WELCOME back to the first full week of classes in 2000. In this column, I want to discuss my goals for The Cavalier Daily this semester and review some of the articles from last week's issues.
No spelling or punctuation errors
This is a fairly obvious goal. Even though grammatical mistakes may have little effect on an article's subject or overall focus, a simple spelling error can divert the reader's attention from what is being said. Besides which, no award-winning paper like The Cavalier Daily should have spelling errors like that appearing in the opinion column "Rebel flag thing of the past" from last Wednesday: "the United States has build a number of memorials for that purpose." Luckily, attention to copy-editing quickly can make this goal a reality.
Use pictures effectively
The simplest way to fulfill this goal is simply to always include a picture when one would benefit the text of a story and then to make sure that the picture's placement and size match its article in importance and content. Wednesday's front page did a great job by displaying both an interesting picture leading to an article found later in the paper and by matching individual shots with particular stories. There is an identifying shot of Athletic Director Terry Holland, an action shot of running back Antwoine Womack, and even a picture of the library's new Civil War letters.
Contrast this front page with Thursday's. The picture of the stadium is fine, but why is Senator Charles Robb so huge? His photo is almost as big as his story! Along the same vein, the sports cover from Wednesday gives us a great (and large) shot from the Cavs vs. Tar Heels game, but the article on former ladies soccer Coach April Heinrichs could use an identifying photograph as well. Coach Heinrichs is, after all, going to coach the U.S. women's national team. Shouldn't she, at least, get a thumbnail photo?
Clearly focused, well-written prose
The Cavalier Daily's staff already does a good job covering diverse and noteworthy issues through news and features articles. Now we need to work to make sure those articles cover the news in a clear and interesting way. Once again, I'll turn to Wednesday's article on Coach Heinrichs as an example. According to the headline, "National team tabs Heinrichs as new coach," the article understandably is focused on Heinrichs' new job with the women's national team. Within the article, however, it is not clear whether the key idea is Heinrichs' move or the general surprise that she was picked at all.
The first two sentences note that Heinrichs' reign at U.Va. is at an end and that she replaces Tony DiCicco as head coach for the U.S. women's team. Then, abruptly, we are told Henrichs "was not thought to be a top candidate for the job." The rest of the article gives us various facts about the move and Heinrichs' career at U.Va., but the original momentum of the story is lost because none of the following paragraphs have a clear direction. The problem isn't that the writer didn't have a good idea or lacked adequate knowledge about his subject. The only problem is a lack of clear focus that turns a great story into a somewhat unclear article.
Enlightened and informative columns
A good opinion column informs readers by presenting the facts of an issue with a particular spin -- a hopefully enlightened viewpoint the columnist has adopted after careful thought on the issues involved. Erin Perucci's column from Thursday was a particularly good example of what I mean. Ms. Perucci read an article on Sen. John McCain in The Washington Post, became concerned about one of the quotes given in the story, and transmitted her concern to her readers through her column.
Enlightened columns, those that present particular, unique opinions in a clear way, are not uncommon in The Cavalier Daily. But, they are not always informative. Far too often, a columnist writes a clear opinion but does little to argue for it or fails to take into account some of the issues involved. As an example, I'll turn to Katie Dodd's rightfully praised column on the Confederate battle flag flying above the state house in South Carolina. I am not concerned with what Ms. Dodd wrote, but what she didn't address. I'm curious to know why the flag isn't just a state issue and what Ms. Dodd's suggestion is for the state given that its constitution forbids a binding referendum by its populace, its legislatures support the flag, and so long as economic sanctions by the NAACP remain in place.
Ms. Dodd wrote a good column -- one that presents an interesting viewpoint in a compelling way. I simply want to note that it also is possible to write a great column, one that informs its readers of the various facets of an issue while it attempts to present a particular viewpoint as well.
My last goal is my most important. Every word, every fact, every quote reported in The Cavalier Daily needs to be accurate. Nothing hurts or helps a paper's standing as much as its integrity in reporting the news. For this reason, it is imperative that we continue to verify our facts and our quotes and are careful to avoid bias in how we report stories and what issues we choose to cover.
What are your goals for the paper? Do you have a particular suggestion for the next semester? Send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.