PUBLIC EDITOR: Life can and should be the leader of adding diversity to The Cavalier Daily

A section devoted to covering the student experience must expand its work to include many types of students

roehse-op-gravely

While News and Opinion are important, The Cavalier Daily should be looking towards the Life section to be a new leader in diversifying the paper’s staff and content.

Sophie Roehse | Cavalier Daily

In conversations about increasing diversity at The Cavalier Daily, both in content and staffers,  the News and Opinion sections are typically at the forefront. This makes sense — these two sections are usually the most well-known among the University community and largely control the discourse about the paper, making the inclusion of a variety of stories and viewpoints extra important. 

While News and Opinion are important, The Cavalier Daily should be looking towards the Life section to be a new leader in diversifying the paper’s staff and content.

The Life section is comprised of a few sub-sections, including food, columns, features, Top-10s and Love Connection. The purpose of the section is to cover the breadth of the student experience, from restaurants to events happening around Grounds. As such, the section must be careful to not focus on only a few types of students or cultural groups.

To be clear, the section is already working to include diversity in what it publishes. For example, first-year columnist Jason Ono has provided some insightful perspective on the international student experience in his most recent columns about forgetting Japanese and maintaining his relationship with his parents. One of my all-time favorite columns was fourth-year columnist Aly Lee’s thoughts surrounding the 2018 Pixar short “Bao.” 

Recent features published by the section are about Latinx students celebrating National Hispanic Heritage month, the University’s urban dance crew “AKAdeMIX” and the beginning of the Asian Student Union’s annual “Not a Model Minority” campaign.

Life Editors Elise Kim and Pauline Povistky both said that showcasing diversity within the section is important, and they work towards doing that by gathering article ideas from a variety of social circles.

“Aside from our commitments to The Cavalier Daily, I think because we’re a part of different communities, we can find ideas that feature and food writers can cover,” Kim said.

The Life section is already making strides in adding diversity to a majority white organization, but the progress they’ve made must be consistent, ongoing and reach different communities within the University.

For example, throughout this semester, there has been no representation from Black or Latinx students in Life columns. These two groups comprise a little over 2,000 students of the around 16,000 undergraduates at the University. While the percentage may seem small, those groups are still vital perspectives that are missing from the section. 

For the future, the Life section has to consider how they can recruit more writers of colors to be columnists. Povitsky said the section also welcomes guest columns from people within the community, and while that has the ability to add diversity to what they published, the opportunity isn’t typically widely-known or shared outside of the newspaper. Kim said the section hasn’t received any guest columns this semester.

Food writers also have the opportunity to diversify the types of restaurants they’re covering. Charlottesville is a city filled with cuisines, ranging from Vietnamese to South African to Peruvian. Writers should expand beyond reviewing American foods and restaurants and more frequently and consistently cover the non-Western cuisines that Charlottesville has to offer. Not only would it offer more diverse content for the paper, but it would also encourage students to patronize a variety of small businesses within the community.

I applaud the Life section for what they’re doing to make The Cavalier Daily more representative of the community they serve. I encourage them to ensure this progress doesn’t stagnate and continue to implement structural reforms that can further achieve their goals. 

Alexis Gravely is the Public Editor for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at a.gravely@cavalierdaily.com.

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