Cav. Daily: “Real” Journalism?

College newspapers are the training ground for reporters and columnists, and offer a chance to do a little writing with training wheels. That said, it is real, honest-to-God journalism. As the Cavalier Daily‘s ombudsman, Jeremy Ashton, recently wrote: “I firmly believe student newspapers should be taken seriously. They get the same press releases professional newspapers do, usually get equal access and sometimes produce better articles.” I’ve found over the years that the Cav. Daily is hit-or-miss, but the contributors have been consistently forthright with their errors and pleasant to converse with on the topic of Charlottesville news, as I inevitably do, what with cvillenews.com. Except for today, when I had a brief, sour exchange with columnist Ali Ahmad, included below. [Note: Editor Chris Wilson points out via e-mail that Ahmad is not on the paper’s staff. This is a one-off.] Should we expect Cavalier Daily’s contributors to take the paper seriously, or ought we take it no more seriously than its writers? Is it unreasonable to expect a college paper to adhere to the same standards as traditional media, since it is a product of those with little to no experience? Is it just “a rag,” in Ahmad’s words? 09/20 Update: The Cavalier Daily’s ombudsman has quite satisfactorily addressed Mr. Ahmad’s conduct in a column today. Ahmad is also the target of one of the paper’s comics, Metro Center.

Ali,

In your article in today’s Cavalier Daily, “Swinging to the right,” you provide Al Weed with the nickname “Instant Runoff Voting.” I’m about as familiar with Mr. Weed’s campaign as anybody, and, to my knowledge, he has not campaigned on any platform of IRV. In fact, IRV would make no difference at all in his election, given that there is no third party candidate.

To what are you referring with this odd nomenclature?

Best,

Waldo

Waldo,

http://www.alweed2004.com/issue_electoral.htm… 7th item down. I was just picking out the most ludicrous sounding part of his platform. There used to be a lot more about Mr. Weed in my article, but for space considerations it had to be cut. My greater point is that Candidate Weed, while an honorable servant of his country, and a probably all around great guy, is a pretty left wing candidate, it’s not something the kids at UVA or the CVL community at large would care about, but as for the majority of the 5th district- I’m sure they’d like to know he holds such a radical electoral reform position.

Ali

Ali,

To characterize a candidate based on a single paragraph — two sentences — in their platform on a rather mundane issue is a bit silly. It would be different if it were something for which Mr. Weed were known to campaign strongly, but this just isn’t something that’s in his stump speech. Your referral to instant runoff voting in specific is particularly odd, given that IRV is neither a Democratic nor a Republican issue (with both McCain and Dean strongly supporting it), and is limited in popularity to conservatives or liberals. It is, in fact, favored by the majority of electoral statisticians and those who study the electoral process. Opposition to IRV is found only among those who play the lottery — those who are, shall we say, “mathematically challenged.” For more information about IRV, I recommend reading the Center for Voting and Democracy’s website about it, at http://www.fairvote.org/irv/.

A cursory review of Mr. Weed’s platform reveals some traits more closely associated with the Democratic Party to which you could have referred. Universal health care, a balanced budget, funding social security, opposition to the president’s war in Iraq, and environmental protection are all primary planks in Mr. Weed’s platform, none of which are found in his opponent’s or, for that matter, in those of the overwhelming majority of Republican candidates for the House of Representatives this year.

It is worth mentioning, as well, that the resolution of the question of whether the incumbents in Virginia are going to be reelected needs no consideration of matters such as “elbow grease” or even the quality of the candidate. In the 2002 elections, 98.5% of the members of the House of Representatives seeking reelection retained their seats. There are any number of scholarly works to which you can refer for the reasons that this is true, but suffice it to say that nether party affiliation nor “elbow grease” have been shown to be significant predictors of reelection likelihood. It’s just a question of incumbency.

Best,

Waldo

Waldo,

Do you have a job? What are you doing parsing a 700 word guest column written by the UVA CR chairman in a rag like The Cavalier Daily? What are you doing READING it in the first place? You’ve defintiely taken far more time to read it than I took to write it. You got a problem with that- give me a phone call, please. You’ve got a Blacksburg P.O. Box… I hope and pray you are a UVA student so that this makes some sort of sense! Get over it! IRV comes across as silly when you first think about it.. and that is all the time I’ve had to give it! I won’t click on the link you sent me today, tomorrow, or possibly until right before I delete this conversation out of Gmail… and maybe not then. I’m not going to even take the time to re-read this email. You are coming across as a man who is seeking satisfaction in your life, perhaps you need the love of a good woman. Perhaps you need to go work as a firefighter in Alaska. DO NOT reply to this email, I absolutely do not have the time or desire to read it.

