University of Virginia Library

A Reply

In his Colloquium piece (The Cavalier
Daily, February 25), John Lankford makes
several allegations concerning this newspaper,
which because they are based on half-truth
and misunderstanding, entice a certain
interest and oblige us to reply.

First, there is Mr. Lankford's failure to
grasp the implications of the Woodbridge Bill
recently introduced at the statehouse in
Richmond. Instead of the liberating,
option-laden device Mr. Lankford lauds, the
measure, if enacted, would secure nothing so
much as a state mechanism for selective
retaliation against student papers at
state-supported colleges. To insist, as Mr.
Lankford does, that the Woodbridge proposal
offers each student a clear choice in the
matter of buying, or not buying, the student
newspaper, is to miss the whole point.

The bill, which is not expected to survive
subcommittee hearings, would require that
today's student-subsidized newspapers in the
future take their allocation requests directly
to the legislature. Hence all local autonomy -
in our own case that of the Student Activities
Committee - would be abrogated in favor of
central state control. With established values
like First Amendment freedom of expression
forced to compete with more esoteric
concerns - Del. Woodbridge has cited "bad
taste" and "four-letter words" - such
newspapers would indeed be lucky to
continue in any form, however crippled and

And why, if the measure aims merely to
streamline financing procedures, does it apply
only to newspapers? Why not to the athletic
department? Or the English Club? Politics,
that's why; and those who seek to destroy
this newspaper - for whatever reason - have
only to await the day when a successful
Woodbridge Bill emerges.

So for a while, at least, the "same old
left-leaning newspaper" will plod along. Mr.
Lankford chides The Cavalier Daily because
"its staff has become complacent about its
own viability," too removed from some grand
"marketplace of ideas." Exactly what ideas
Mr. Lankford entertains are uncertain. We are
inclined to note that the Colloquium article is
his first appearance in these pages, thus
stirring our wonder that someone so critically
perceptive and afire with ideas should make
so late an arrival in the "marketplace." In
fact, this newspaper has traditionally assumed
the same level of complacency which marks
the community in general, and to criticize
without first attempting to pursue more
active means of reform - from the inside is
to invite the charge of dilettantism.

As for the suggestion of discernible bias in
news reporting, we cite the Associated
Collegiate Press, which last week awarded The
Cavalier Daily its "mark of distinction" for
news writing and editing. Though not without
shortcomings, this newspaper falls squarely
into the "cult of objectivity" which governs
most modern dailies.

Finally, on a more positive note, Mr.
Lankford observes that the quality of the
paper might improve if individual sales and
subscriptions could replace direct subsidy. We
would like nothing better; first, because
income would rise proportionally with the
considerable increase in cost to consumers;
and, second, because the independent status
such an arrangement might afford would be
healthy for the paper. It is not an idea we
have neglected, and perhaps in a few years
such a change will become possible.

But now - for a variety of reasons - the
plan is impractical. With its highly diffuse
residential pattern (unlike those at Harvard,
Yale, and Princeton, where home delivery is
easily carried out), the University is a terribly
difficult newspaper market to reach. The
number of sales personnel required to
distribute the paper would guarantee in
contrast to the current copy cost of a few
cents a day - a prohibitive increase in cost
per issue.

We envision a time in the near future when
independent status will indeed become a
reality. But in the interim, while the
University itself pays nothing, while the
faculty and staff continue to read the
newspaper free of charge, and as long as
students alone are expected to bear the cost,
there is little we can do. Next year we
anticipate cutting by as much as twenty-five
per cent our request to the Student Activities
Committee. And we will work toward the day
when the bureaucratic necessities of enforced
support can be superseded by the selling
power of a viable, credible, and self-sufficient