Every Hoo Has a Story: Don’t Take It Personally

May 16, 2024 By Mike Mather, mike.mather@virginia.edu Mike Mather, mike.mather@virginia.edu

Perhaps the most telling lesson Ava MacBlane learned in her four years at the University of Virginia didn’t happen in a classroom.

She learned it while working at The Cavalier Daily, the independent student newspaper where MacBlane recently served as editor-in-chief. And that lesson is: When grown adults she doesn’t know take shots at her on social media, and call her and her colleagues names, it’s best to keep a little emotional distance.

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Still, turning the other digital cheek isn’t always easy.

UVA Today sat down with MacBlane, a Spanish and English major, as part of our series, “Every Hoo Has a Story.” The premise is simple: Put two chairs on the Lawn, approach random fourth-year students and ask them to tell us about their time on Grounds.

MacBlane, still sweaty from a morning run, wandered by and we invited her to chat.

It’s been a hard four years for anyone to be a journalist, and maybe especially for UVA student journalists. MacBlane – a twin raised by a single mother who now calls Richmond home – ended her term as the publication’s editor-in-chief in January. She earned that top position rising through The Cavalier Daily’s leadership ranks during particularly challenging times: COVID-19 and the shutdown of classes; the 2022 murders of three football players and wounding of two other athletes; and the beginnings of tensions between Jewish and Palestinian students after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. 

The editorials and articles she wrote or edited sometimes angered influential alumni and occasionally irked University administrators. But she said, the University gave her and her staff plenty of space and grace to grow into their roles. President Jim Ryan even featured her on his podcast

“I will say to the credit of the University administration and communications team, they’re very understanding that we are all students, and we are learning and navigating this,” she said. 

Because, like most everywhere else, local news operations in Charlottesville are thinner than they used to be, MacBlane and her peers at The Cavalier Daily felt pressure to add more community coverage. That meant she often worked at the paper 40 hours a week. Add to that her classes, her work on theater productions, and providing tours as a member of the student-run guide service and, suddenly, it was all too much.

It crashed down around her during last year’s final exams when she had sequestered herself for a series of all-nighters in Clemons Library.

“And I remember I was sitting on the third floor, no windows, and I had been in there for seven hours straight writing this paper, and I was like, ‘I can’t do it. I’m not going to graduate. I am going to drop out and go back to Richmond. This paper is not worth it,’” she recalled. 

“I remember it being obviously emotionally difficult because I felt so much pressure to succeed in all of these areas, and I just really didn’t know if I could do it,” she continued. “I don’t know that I can be a person in all of these realms right now. Can I be a good student? Can I be a good journalist? Can I be a good family member, a good friend? And that’s hard to sit there and go, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing?’”

But, like the rest of the roughly 8,000 members of the Class of 2024, she got through it.

Fast forward to now, MacBlane is preparing to walk the Lawn she’s lived on since August. Then, she’ll put her Spanish degree to use on a one-year trip to Spain, and later forge ahead with a career in writing.

And, ever the journalist, she had a question for us:

“Are you hiring?”

Media Contact

Mike Mather

Managing Editor University Communications