Writers and editors at The Vermont Cynic have long talked about doing “investigative journalism,” quote marks and all. Usually they don’t carry it out.
Undertaking journalism of this kind is a potentially troublesome adventure for college students, most of whom are still in the process of learning how to carry out any kind of reporting, much less the advanced kind.
This semester, however, the Cynic is reaching for the next level.
The paper yesterday published a special edition on campus and at VtCynic.com with just one subject: questionable practices at the university’s food-service provider, Sodexo.
The story is the latest from the Cynic’s new enterprise section, named after the journalistic term for stories that don’t just present themselves to a reporter—like a government meeting or a press release—but must be unearthed by an enterprising reporter.
These investigations are impressive, drawing notice from around the country.
Earlier stories focused on a controversy about campaign ethics in a city election and a little-noticed state law that contributes to making the University of Vermont too expensive for scores of students.
But this week’s story package goes further, investigating claims of worker mistreatment and dirty university kitchens with cross-contaminated food. This kind of writing is urgent, important and revealing.
This new enterprise section—the brainchild of enterprise editor Jacob Holzman—poses a risk for the Cynic. Regular news is tough enough to cover, filled with potential legal pitfalls.
“Many people believe investigative journalism is dying out, especially for people our age,” says the Cynic’s editor-in-chief, Cory Dawson. “Grappling with big, important stories stretches reporters.
“It’s the best way to learn, because we often fail and keep going despite failure.”
News impacts the public in ways that nothing else can: both positively, when it’s done well, and negatively, when it’s not.
Journalists are rightly expected to get everything right all the time: a tall order. An impossibility, really.
But through a careful reporting and editing process, the folks in this newsroom are aiming to get it right.
In every investigation. This time. Next time. Every time.
UVM grads-to-be took over the upper floor of Sweetwaters in downtown Burlington Thursday for the annual student media awards dinner.
Among those honored were a dozen inductees into the organizations’ Four-Year Club, recognizing (as you might expect) those students who committed four or more years of their student experience to an organization. They were:
- For UVMtv: Joseph Oteng
For WRUV-FM: Brad Barratt, Derek Neal, Lev McCarthy, Karla Noboa, Joey Palchak and Alisha Sud.
For The Vermont Cynic: Taylor Feuss, Jonathan Polson, Kevin Santamaria, Natalie Williams and Scott Womer.
Several of the attendees asked for a copy of the slideshow we had playing on the wall. Some of it has been posted below.
Congratulations to each one of you. Go out there and take over the world. And keep in touch.
WRUV hosted a killer party for its new logo Saturday at Burlington City Arts: a circular beauty created with input from every DJ who wanted a say. You can see more on WRUV’s Facebook page.
Photos can be posted at www.facebook.com/lionel.palardy for use in a slideshow.
Musicians and DJs interested in participating should write to the email address listed in the flier, below.
WRUV DJs paid tribute this week—on air and on Facebook—to L.J. Palardy, a DJ who started spinning vinyl at the station 22 years ago.
L.J., known at the station’s curmudgeon—gruff but as committed to WRUV as a person could be—died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 73.
Doug Palardy, his son, shared the news Tuesday with WRUV DJs through their Listserv:
LJ has left me unable to open his obit with “he passed away peacefully surrounded by friends and family” as the the tradition goes. LJ passed in the early hours this morning by himself on his own terms. He was most likely having a philosophical argument with his body telling it his mind has been ready to go for some time and the body better get on board. Classic LJ to the end. As he’d like to say “It’s my way or the highway.”
I want to thank all of you who gave him on-air shout outs the last few days. We were tuned in to 90.1 round the clock yesterday and it was really wonderful to hear all your stories and best wishes. It really made yesterday a lot easier for Michele and I. He had an effect on so many people and it was really wonderful to hear that affirmation.
In tradition at Vermont Respite House, the room of those whom departed is kept empty for 48 hours out of respect. We have requested that the radio be left on WRUV round the clock in his room for the next two days. His spirit will be carrying on with the music.
WRUV station manager Karla Noboa said the WRUV would host a memorial early next year, after students return to UVM. At WRUV, about half of the active DJs are students and about half are non-student DJs, like L.J.
During his more than two decades at the station, L.J. trained hundreds of DJs. A local jazz authority, he also served as WRUV’s jazz music director. He kept station paperwork up to date, sorted the mail (including thousands of CDs) and generally made sure the station was in order.
“I used to panic every time I screwed up cause I thought for sure LJ was going to call and give me the business,” DJ Colin Magarian wrote on the WRUV Facebook page. “His dedication and passion to the music and the station was beyond inspiring.
“He made the on-air booth feel like church to me.”
Vermont State Rep. Kesha Ram, a UVM graduate, posted on the page: “LJ taught me how to do radio interviews. He would remind me to smile and said people could always ‘hear’ if someone was smiling on air. Heart of gold, that man.”
DJ Julia Moreno, a UVM junior, wrote simply: “best curmudgeon ever.”
L.J. this summer ended his regular Sunday-morning show, “L.J.’s Dream,” which featured jazz but also an eclectic music mix.
He made a special return last month to host his annual Thanksgiving special: three hours of salsa music that he called “Turkey Salsa.” It was his final show.
L.J.’s friend and fellow DJ Tom Tintle said that L.J. had donated his body to the UVM Medical Center.
Tintle said:”He won’t be cremated until he gets to show yet a few more UVM students a thing or two.”
Details about WRUV’s memorial service, planned for the end of January, will be announced when they are available.
This past weekend, I received College Media Association’s 2014 award for Distinguished Multimedia Adviser at a four-year school. I’d like to thank CMA and the awards committee for thinking me worthy, the Vermont Cynic Editor-in-Chief Natalie Williams for nominating me and the Cynic staff for being really too nice in their congratulations.
It’s been a great honor advising UVM student media for the past eight-plus years, and I look forward to many more.
As they often do, the Cynic staff took home more than their share of award from the Best of Show competition at the national college media convention, sponsored by CMA and Associated College Press and convened this year in Philadelphia. This time, they placed in categories for four-year weekly tabloid newspaper, special edition and multimedia package.
As always, congratulations to them!