There were five spelling errors!

Wednesday's front-page article, "Board will avoid rankings dialogue," also sported a mistake. The story reads: "Other Board members said they were concerned about UC-Berkeley's jump over the University to the No. 1 public university spot, but were unsure whether the Board could affect any change on the issue." The word "affect" is a verb meaning "to influence or change" and is clearly not what the author intended. The proper word would be "effect" which, in its verb form, means "to cause." Finally, editors should always check to see that what writers say is accurate and unbiased. This is especially important when the writers are themselves the editors, as in Monday's lead editorial about Garrett Hall. The editorial claims that "the now-vacated basement of Garrett Hall is a perfect place to put all the displaced student groups" left without offices following the organizational exodus from Peabody Hall. However, as one informed reader noted, this statement gives "the very mistaken impression that the basement of Garrett Hall is now vacated and awaiting new occupants. This is certainly not the case. While plans are to move the Office of Career Planning and Placement to Bryant Hall, the earliest anyone has talked about the move is September of 2000 and even that is beginning to look doubtful, given the fact that the parking garage may still be under construction. Chances are the move will not take place until January of 2001." Obviously, then there is no way this move will solve the problem of currently displaced student groups. The actual relocation of the OCPP would have been an easy fact to verify.

A Clarification about Columns

In my last column, I was apparently unclear regarding my expectations of non-editorial columns. As one response very fairly pointed out, while I claimed that some columns have detracted from non-news sections in the past, I did not say what I think makes a good feature column.

My specific problem lies here: All columns need a point no matter where they are located in the paper. One reader claimed that the Life page doesn't profess to give opinions and should be judged differently than editorials. This may be true as far as subject matter goes. Yet, as far as writing and focus are concerned, I disagree. The very choices regarding what articles are run are statements of opinion. To be sure, Life columnists shouldn't be expected to write editorial-style opinion pieces, and I think some personal stories can evolve into interesting Life (or Sports) columns. The unfortunate tendency is, though, for writers to think that what interests or involves them will interest everyone. Even personal reminiscences need a "hook" -- something that pulls the reader into the story and links it to some "big picture" to which readers can relate.

In the past week, I did some research about feature columns that I thought were successful. What I found was that the appeal of certain columnists wasn't their topic. Humor columns may or may not be funny. I also realized that many of the more popular feature columns may not suit The Cavalier Daily (advice columns, grammar columns, or, everyone's everyday favorite -- the bridge column). Still, I do think there is room in the paper for feature columnists who decide to write articles from a personal standpoint, regarding some specific topic -- style, the university community, whatever. For a great example, see Jim Reedy's sports column from last Thursday.

What do you think columnists should cover? How can the online edition be improved? Any mistakes I missed? Let me know at