The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

My Cavalier Daily obituary

In Andrew Rossi's 2011 documentary, "Page One: Inside the New York Times," Times media reporter David Carr tells an audience of journalists at a publishing conference in Minneapolis: "You have lived through the worst cyclical secular recession that the publishing business has ever seen in modern times. Look around you; you're still here. Don't think about the people who are gone. Think about the people that made it. It's a really big deal. It demonstrates, number one, that you're a bunch of tenacious mother-------, I'll tell you that. You have proven you cannot be killed."

After a year as managing editor, I'd like to at least think I'm tenacious. It was a demanding position, one that required making tough decisions which had the potential to upset the University administration, other readers or my staff. Sometimes they did. Running The Cavalier Daily is, of course, different than being in charge of any other student organization. Organizations like the Honor Committee, for example, derive their power from the Board of Visitors, in a sense making them arms of the University and even the Commonwealth. This is not to belittle those institutions, the people in them or the University's ideal of student self-governance. But the Honor Committee is not going to be threatened with a lawsuit anytime soon. Any such action would be brought against the University.

The Cavalier Daily, meanwhile, is an independent company. It doesn't have a backstop; if a news story, editorial or comic is considered libelous, the newspaper faces real-life consequences which extend beyond the University bubble. Thankfully, The Cavalier Daily was not sued under my watch. But the mere fact that my actions as editor didn't result in litigation is not what makes me proud of my work and time spent in the basement of Newcomb Hall.

Before I became managing editor, I resented the popular consensus that because the paper was run by students, we therefore had to scale back our ambitions. We didn't have the resources - i.e., the time - to make trips to the courthouse like professional papers did, I was told. My response? Hogwash. When a few rogue football players were charged with felonies after they allegedly got in a fight at James Madison University, a fellow editor and I spent hours trying to track down police reports and affidavits. In anticipation of George Huguely's preliminary hearing last April, Cavalier Daily editors again headed to the courthouse to find records of another time in recent memory when a University student had been charged with murder. That student, Andrew Alston, stabbed Walker Sisk, a Charlottesville resident and volunteer firefighter, 20 times one night on the Corner. Alston walked after three years. We called the commonwealth's attorney, Alston's lawyer, the jury foreman, a City councilor at the time and even Sisk's parents. We wanted to provide readers a glimpse into the potential nightmare scenario for the prosecution in Huguely's upcoming trial.

Digging through court documents, double-checking facts and making important phone calls are essential to quality journalism. Student publications may be hampered by ties to other things that matter in college - clubs, school work and, yes, friends - but they don't get a pass for lazy work simply because their staffs take exams.

But trying to improve the quality of the paper wasn't the only thing which made me come to the office 40 to 50 hours a week. I came because my sports editor - no, my friend - had the courage to write about his father's fight with cancer, and how sports were the eternal bonds of affection which made their relationship endure past death. I came because although a debilitating anxiety disorder at times conquered school work and the rest of my life, The Cavalier Daily office was my sanctuary, a place where I always felt in command. And I came because of a girl.

When I came to the University, I figured I'd read some books, shoot some hoops and throw back some cold ones just like any other college kid. Then I found a newspaper. And I'm forever grateful for that. I don't know that a successful three and a half years at the paper are proof of my invincibility, as David Carr might have me think. But I do know one thing: I can guarantee I've read more Cavalier Daily articles than you have. At least there's that.