I owe my parents everything. My mother is the kind of person who doesn’t care that she mispronounces “toll” like “toe” and is unapologetic about laughing loudly in public. She is an energizer bunny who can’t say no to anything and juggles five jobs — only one of which she is paid for. My father is kind, soft-spoken, tranquil and wickedly intelligent. He falls asleep during movies and wakes up sporadically to offer commentary as if he’d been watching the whole time — a peculiarity I inherited. They supported me through impatient dabbling in piano, soccer and art lessons, and fed my obsession with books. They never talked down to me, but addressed me like an adult. And they said “I love you” out loud in a way that conveyed without a doubt that they meant it.
As Editor-in-Chief of The Cavalier Daily, I tried to bring the best of what my parents had taught me: energy and hard work, a calm presence in a high-pressure environment and strong support for the staff and their developing talents. I had a vision for solving what I felt was the most pressing issue the paper faced: the need to establish a new business strategy that would reduce our dependence on declining print advertising revenue and bolster our transition to a digital-first media organization. Within the first few months of our term, we launched a website redesign, established monthly all-staff meetings and created a proposal that led to the formation of an alumni financial advisory committee.
In the fall, however, we endured a storm that we did not foresee. And when the rain started, it didn’t stop.
Several people — students, professors and even other reporters — have asked me what it was like to be the editor of the newspaper during the hardest year the University has seen in recent memory. I can’t coherently articulate everything I learned and felt, though the irony of a newspaper editor’s inability to express things in words doesn’t escape me. Perhaps I am still too close to all that has happened. But writing my parting shot without looking back on the most challenging and transformative semester of my four years felt lacking, because when I picture my experience at the paper, I mostly still see the storm.
I remember unsuccessfully fighting back tears in a packed press conference as Hannah Graham’s parents implored an unseen audience for information that might bring back their child. In the aftermath of the Rolling Stone article, I remember piggybacking seemingly endless 4 a.m. nights with coffee-fueled all-nighters, frantically live-tweeting press conferences while typing up my final term papers and struggling to make sense of what I knew to be true and what I felt to be right amid an inundation of national media inquiries, official statements, protests, exams and every little crisis in between.
And I remember one night, after reading the latest barrage of hateful and accusatory comments, emails and letters to the editor, I called my sister and broke down. Despite my best efforts to maintain a certain level of detachment for the sake of our coverage, I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t keep pretending that the passion of the protesters — my friends and classmates — hadn’t resonated with me; that comforting a friend as she confided her own assault hadn’t wrecked me; that the third student suicide in a few months hadn’t devastated me, and what’s more, that all of these things — things that came with being a student and member of this community — hadn’t affected my decision making and approach to news coverage. Had proximity to the story — usually an advantage in reporting — hindered the task we considered sacred? I’m honestly not sure and may not be for a while.
In the last year, I’ve grown a thick skin, a more sarcastic sense of humor and something of a swearing habit. But I’m also more convinced than ever that our University is ripe for change. The Cavalier Daily has an important role to play in fostering the conversations that need to happen before our community can come together to get things done. The issues we face are complicated, multifaceted and challenging. They are exhausting to think about, and even more draining to discuss.
But they’re also too important to just let go.
To the current staff: You have the potential to dig deeper, push further and be better than we were. Don’t stop.
To Andrew, Peter, Katherine and Lianne: We gave this organization our all. We knew the stakes were high, and the pressure felt paralyzing at times — but we kept going, anyway. I learned so much from you, and I don’t mention enough how thankful I am.
To the 125th staff: Thank you for trusting me.
I love you, and I mean it.
Rebecca Lim was the 125th Editor-in-Chief of The Cavalier Daily.