THERE IS a lot of talk at the University about our peer institutions and how we rank with our top academic and sports competitors. Have you ever wondered about the student papers produced by our peers? This week, I'll review some of the print and online editions of other collegiate papers and see how they compare to our own esteemed daily.
First, let's look at the school we all love to hate, the University of California at Berkeley. The Daily Californian (www.dailycal.org) is fairly well known among those involved in student media for its professionalism and interesting features. Their online edition, however, is not as interesting as it could be with its few pictures and limited color. Plus, they have these odd cartoon illustrations that only loosely tie to their articles, but perhaps I'm quibbling here. On a positive note, they do a nice job of archiving past columnists and linking you to columns by thumbnail photos of the writers. A similar setup would be a nice addition to The Cavalier Daily online.
Luckily, you can also view the front page of The Daily Californian online and it is obvious that print is where Berkeley really shines. Above the masthead, weather and photo story leads are interestingly and usefully displayed - not in the crammed way that we used to show them here, but with a clean and well-spaced presentation that would be worth considering for future use. Of course, this appealing feature is negated by the extremely irritating practice of switching the font on every front-page headline, but we all know Berkeley's not perfect. Besides, they do feature more front-page news than we do since they crop all of their lead articles and continue them elsewhere. This allows The Daily Californian to present a well laid-out front page where space is dictated by style and not story length.
Now, what about our friends in the ACC? In recent weeks, I've suggested that The Cavalier Daily sports page broaden its coverage of ACC sports and maintain less of a school-centered focus. Interestingly, no one else seems likely to take me seriously either. Clemson, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke all spend their time covering only their own sports. What is more, Clemson (hubcap.Clemson.edu/Tiger) and Chapel Hill do not cover or present the news nearly as well online as we do here. Clemson's site is plagued by photos that are simply too large and too slow to download.
Chapel Hill's The Daily Tarheel (www.unc.edu/dth) is a real peer - most stories focus on student elections or recent ACC sports matches - but its staff could learn a few things from our own graphics folks. First, they make you link to everything from the homepage, including the weather. Second, their homepage is set up in a basic webpage format - there is nothing present that makes you think The Daily Tarheel is a newspaper and not simply and community oriented club. The link between the online and the print version is extremely weak except for story content.
While all three of the ACC papers I reviewed were plagued by slow loading and space-grabbing banner ads, Duke's paper (www.chronicle.duke.edu) differs from the other two significantly. The Chronicle online has a polished appearance based on the paper's print version, but clearly takes advantage of the many additional features available online. The site loads quickly thanks to well-placed, small photos that accompany equally on-target articles. The Chronicle online is harder to navigate than The Cavalier Daily and lacks our useful and stylish section links, but it displays a broader news focus than we often display.
For example, take a look at "Northeastern Colleges Consider S.C. Tourism Boycott" (The Chronicle, March 2, 2000), a story that I wish I had read here and not on the Duke Web site. The article notes that "in response to the NAACP boycott, Temple University, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Franklin & Marshall, Carlisle and Swarthmore colleges, which are all eastern Pennsylvania schools, have decided to cancel all their spring break trips to South Carolina."
Okay, you may be thinking, so we've read about this boycott in The Cavalier Daily three or four times, why should that mean we should cover this extra news? What we should be doing is broadening our viewpoint a bit to include news items relating to students at other universities -- especially our peers. Duke's The Chronicle ends the article by noting the response to the NAACP boycott at two peer institutions: Yale and, you guessed it, U.Va.
Here's what they report about the University: "the boycott has not stirred as much controversy on the campus of the University of Virginia, another school that sends a large number of students to South Carolina in
May, said U.Va. NAACP President Philippe Devieux. 'I know a lot of people are really not thinking about the issue,' Devieux said." It is fine for students not to think about an issue because they don't think it matters, but let's not simply ignore or be unaware of what's happening on other college campuses.
Have you looked at The Cavalier Daily online recently? Have you used its efficient search engine and article links? Explored the new Election 2000 features? If not, give it a try and let me know what you think. Send your comments to me at Ombudsman@CavalierDaily.com.