UGA Red & Black staff walks out today in protest. Is it now Red & Dead?

UPDATED THURSDAY MORNING:

The student staff of the Red and Black, the acclaimed University of Georgia student-run newspaper, walked out en masse Wednesday to protest what the student journalists consider intrusive oversight of what had been one of the nation’s most well known independent campus publications.

Expect a lot of news coverage as many Atlanta journalists worked at the Red & Black while students at UGA. Please keep in mind that the newspaper is an independent, non-profit enterprise that supports itself largely through ad sales. It is not under UGA or President Michael Adams and receives no direct university support. That independence has given it far greater freedom over the years to criticize the university and its policies.

The Red & Black publisher Harry Montevideo has responded to student charges that their role was being minimized and that the board was giving more powers to non journalists to dictate content and that the focus was shifting from “news” to “good news.” He says:

“The Red and Black has always championed the best interest of student journalists.  Core to our mission is providing the best possible training and experience which mirrors the real world. The changes occurring here reflect an ongoing commitment for the Red & Black Publishing Company, Inc to continue to offer a news product which is relevant for and accessible to our audience as we also train student journalists for futures in a rapidly changing world of news delivery beyond our traditional print format. There will be a quality student newspaper in our racks tomorrow, as there will be next week and the week after.

In a letter on a new blog, Red & Dead, former editor Polina Marinova explains:

The Red & Black’s top editors, design staff, photo staff and reporters walked out of the newspaper building this afternoon.

The Red & Black has covered the University of Georgia community since 1893 and has been independent of the University since 1980. The newspaper has always been a student-run operation, but recently we began feeling serious pressure from people who were not students. In less than a month, The Red & Black has hired more than 10 permanent staff with veto power over students’ decisions.

In a draft outlining the “expectations of editorial director at The Red & Black,” a member of The Red & Black’s Board of Directors stated the newspaper needs a balance of good and bad. Under “Bad,” it says, “Content that catches people or organizations doing bad things. I guess this is ‘journalism.’ If in question, have more GOOD than BAD.”

I took great offense to that, but the board member just told me this is simply a draft. But one thing that would not change is that the former editorial adviser, now the editorial director, would see all content before it is published online and in print. For years, students have had final approval of the paper followed by a critique by the adviser only after articles were published. However, from now on, that will not be the case. Recently, editors have felt pressure to assign stories they didn’t agree with, take “grip and grin” photos and compromise the design of the paper.

But what’s most alarming to me is that there was no input from The Red & Black student staff about any of these changes. I was doing an internship this summer, and I did not receive any materials related to these changes until I emailed the board member about it.

Even then, nothing was solidified, and I still do not even know what the print product will look like in a week. I’ve worked at this paper since I was a freshman and held multiple leadership positions. This semester, we have a really talented, smart and dedicated staff that had no voice in these changes. It all came from the top, not from the students.

The Red & Black has always been the best experience for student journalists. It’s no longer a place where lessons can be learned without “serious repercussions.” We don’t believe that is a learning environment.

As the former editor-in-chief, I stood by my editors and staff 100 percent, and what I found out today was that we all stood together.

You can read more about the controversy on this Facebook page for Red & Black alums, many of whom work in Atlanta media.  You can also read more about today’s events at the Athens Banner-Herald.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

154 comments Add your comment

BehindEnemyLines

August 16th, 2012
12:52 am

re: “we all stood together.” … on the sidewalk, which is pretty much where anyone who fails to heed the instructions of their boss ends up. Sounds like one of the most valuable educational lessons possible.

Beverly Fraud

August 16th, 2012
2:01 am

Under “Bad,” it says, “Content that catches people or organizations doing bad things. I guess this is ‘journalism.’ If in question, have more GOOD than BAD.”

Has this guy never heard of the Fourth Estate? It’s a NEWSPAPER, not a P.R. firm for the university.

Beverly Fraud

August 16th, 2012
2:04 am

Mareen, is it fair to say that UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication has become a DISGRACE to good journalism with their actions in this matter?

