KUDOS TO the new Managing Board and staff for a successful transition during the past two weeks. Already I've noticed subtle changes in certain departments and look forward to your future innovations. To take an example that many will have undoubtedly overlooked, the "Inside" lead boxes found on the front page of The Cavalier Daily have been especially strong with an interesting variety of photo leads as well as helpful summaries. While these boxes are certainly only a small part of the paper, I mention them to draw attention to the fact that a quality publication consistently does both large and minor tasks well.
The Managing Board's stated commitment ("111," Feb. 7) to expand the sense of community expressed in the paper already can be seen in some of the broad news and features pieces covered. Three different club teams -- the men's and women's ice hockey and the equestrian team -- were featured on the Life page. Interest in alumni affairs was represented in coverage of Matt Phillips' stint on "Who Want's to be a Millionaire?" The paper covered a vocalist from the engineering school, a sorority beauty pageant and the presentation of awards to deserving faculty. The University community is not -- no matter what some detractors say -- homogenous and the paper never should represent it as such.
Within the past two weeks, the staff has made progress toward improving diversity in its news and feature reporting. The personal spin presented in recent student profiles has been an especially welcome addition that helps draw attention to the lives University students lead beyond stereotypes. Too much exposure still is being given, however, to particular student groups at the detriment of the rest of the community. Look at the front page for Feb. 17. Three of The Cavalier Daily's lead news articles relate either Greek fraternity or sorority news. I am not discounting the newsworthiness of the articles presented, but I do wonder at the judgment to publish them all on the same day on the front page. (Perhaps a column could be published twice a month to cover all but the most important news relating to the Greek community.) There seems to be a general tendency to assume that any Greek community news is University news, and I fear this assumption leads writers and editors to overlook activities sponsored by other segments of the population that may be of interest to an equal -- or greater -- percentage of the student body and University community.
For example, take another look at last Friday's first lead editorial -- "Rush to the Polls." Why is the timing of fraternity rush once again the subject of a lead editorial? The Cavalier Daily's stand on the issue was well-expressed last fall. Yet, here, in oddly linked paragraphs, we have the Board giving us a mixed opinion. First, we are informed that little headway has been made regarding the Rush policy, following then-Dean of Students Robert Canevari's schedule change in April 1998. This statement is not, in fact, true. Little headway has been made by those who want fraternity rush moved back to the fall, but the position of the University's administrators has become increasingly clear. If the Board wants to support moving rush, then say so straightforwardly.
Second, focusing once more on the hackneyed topic of fraternity rush only disguises the two real aims of the editorial: (1) to insist that University administrators take into account the opinions of the students as expressed in the Spring elections although they are not compelled to do so and (2) to encourage students to support the self-governance of the student body by participating in the electoral process. These two issue are important University issues in a way that fraternity rush simply is not. Let's be honest, the possibility that "the formal rush issue will disappear into a morass of apathy" is no great loss when compared to the potential "curtailment of student self-governance ... for yet another year."
I particularly am interested in the changes that are in the works for feature pages this semester. An advice columnist will be an excellent addition to the Life page and I hope to continue to see preview as well as review pieces in Arts and Entertainment. Already the Nation/World section has benefited from additional room and planning. Without a doubt, a genuine commitment to this section by the paper along with good editing will result in a much stronger selection of news articles.
One thing to note, however: Since the space allotted to national and international news changes on a daily basis, its editors need to keep a careful eye on the section's layout to ensure the best possible use of space. On Friday, for instance, the full page and a half given to the section allowed for expanded coverage, but the quality of the page was limited due to its policy of placing only continuations of stories on the second page. As a result, the lead stories were cramped and underexposed (see the small boxes allotted the articles covering the presidential campaigns). A better strategy would have been to move the non-lead story on the European Union's fishing industry to the second page to make room for the full stories on Gore, Bush and McCain. Since the pages faced each other, this would have presented all of the stories in a better light. Plus, fewer stories would have been needlessly cut up and none would have received reduced exposure.
What have you noticed in the paper? Do have suggestions on how to improve diversity in reporting? Send your comments to me at Ombudsman@CavalierDaily.com.