The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

PARTING SHOT: A love letter to student journalism

<p>Ali Sullivan was a news editor during the 131st term and a senior associate editor during the 130th term</p>

Ali Sullivan was a news editor during the 131st term and a senior associate editor during the 130th term

My love for journalism sparked amid the pages of a classic work of literature — Judy Moody: Around the World in 8 ½ days. I was in third grade and enamored with Nellie Bly, a famous 19th century female journalist with whom Judy Moody’s enemy-turned-best-friend Amy was likewise obsessed. 

I stuck with my goal of becoming a reporter just like Bly throughout elementary school, later founding my very own school paper called “Random” when I hit fifth grade. But when my teenage years rolled around, newer aspirations (with better salaries) came and went — maybe I would be a doctor, a politician, a lawyer?

So even though reporting was a childhood dream, I didn’t join The Cavalier Daily as a copy editor during my first year with any intention of, like, actually pursuing journalism. Warren Buffet said the newspapering industry is toast! Why would anybody want to be a part of that? 

Little did I know, checking articles for spelling errors on Wednesday nights would eventually turn into following journalism as a career path. Suddenly, I found myself peppering my sentences with em dashes — they’re the most useful punctuation — and developing a strong aversion to the Oxford comma.

My stint as a copy editor lasted until I joined the news section, and a year and a half after becoming a news writer, I was elected a news editor for the 131st term. 

During my time as a news writer and editor, I learned that The Cavalier Daily plays a critical role in the University community. A newsroom of busy students running on minimal sleep can hold U.Va. accountable simply by staying nosy.

Throughout my time at the CavDaily, I had the privilege of covering activists’ decades-long battle for a living wage at the University, the experiences of first-generation low-income students on Grounds,  Dr. Paul Harris’ fight for tenure and the 2020 election. I am grateful every day that community members trusted me and the newspaper with their stories. 

I also wrote and edited a lot about the pandemic. 

The news team chronicled dorm outbreaks, inadequate COVID test access, the conversion of residential colleges into quarantine dorms, COVID-focused student activism and much more. 

It was coverage the news section could not have done without my lovely co-editor Eva Surovell, who remains at the helm of the newsroom alongside the equally lovely and talented Maryann Xue. With our newsroom not really a newsroom anymore — but rather a smattering of faces on a Zoom screen — we managed to keep both the student body and Charlottesville community informed about COVID-19 on Grounds. 

Part of me resents that COVID-19 characterized my term as news editor, but I’m deeply grateful that Eva and every news writer in the section stepped up to share news during such an unprecedented, tumultuous, difficult, etc. time. Even while juggling full-time course loads and the stress of the pandemic, news writers pounced on breaking news and dug deep into investigative stories. 

Writers at The Cavalier Daily work for free. Without a monetary incentive, student reporters produce content for the love of the University community. Holding U.Va. bigwigs’ feet to the fire is both a labor of love and the foremost responsibility of student journalism. As the pandemic ebbs, The Cavalier Daily must hold the University accountable to the deep inequities that COVID-19 laid bare within our community. At a time when budget cuts and corporate ownership threaten local journalism in our community, this mission is paramount. 

A journalism cliché claims that reporting gives a voice to the voiceless. It’s an adage that I really hate. Everyone has a voice, and The Cavalier Daily and its writers should provide a platform to those voices. While I hope our coverage did that, I know the news section has a long way to go in terms of better reflecting the University community and earning readers’ trust. I look forward to watching The Cavalier Daily continue to improve — this time from afar. But if you ever see me bickering in the Facebook comments section of a Cavalier Daily article, please check in with me to make sure I’m okay. 

I’ll miss The Cavalier Daily and the wonderful and driven people with whom I intersected. I won’t miss writing out “the University” instead of just UVA, and I look forward to using colons in my future news writing. 

I’m not one for goodbyes. I’d vastly prefer to leave college with an Irish one, but I’m glad The Cavalier Daily’s editors pried this parting shot from my hands. I am forever thankful that this student paper and the people within it reignited my love for journalism. I’ll bring the values and lessons I gleaned from this newsroom wherever I go next. 

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