Ali

21 Responses to “Cav. Daily: “Real” Journalism?”


  • "perhaps you need the love of a good woman"

  • I’m not sure what that says about my fiancee, though. :) I’m going to operate on the assumption that he thought that would be funny (which it would be, if it weren’t depressing, given that he’s simply unable or unwilling to defend his own column), and not that he’s impugning Amber.

  • I’m going to try to answer some of my own questions, but I hope that others will consider the matter, too.

    I disagree with Mr. Ahmad. The Cavalier Daily is not just “a rag.” I get their headlines via e-mail every day, and this 114-year-old newspaper does, IMHO, a fine job of covering both UVa and Charlottesville events. Coverage is spotty — sometimes they just won’t cover major happenings in town — but it’s a far sight better than my own college‘s paper, The Collegiate Times. The perspective is markedly different from town coverage, too, with that great mix of “hey, there’s a town here?” and “hey, there’s a town here!” :)

    As the Cavalier Daily’s ‘about’ page points out:

    Cavalier Daily staffers have gone on to write professionally for some of journalism’s most prestigious publications, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News, The Baltimore Sun, and The Washington Post. In addition, staff members routinely earn summer internships with top-ranked media organizations, such as ABC News, NBC News, The Baltimore Sun, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Daily News, The Washington Post, Sports Illustrated, and The Portland Oregonian.

    It’s clear that the paper really is a training ground for major media outets.

    If they don’t already, I think that they would be wise to make clear to all contributors that a column in the paper is not just a mask that they wear for 750 words, to be cast aside and ignored from there. I don’t think that writers are obligated to exchange e-mail with any reader who sees fit to bother them (myself included, of course), but, like it or not, they are seen as representatives of both their stated opinion and of the Cavalier Daily. They should behave accordingly.

    I’m quite curious what locals think of the Cav. Daily, if anything. Do most people even read it? Or is it part of some whole other world? For me, it’s a part of my morning routine, 8 months out of the year. Since they put more of their content on-line (that is, all of it), I spend more time perusing the Cav. Daily than I do the Progress, what with local delivery not being available down here. :)

  • I regularly read the cavalier daily. When I attended <a href="http://www.bsu.edu">school</a&gt; I wrote for my college paper for three years. I’ve generally been impressed by the thoughtful articles I read in the CD and agree with Waldo that they should be accountable for what they write.

    I suspect that the format (email) in which the exchange occurred has something to do with Ali not taking Waldo seriously. Unfortunately, the format is casual. A letter to the editor (if you haven’t written one already) would be a more effective way to set the record straight.

  • so we can thoroughly troll him.

    the only thing lamer than working for the cav daily is being a guest columnist for the cav daily. that just means you’re too pathetic to get on the regular staff.

    ali ahmad = owned by self

  • to show what an absolute tool he is.

    sounds like waldo’s livin’ in ali’s head rent free.

  • I suspect that the format (email) in which the exchange occurred has something to do with Ali not taking Waldo seriously. Unfortunately, the format is casual. A letter to the editor (if you haven’t written one already) would be a more effective way to set the record straight.

    You’re absolutely right, a LTE would be better — ridiculously, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. I’ve fallen into the habit of contacting reporters directly, since I’d rather see the paper correct their own error, rather than have some letter from some dope like me. :) In this case, as it turns out, the writer isn’t a reporter — just some guy looking for a soapbox, not a discussion.

  • It makes no sense to be rude to somebody to demonstrate that it’s wrong to be rude. :) The logic of his column is lacking, IMHO, but since he’s made it clear that he’s not interested in having a discussion about his assertions, then I agree with ragnar: a letter to the editor is the way to go.

  • "Do you have a job? What are you doing parsing a 700 word guest column written by the UVA CR chairman in a rag like The Cavalier Daily? What are you doing READING it in the first place? You’ve defintiely taken far more time to read it than I took to write it. You got a problem with that- give me a phone call, please"

    This drivel is insane.

  • I, too, contacted Ali Ahmad regarding his piece. I’ve been promoting IRV for a couple of years, so was interested in his reference. Here’s what I sent him:

    Mr. Ahmed,

    I read your piece in today’s Cavalier Daily and am intrigued by your reference to Instant Runoff Voting in conjunction with candidate Al Weed. I’m an advocate of IRV, so this interests me (not that it matters in a congressional race with only two candidates).