Dr. John Trotter

August 16th, 2012
2:06 am

Prior restraint, huh? I am not sure that Henry W. Grady would be proud of the decision to come down upon a free press, even if it does have ties to the University. Grady was a pretty free-spirited journalist with his pen. He came down to Atlanta from Rome, Georgia at age 22 to become the Editor of The Atlanta Daily Herald, a very “sprightly” journal, as it has been called. My great, great grandfather, Robert A. Alston, was the publisher, and he and Grady often fretted how to keep it going and free and independent, even mortgaging Grady’s mother’s home on Prince Avenue in Athens. But, my point is that they wanted to keep the newspaper free and independent. A newspaper that is not free is not really part of the Fourth Estate.

Dr. John Trotter

August 16th, 2012
2:07 am

@ Beverly Fraud: It is eerie how we often think alike.

Norcross

August 16th, 2012
2:08 am

UGA is a joke of a school. Take the best and brightest from a state ranked 49th in secondary education, and you get…a football team.

Newschick

August 16th, 2012
2:48 am

Here are the names of the board as listed on the Red and Black website…. Are there any working journalists among them? My Google search was not exhaustive but I see one retired journalist and it looks like at least three are on the business, non-editorial side of media — not journalists. Perhaps AJC reporters can poll the group to see whether they voted on this and who supported the takeover and who did not:

Elliott Brack, President, Chairman of the Board, Norcross, GA
Melita Easters, Vice President, Atlanta, Georgia
Chris Stone, Secretary, Nolensville, Tennessee
Don Carter, Sea Island, GA
Carroll Dadisman, Tallahassee, Florida
Amy Glennon, Atlanta, GA
Bill Krueger, Raleigh, North Carolina
Ron Lane, Athens, Georgia
Kent Middleton, Athens, Georgia
Harry Montevideo, Treasurer, Publisher
Burgett Mooney, Rome, Georgia
Charles Russell, Atlanta, Georgia
Alexis Scott, Atlanta, Georgia
Ed Stamper, Norcross, Georgia
Patricia Templeton, Atlanta, Georgia
Liz Thorington, Atlanta, Georgia

Mutual Respect

August 16th, 2012
4:30 am

@ BehindEnemyLines

I think the argument can be made that they should not have walked
out, but the students did have a responsibility to fight for professional
standards of journalism since they are in training to be future journalist.

A similar incident happened with a newspaper in Santa Barbara,California
where reporters complained to the National Labor Relations Board about
accusing the owner of exercising excessive oversight and retaliation toward
employees.

Link Below

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/08/newspaper-publisher-retaliated-against-former-reporters-board-rules.html

UGA Student

August 16th, 2012
6:10 am

Good riddance to the staff! If they call themselves journalists, then I MUST be a genius. During the first month of attendance at UGA I picked up a copy of Red & Black, only to see their front page news was how to become a sugar baby. REALLY?! Of course, I’m sure the “nail in their coffin” was a supposed tongue & cheek piece about how to catch a husband while attending UGA. This young lady managed to catch the spotlight nationally while fending off attacks from both demographics. Yeah, journalism at its best….You won’t see me shedding a single tear over their departure or the lack of this “newspaper”.

mountain man

August 16th, 2012
6:35 am

The original break from the University happened in 1980 because of exactly the same thing: censorship by the controlling editors (then it was the University). Ever heard of the term “free press”. Guess not.

mountain man

August 16th, 2012
6:36 am

Norcross – I just wish we had a football team (actually I wish we had a Coach).

Miss Priss!

August 16th, 2012
7:18 am

Well maybe ol’ Monica can whip them back into shape! She sure does have some nice clothes!

Rodney

August 16th, 2012
7:21 am

This is sad because now the University has started a new more powerful blogging force that they wont be able to even advise on! Watch out if anyone has anything to hide who had a hand in this surpression of speech!

redweather

August 16th, 2012
7:26 am

Leigh

August 16th, 2012
7:48 am

I worked for my college newspaper for 4 years. I understand where the students are coming from and I totally agree. I would have walked out as well.

catlady

August 16th, 2012
7:50 am

This is a battle that has been fought before. You’d think we have this settled. The job of the R and B is to report all things of interest. The president’s office has PR staff to provide all the bright and shinies.

