Thursday mornings don’t quite hit the same as they used to. Maybe it’s the increased sleep from the night before, lack of stress about if the papers actually printed or something else entirely — definitely the last one. After 52 print nights, it’s been incredibly refreshing to pick up the paper Thursday morning as an average news consumer. Over the past three years, I’ve known the ins and outs of each page hours before submitting it to the printer. Lately, it’s always a complete surprise what I’ll learn about Grounds or the broader Charlottesville community — and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
When I joined The Cavalier Daily in the fall of my first year, it felt like a natural place for me outside the classroom. Coming off the heels of four years of high school journalism, it was easy to see myself in the basement of Newcomb Hall. As a production and copy staffer, I remember being blown away by how much I thought I knew about journalism, but in reality, I had a lot to learn. Since then, I haven’t stopped learning new things as I moved up the ranks and sunk more time into the paper.
My two terms as a production editor were anything but ordinary, to say the least. After entering the junior board as a first-year, I was initially intimidated by my older peers, nervous about the increased time commitment and skeptical if I could keep up with it all while trying to enjoy my short college years. Only eight weeks and eight papers in, COVID-19 sent us all home, upending not only my college experience but also my role at the paper. With uncertainty abound, I was unsure if there would even be a physical paper to produce. My next year and a half with The Cavalier Daily was spent mostly alone in front of my computer, getting the job done but longing for a greater sense of purpose and community.
With the pandemic seemingly behind us and the fatigue of back-to-back terms looming, a decision had to be made about my future on the paper. My philosophy at this point came to one as old as time — up or out. Ultimately, I took a leap of faith, committing to operations manager without a grand plan or platform for what I’d accomplish over the next 12 months. Blissfully unaware, I soon learned that I’d be leaning heavily into my “Cav Daily era” until my term expired next January.
As OM, I spent most of my time figuring out what I even wanted to and could do with my ever-expanding responsibilities. Coming from production, I knew print night like the back of my hand, but that was only one thing on a long list of daily, weekly and monthly tasks I took on. And while OMs of the past may have claimed their parting shot to be “the first thing they ever wrote for The Cavalier Daily,” that’s far from the truth for me. I wrote Instagram posts, grant applications, photo captions, newsletter templates — the list goes on.
I also did a lot more than just writing. One thing about the 133rd term, we were never afraid to shake things up. If you had told me in January 2022 I would merge production with graphics and create an assistant operations manager by the end of the term, I would have called your bluff immediately. As for our refreshed social media, newsletters and analytics, I am overjoyed that I’ve left behind the groundwork for a thriving digital-forward future of journalism here at the University. I also hope I left behind my sense of humor, levity in tense situations and most of all, willingness to laugh at myself — insert long exposure joke here. But on a more serious note, The Cavalier Daily has also given me so much. It taught me how to lead confidently, tackle challenges head-on and tell stories that need to be told.
Honestly, I am not sure why I stuck with The Cavalier Daily after all these years. I’ve never wanted to be a journalist, but there has always been something about journalism I’ve clung to since high school. Maybe it’s the ability to call the shots, but it’s also always been about the people I’ve worked with along the way. Eight years later, I have made some of my closest friends, learned the most about myself and become a better person from it all. To everyone at The Beacon, thanks for giving me my start. To Eva, Ava, Jessica and Katrina, thanks for being the best Managing Board I could ask for. And to The Cavalier Daily, thanks for changing my life, all because I let it.
Ethan Fingerhut was the Operations Manager for the 133rd term and Production Editor for the 132nd and 131st terms of The Cavalier Daily.