The Cavalier Daily
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Diversity in reporting too, please

Given the sheer number of articles and columns on affirmative action this week, I almost hate to add to the glut. But, I believe the issue needs a new perspective -- not necessarily that supported by The Cavalier Daily's style of reporting. Initially, I was impressed with the paper's coverage of what is undoubtedly an important issue for both the university and community. Board member Terence P. Ross's comments regarding lower academic standards for some minority students were reported fairly and without bias, as were the initial criticisms from the community.

Yet, last week, I became concerned with the paper's style of reporting supposedly unbiased news. The opinion of the paper and editorial board itself isn't in question. Their support of affirmative action and non-standardized grounds for admissions was made clear in the two lead editorials devoted to the issue. Great. I think test scores and grades alone make poor admissions standards myself. But the paper's front-page news has been wrongly biased in favor of those who support affirmative action. The articles aren't written with bias, but coverage of the issue, so far, certainly has been slanted toward the affirmative rather than the negative.

Nine out of 10 of the front-page articles covering the current debate over affirmative action report expressions in favor of the policy. Such uniformity and unanimity of opinion can lead one to question why there is a debate at all. To be sure, the Focus section gave a very nice survey of admissions standards and affirmative action policies in comparative institutions of higher learning, but such coverage needs to be more of the norm rather than the exception.

Where in these many, many articles was any summary or replay of Ross' exact words (oddly not what many leaders and letters to the editor claim)? Does no one dissent or are those in favor of affirmative action simply more outspoken, easier to find, or -- worst of all -- simply what's in vogue on The Cavalier Daily's staff?

Why was University Rector John Ackerly's speech only given advance notice in a lead editorial? Do we only want to report what is said or do we want to give students the opportunity to go and say what they think as well? In fact, what do the students think? I guess I'll go ask -- I can't find it in their paper.

More on Announcements

Thank you to the readers who offered suggestions for improving The Cavalier Daily's announcement policy. As two commentators noted, no announcements appear in the online edition. Since increasing numbers of students and community members are accessing the paper's Web site for current news, weather and University information, adding a page or section devoted to announcements makes sense.

In fact, such a section seems necessary if The Cavalier Daily Online Edition is meant to both add to the paper version and stand alone. Given the lack of space constraints imposed on the online edition, the Web is a great place to improve the number of announcements published. Online it is possible to publish all announcements submitted -- there is no need to limit them according to the varying amount of space in the Classifieds. In this way, The Cavalier Daily Online Edition could really accentuate the print version of the paper and more student organizations could take advantage of the paper's announcements service and know it will actually be printed -- if not in the print version, then online.

Some readers criticized the paper's dependency on student announcements, noting that many organizations' events aren't covered until after they happen or simply aren't mentioned at all. Granted, the paper does not have the staff or the space to cover all events and activities. But when covering activities, the editors should work to ensure that coverage is both meaningful and useful. As one reader noted, "Meaningful coverage means notice far enough in advance that a reader, who must allocate time among classes, homework, etc., has the realistic opportunity to make choices and plan his or her week. [Monday's] issue mentions Randi and DNC chairman Ed Rendell. Those events required considerable advance planning, but I don't recall seeing any information in the CD which would have enabled a reader to plan to attend either or both."

A paper always must choose whether to emphasize announcement/pre-event style coverage or to report news. As I mentioned last week, I understand The Cavalier Daily's preference for issue-related news; however, given its status as a community newspaper, The Cavalier Daily has a responsibility to report community-related events as well. Why was no preview given for the Habitat for Humanity 5K held on Saturday? I won't be surprised to see a story this week, but wonder why the event was not covered before it happened. Gandhi Day should feel fortunate to have made a mention in Odds and Ends Friday.

A Question About Comics

Why were so many of the comics last week focused on one another rather than anything original? The first time a strip praises its own policy in never running a strip twice or inputs a character from another comic is okay. But once such self-praising become common or other comic characters are used only for self-aggrandizement and criticism, I start wondering why these strips were run in the first place. I would rather see a repeat than some of last week's "new" and pointless comics. Thus far, I've been impressed with our local comic talent and hope the future holds more original ideas rather than more sad, incestuous plots.

What is on your mind? Do we need to continue to cover the issue of affirmative action as front-page news? What can we do to improve? Please let me know. I can be reached at ombud@cavalierdaily.com.

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