Roughly two weeks into my first year at the University, I failed to quit my journalism addiction and applied to work as a writer for The Cavalier Daily’s sports section. The application consisted of writing two stories: 1) A preview of Virginia football’s 2012 matchup against Georgia Tech, a game that followed-up the Cavaliers’ victorious effort over Penn State due to a game-winning catch by Jake McGee; and 2) a feature on any aspect of the Virginia football team. For the latter, I wrote about — you guessed it — McGee.
Reviewing those articles now, I can confidently say that they weren’t very good. First-year me loved clichés (“in a matchup of David versus Goliath”) and didn’t understand that the “quote-body-quote-body” structure is not very creative. However, in The Cavalier Daily’s office on a hot summer day in September 2015, one of the Sports editors at the time, Matt Morris, made me feel like I could be a future star. Sitting at one of the office’s tables, the soft-spoken and kind-hearted fourth year told me what he liked about the articles and what he would have changed.
Matt was the first of several people I really looked up to The Cavalier Daily, and he was the first person to show me what I love most about this group. No matter one’s year, position or section, an attention behind mentorship — both being a mentor and a mentee — is a commonality that binds the publication together.
Journalism is inherently focused on collaboration. Section editors assign stories to writers or writers pitch stories to editors for approval. Writers then work meticulously to interview sources or get their thoughts down on paper before sending it back to the section editor. The section editors then read the piece, oftentimes leaving comments for the writers about how to improve the writing or asking clarifying questions. The writers answer those questions and send it back to the section editors. And that’s just the first round of edits.
Because The Cavalier Daily is primarily a digital workplace — much of the editors’ and writers’ time is spent out of the office — it could be easy for this collaboration to be vapid. However, I have constantly been impressed by editors’ willingness to continually meet up with, teach and appreciate their writers, and writers’ willingness to learn from editors and other writers on the paper.
And I’ve seen mentorship come in so many different forms. Mike Reingold, the Editor-in-Chief for the 128th term, made many demands of me when I was an assistant managing editor — but he also always made sure how to ask how I was doing in my personal life. Lillian Gaertner, the best partner-in-crime I could’ve ever asked for, lit up the faces of younger copy editors when she remembered random personal information about them or merely said hi to them. Abby Clukey, my successor as managing editor, spent literally hours per story going over edits with her writers when she was Focus editor, helping them become better journalists.
So much is transient at The Cavalier Daily. The leadership changes annually via an election in December. The content changes based off the constantly shifting nature of what becomes newsworthy on Grounds and in the Charlottesville community. The publication is consistently making strides to become more digital. Yet, through all the shifts The Cavalier Daily sees, a core belief in mentorship has proven to be a constant.
And going from being a mentee to becoming a mentor has been the most rewarding experience for me on The Cavalier Daily. Though I was far from perfect, I did my best to utilize what I had learned from previous mentees. For example, following the practice of several mentors, I made it a point to tell staffers — either in person or via text/email — how much I enjoyed reading their article or looking at their design. Or, drawing inspiration from other mentors, I focused on really getting to know my fellow coworkers as people primarily, asking them questions about their lives beyond the newspaper.
I’m not sure Matt Morris knows how much he impacted me through his encouragement, but I am certain that his and my mentor-mentee dynamic is far from the last the paper will see as The Cavalier Daily pushes towards the future.
For that, and for the best friends this paper has given me, I will always be grateful.
Ben Tobin was Managing Editor for the 129th term The Cavalier Daily. Prior to this, he served as Assistant Managing Editor during the 128th term.