To those who say they should just follow the boss’ orders–this is why we have a free press!

Newschick

August 16th, 2012
8:33 am

Check out the Red and Black website “About Us” link for the names of the non-student board members who apparently sanctioned this takeover. Most of them are not journalists.

Theron Sapp

August 16th, 2012
8:33 am

Mountain Man @ 6:35 is right. The R&B separated from the university in 1980. The R&B is a corporation, and this is a dispute between the student staff and their corporate board, which has installed non-student management (contrary to the spirit and mission of a student newspaper, in my view). This has nothing to do with UGA, the president or the journalism school.

An Observer

August 16th, 2012
8:36 am

So how does this problem get resolved. Do the students now go back to work having won no concessions, or do the editors and permanent staff fully take over and start writing the articles?

[...] Did you expect better than this from a draft memo written by one of the new overseers of the newspaper? In a draft outlining the “expectations of editorial director at The Red & Black,” a member of The Red & Black’s Board of Directors stated the newspaper needs a balance of good and bad. Under “Bad,” it says, “Content that catches people or organizations doing bad things. I guess this is ‘journalism.’ If in question, have more GOOD than BAD.” [...]

Solutions

August 16th, 2012
8:45 am

Hmmmm, where Cindy Lou goes, trouble is sure to follow……..

Solutions

August 16th, 2012
8:47 am

I suggest the students start a new, renegade on-line only newspaper! Defy authority, always works for me…….

Howard Finkelstein

August 16th, 2012
8:47 am

The students/malcontents who walked out, should be expelled.

jim satterly

August 16th, 2012
9:17 am

Newschick, Melita Easters began working for the AJC in 1979, with the DeKalb Extra. Her desk was in front of mine. I don’t think she was there for more than a couple of years. Alexis Scott worked in various editorial and management positions for years, and was highly regarded. A Ron Lane was a teacher in the journalism school when I was there (1967-71), and if it’s the same guy he’d have to be well into his 70s.

bootney farnsworth

August 16th, 2012
9:35 am

what likely happened…

Adams and Co started not liking what they saw in R&B. an envoy from the PR office went over and had a meeting with management, where management was informed in a very round about way that UGA does lots of business with advertisers who support R&B.

the rest is pretty simple.

Adams and Co don’t seem like the kind who would shy away from intimidation.

Follow the Course

August 16th, 2012
9:38 am

Good lesson for the Kiddies who walked out … they can make their point so well from the sidewalk … good lesson that “change” can only be made for working from the “inside”.

Point made … “throw one hands-up … pout” … Kiddies there is nothing truly equal, really fair … and Oh … Guaranteed

bootney farnsworth

August 16th, 2012
9:38 am

funny to read some of these posts about them being malcontents, needing to be expelled, ect.
the greatest people in US history fall into that category.

but hey, why stop there? how about yellow armbands and patches on their shirts?

Richard Simmons

August 16th, 2012
9:40 am

Howard Finkelstein: Expelled? For what reason? The R&B is not part of the university, it is an independent, non-profit newspaper. You sound like a good little NAZI, just do your job and shut up, who needs ethics, right?

bootney farnsworth

August 16th, 2012
9:40 am

agree with it or not, they took a stand for what they believed in.

those kids already showed more character and courage than most of the participants of this blog ever have or will.

bootney farnsworth

August 16th, 2012
9:43 am

@ observer

it ultimately depends who UGA fears more. the regional press or the local community.

LawDawg

August 16th, 2012
9:45 am

BehindEnemyLines : What the hell are you talking about? This is not a paid gig and the board is not supposed to be their “bosses”. Otherwise what you said . . . still really does not make any sense.

bootney farnsworth: exactly right. The comment about requiring “grip and grin” photos and stories says it all. The University is trying to turn the venerable R&B into a propaganda tool for the Administration.

