Writers for The Cavalier Daily’s abcd magazine often produce some of the best journalism the newspaper has to offer. From mental health to the Black Bus Stop to white supremacy, the magazine beautifully reports on topics that go untouched or aren’t covered in the same way by other sections.
Yet, abcd is lacking in one of the places that matters most — consistency.
In 2017, The Cavalier Daily added the magazine to its collection of print and digital products as a way to innovate storytelling for the paper through words and visuals.
“As news becomes more digital-forward, I think the magazine has great potential and plays a vital role in how college students will access news in the future,” said Editor-in-chief Gracie Kreth. “The platform allows for unique and engaging visuals and provides great opportunities not only for writers but for student growth in photography, video, graphics and engaging web design.”
Last fall, the staff voted to make the magazine an official section within the newspaper while eliminating the Focus section, which — like abcd mag — published long-form, in-depth pieces for the print paper and website.
Because abcd mag effectively serves as the replacement for the Focus section, it is where the majority of The Cavalier Daily’s long-form content currently exists. However, the magazine hasn’t been published often or consistently over the past year, leaving this important type of journalism missing from the CD’s repertoire.
The magazine’s first articles as an official section were published in February and more pieces were published in mid-March. Yet, it wasn’t until six months later, in September, that another group of articles were published on the abcd magazine website. In no other section would it be acceptable to have such a large gap between publishing content and to produce less than 10 articles since its first big push in February.
Kreth’s goal for the magazine was for an issue would be published three times a semester. However, Magazine Editor Meagan O’Rourke said the section’s novelty has made it difficult to meet that expectation.
“The magazine was new and the structure was sort of developing throughout the year,” O’Rourke said. “I do think it could be more consistent because the writers work really hard.”
To be clear, the types of articles published in the magazine are not as easy to produce and publish as articles for other sections of the CD. These pieces often take lots of time to research, report and write. And with most of them being well over 1,500 words, they take a lot of time and resources to edit and fact-check.
Still, a clearer vision among the Managing Board, magazine editor and writers regarding how the magazine section operates could make the challenges of long-form journalism easier to tackle.
For example, O’Rourke said she’s found it’s difficult to give writers the extended but necessary amount of time to report and write their pieces because the articles often aren’t prioritized until the last minute and aren’t completed by the deadline. A solution to this problem is setting mini-deadlines throughout the process to hold writers accountable — such as making it so that interviews are arranged by the first week, research and interviews are completed by the second week, a first draft is written by the third week and a final draft is finished by the fourth week.
Making these sorts of processes clear — and having consequences for not meeting the section’s expectations — can help to curb some of the structural and logistical challenges that are inhibiting abcd magazine from reaching its full potential.
When it publishes articles, the magazine is an excellent product. The section’s next steps aren’t about how it can create great content but how it can create great content continuously.
Alexis Gravely is the Public Editor for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.