The Cavalier Daily
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​PARTING SHOT: Solid ground to stand on

There’s a phenomenon called the Media Alienation Effect — you show the exact same news clip to people who belong to different political parties, and all of them say the clip is biased against their political views.

I tried to remember this on the hard days, when we put in the most work and got the harshest criticism. This is a business where the amount of flack you get far exceeds the amount of praise. It’s not an illustrious job; it’s an incredibly humble one. Most of the people who passed me on the street, who saw me at the gym, who sat in class with me, probably never knew I was the one writing all the paper’s lead editorials. In a managing board position, you bust your ass five days a week (sometimes more) to create something that a lot of people take for granted.

But the few times we were told that we were needed — those made it all worth it. The fall semester was tumultuous to say the least, and traumatizing to say the most. We were invited to events other media outlets were excluded from. We were trusted to cover the issues that tore this community apart, because we are students first before we are the media. And throughout our production process we grieved just as much as the rest of the student body. Every word, every sentence, every story, every page, was assembled with the hope of healing.

I don’t want to drift too far from The Cavalier Daily narrative, but it’s hard not to talk about my own situation here. I was sexually assaulted by an ex-boyfriend’s fraternity brother in the fall of my third year. For months I minimized the incident, until the effects of the trauma overtook me. My recovery process is ongoing, and the Rolling Stone tragedy didn’t help. For me it was, in every sense, just too close to home. But what kept me getting out of bed every morning during that time was my duty to the paper, and the knowledge that my experience could help rather than hinder me in performing that duty. I wrote every editorial with the passion derived from my pain, and the reason derived from my experience and its aftermath.

This isn’t to say that people who haven’t experienced trauma can’t write about sexual assault, but to be told by my fellow MB members that they couldn’t have imagined anyone else writing those editorials meant the world to me. And the fact that they were written primarily by a survivor was definitely valuable, for the position in which we were situated. Most people who read those editorials didn’t know the status of the primary author, and that’s probably why we still had critics who accused us of minimizing, pandering and being disrespectful to survivors, which only proves the point I made in my first paragraph. But I never wanted recognition, I only wanted to give us solid ground to stand on. Because in such a tumultuous time, we needed that as much as anyone.

I often became frustrated, wondering if people were really digesting what we were trying to tell them. If I hear one more person ask why the University expels people for cheating but not rape, I’ll have a conniption (and I’ll refer you to this editorial). I still struggle to find anything good that came out of this fiasco, and I still don’t know how to answer the question, “So, U.Va. had a tough year, what was that like?”

How much time do I have?

Toward the end of my term, I felt like I was finishing a marathon — on autopilot, pushing myself through the last five miles, looking forward to having some relief. But now that I’ve finished, and I’m looking back, I realize that I too took for granted my time on the paper. Every morning I woke up, and I could look forward to a day of doing what I did best — writing and editing. Some people go through their entire lives without ever finding a job that truly satisfies them. I found one before I even graduated college. My goal, going forward, is to be that happy again.

I’ve been trying this new self-care technique where at the end of every day, I write down at least three things that I’m proud of. Some days it’s easy; some days not so much. But when I was executive editor, I never would have had a hard time with that. Every day for two semesters I produced something — very few people can say that. I tried my best to do some good in a world that was already imperfect, and then was shattered. As people are still working to pick up the pieces, I’m learning that at some point, you have to set the burden down — not give up on it completely, but just place it somewhere and walk away for a little while.

I’m on my way to a new chapter in my life, and I still don’t know what it consists of. But The Cavalier Daily will always be more than the most valuable line on my resume. And as a soon-to-be graduate who majored in political science and English, that’s saying a hell of a lot.

Katherine Ripley was the 125th Executive Editor of The Cavalier Daily.

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