Cavalier Daily Launches ‘Ambitious Redesign,’ ‘Wherever, Whenever’ Publishing Plan

The Cavalier Daily at the University of Virginia is rolling out a full-scale redesign top editors are calling ambitious– hoping it results in “an old school newspaper … brought into the 21st century.” I am dubbing their approach the “Wherever, Whenever” publishing plan, playing off the headline of a public announcement the paper made Monday about the changes.

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The two-fold goal of the “Wherever, Whenever” plan: giving readers what they want and simultaneously beating back all types of uncertainties — digital, financial and creative. 

As the Cavalier Daily’s managing board explained in the announcement:

“Our uncertainty about how you are reading this article is not the only uncertainty that journalism’s flight to digital platforms has triggered. We at The Cavalier Daily have weathered quite a bit of financial uncertainty in recent years. Wholly independent from the University, we rely on student staffers to sell enough ads to keep our enterprise afloat. And we, like all newspapers, have had to contend with creative uncertainty. What kinds of articles should we be writing for an audience split between print and online? What kinds of designs would a digital reader prefer? With these uncertainties, however, have come possibilities.”

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Among the updates and innovations being embraced by the paper: a biweekly newsmagazine with more features and investigative reports, in place of a four-times-per-week traditional newspaper (see partial front-page screenshot of the first mag issue below); a digital-first staff structure and news production process; an upgraded mobile app and daily e-newsletter; and a trimming of the fat from stories that is, at least partially, automated.

As the managing board confirms about the latter, “In continuing to post stories online each day, along with breaking-news updates, we aim to tell you what you need to know when you need to know it– and in crisp punchy prose. An online-focused editing system cuts the fat out of stories. Print journalism requires filling empty columns. Online, there is no set space we must fill. Thus, our articles need not contain ‘filler.'”

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Bottom line, the paper appears to be following parts of the model laid out by its most recent editor-in-chief Matthew Cameron. As he told me this summer during an interview about a thesis he put together on the current state of college newspapers:

“The passion that exists among a lot of students for their papers is really the biggest asset they have,” he said. “The fact that you have a lot of people still flocking to them, and in some cases volunteering their time, a lot of their time, to produce them is a big plus. Those people will be the problem-solvers, the ones who find solutions for the organizations. My optimism is tempered somewhat by the bureaucracies a lot of student newspapers have to deal with. At the end of the day though, students can and will innovate.”

Related

Virginia’s Cavalier Daily Going Digital-First: ‘Riding the Wave of Contemporary Journalism’

How Student Newspapers Can Survive (and Thrive) in the 21st Century

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