LawDawg

August 16th, 2012
9:47 am

Follow the Course: Ellipses are not a substitute for making a coherent point.

Howard Finkelstein

August 16th, 2012
9:49 am

“but hey, why stop there? how about yellow armbands and patches on their shirts?”

Good Idea!! Yellow armbands to match Mayor Kasim Reeds yellow teeth.

ugastudentlawyer

August 16th, 2012
9:49 am

The publication has gone down the tubes recently anyways. The anti-greek opinion pieces and 150 word arrest reports about freshmen who get arrested for underage possession, I have a hard time really feeling sorry for their lack of “journalistic” (and I use that word very loosely) freedom.

bootney farnsworth

August 16th, 2012
9:55 am

having just read the memo redweather posted, the meat of it is in a small line about balancing good & bad. this is screaming code for spinning the news in the direction UGA / Adams wants it to go.

not being a UGA alum, I’ve rarely read the R&B, but I can make some guesses; unflattering stories -about the football team
-about Adams heavy handedness
-crime stats UGA doesn’t want public
-the heavy handed, Rambo like behavior of the Athens police
-student binge drinking
-not having the “proper” racial balance in stories and photos
-rampant wasteful spending by Adams on pet projects
-examples of how monies which should be spend on education were spent everywhere but

bootney farnsworth

August 16th, 2012
9:57 am

@ follow the course

sorry, that line of thinking is
1-dead wrong
2-the preferred line of dictators, tyrants, and tin pot despots the world over.

historically real change only occurs when exterior forces compel it.

Follow the Course

August 16th, 2012
9:58 am

LawDawg … and your point from a “students” prospective?

GaBlue

August 16th, 2012
10:00 am

GOOD FOR THEM! Brave young people with integrity. POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

bootney farnsworth

August 16th, 2012
10:02 am

in any industry, when all your top people walk out, it is a major signal something is very wrong.

Alphare

August 16th, 2012
10:06 am

UGA cannot manage a little newspaper, Georgia unemployment rate goes up…

And the whole state is in the hands of republicans…

It’s all Obama’s fault! LOL.

Amazed

August 16th, 2012
10:06 am

There are UGA students that are literate now? Wow.

Follow the Course

August 16th, 2012
10:07 am

bootney … “top people walk out” is the key … then they must start anew, create their own … the “top people” quitting gave up any “ownership” they had … whether “something (is) very wrong” or not … they quit … they (may) have proved their point … but what have they changed …

only “ownership” wins

bootney farnsworth

August 16th, 2012
10:10 am

Rodney makes an excellent point.

in these days/times, this trick will not succeed as hoped. there are too many ways to get information out around. this may work for awhile, but will bite them in the long haul

bootney farnsworth

August 16th, 2012
10:11 am

@ follow

history and human nature is not on your side

Inman Park Boy

August 16th, 2012
10:12 am

I have a former student who is currently a writer for the Red and Black. He walked out. I trust his judgment. Stand together kids!

Follow the Course

August 16th, 2012
10:15 am

bootney – you must live longer and read different books … the ones that UGA has not introduced. You are an interesting type …

Pardon My Blog

August 16th, 2012
10:17 am

I am not sure we have any “true” journalists anymore that report the real news and gives us all the facts by which we can form our own opinions. Whether in print or on television, it appears that the so-called journalists pick and choose the facts to fit their own bias if they report the story at all.

bootney farnsworth

August 16th, 2012
10:17 am

here’s what happens in real life

drive off your best and brightest and (as a whole) land on their feet. usually in a better situation.
and with an ax to grind with the idiots who created the issue in the first place.

“ownership” ends up with the least talented, least qualified, least motivate, but biggest rear kissers who (as a whole) do inferior work with much less passion or motivation. quality goes down, reputation goes down, clientele go down.

Craig Fowler

August 16th, 2012
10:18 am

Good luck conforming to, or following, any future policies required by any journalistic related employer after graduation.

bootney farnsworth

August 16th, 2012
10:20 am

I have never claimed any affiliation to UGA.

my favorite place is this amazing thing called the local library. books of all kinds with all different points of view.