    You didn’t really say anything about Mr. Weed’s position on IRV, beyond the seemingly gratuitous reference in the middle of his name. Is he in favor of IRV voting? In what cases? I’d be grateful if you can fill me in, as voting fairness is an important issue to me.

    Thank you.

    Harry Landers

    Now, here’s his reply:

    Harry,

    First off, it’s Ahmad. Second, yes, he is. I think it’s illustrative

    of the very far left (or at least non-mainstream) policies of a guy

    who goes around pretending to be just another farm boy. Please don’t

    lecture me about the virtues of the system, and let the little joking

    aside in a piece of crap college newsletter be just that.

    Move on,

    Ali Ahmad

    Sheesh.

  • This Ali Ahmad has acted very unprofessionally about this issue, and even though he’s not a professional, I think providing the Cav with an insight into who this guy is would be beneficial to the profession. Let Ali move on and become a professional wrestler, which seem more up his Ali. :-)

  • i’d sign his email address up for every left-wing mailing list i could google my hands on :^)

  • INTERESTING,

    does this guy Ahmed errrrr I meant Ahmad has something up his butt or what? Good lord!

    You know, I am actually surpise that this guy takes the time to write back to your emails. I mean if I wrote something and posted my email. I don’t really have to respond to any emails sent to me. I mean I could just delate them .

  • (vB Code has corrupted me.)

    Not up on on the details of IRV? Neither was I.

    Instant Runoff Voting: What is it?

    The Case for IRV

    The Problems with Instant Runoff Voting

  • You know, I am actually surpise that this guy takes the time to write back to your emails. I mean if I wrote something and posted my email. I don’t really have to respond to any emails sent to me. I mean I could just delate them.

    Well, yeah, that’s just it. I run a few discussion boards, one of which has nearly 30,000 users, and you’ve got to learn after awhile just not to respond to some people. That’s extra true with opinion columnists (like my mother), who open themselves up to mail from people with a wide variety of conflicting opinions. I figure that if you don’t want to discuss the contents of your article further (which is your prerogative), then just don’t respond to the e-mails. Is that so hard?

  • I’m glad you mentioned that, BurntHombre. IRV really is the MacGuffin in this story, but it’s definitely worth looking at. Our current voting system serves primarily to prop up the two party system (one of which I’m a proud member :), and leads to winners that are preferred by a minority of voters, rather than the majority. IRV is simply a better way to vote, and as it has gradually been adopted around the world (Australia, for example, uses IRV) and the U.S., it’s been shown to yield results that make everybody happier.

  • Waldo and everyone,

    I sent a letter to the Cav Daily last night in response to Ahmad’s piece, in which I took issue with his claim that VA Republicans have “vastly superior candidates” if that is meant to apply to the Goode-Weede matchup. I said something to the effect that “this is as close to a demonstrably false proposition as you get in politics”. I hope they run it next week.

    Re college papers as serious journalism: I well remember that as the editor of a high school newspaper I wanted and expected to be held to real-world standards. It helped that we had one of the best journalism advisers in the state of California and therefore attracted the best student writers (a couple of our staff writers got freelance employment ghost-writing the dissertation of a vice-principal who was trying to get his doctorate in education). He used to tell us a story about a mid-sized town in Oregon whose high school paper was so much better than its commercial daily that eventually the commercial paper gave up publishing. So yes, the Cav Daily ought to be aiming high.

  • ha, i bet AHS newspaper would put the Daily Regress out of business if they tried hard enough

  • It’s quite illuminating about the political scene in our fine Commonwealth that a guy like Al Weed could be seriously called "left wing." Geez. Give me a break.

    Has anyone actually *read* about Weed’s biography? This guy is a hero. A living symbol of the American dream. Virgil would be only so lucky to be half the man Weed is.

    I also think it’s funny that Ahmad apparently doesn’t know anything about IRV. Another great example of how these knee-jerk right wingers love to stake out strong, brash positions on issues before thinking or learning about them at all.

    Anyway, the guy is clearly an asshole. Don’t worry about him – just another angry, overprivileged Nova kid who’s too busy being a Republican to learn something. Nothing new there.

  • http://www.cavalierdaily.com/letters.asp?pid=1183

    they also took a swipe at him today on the comics page

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