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Top Staff of The Red & Black Student Newspaper at UGA Resigns

The editor-in-chief and her staff on Wednesday walked out of the newspaper building in Athens, Ga.

 

The staff of The , the student newspaper at the University of Georgia, has resigned over issues of editorial control. The members have launched a website, Red and Dead, to get their message out.

Here's a letter from the editor-in-chief that's posted on the Red and Dead website:

I, Polina Marinova, have resigned as the editor-in-chief from The Red & Black, the student newspaper covering the University of Georgia. 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 myself 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 throughout. 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.

Joe Dennis August 16, 2012 at 02:46 AM
I'm proud of the students for standing up for journalism ethics.
Kimberly Davis August 16, 2012 at 03:41 AM
I stand with those who resigned and am proud of them for standing up to this unprecedented move.
Athens Mama August 16, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Go Red and Black staff for taking a stand!! It takes true courage to break the mold like that and go against the grain of kissing the a**es of the ones on top, because of your ethics. Freedom of the press!!
Meg Dure August 16, 2012 at 10:30 AM
I am so impressed by the courage, commitment and show of conviction by these student newspaper people. I would have been right there with them.
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 10:38 AM
I'm sure their adviser, Ed Morales, isn't very happy about the turn of events. I know some of those staff members, and they are first rate. I have called one board member and will call others today to try and figure out what's going on with them. As students, the staff can afford the courage of their convictions, but many of them depend on the money they made at the R and B for school expenses. Such a shame they can't work there....
Ben Wilson August 16, 2012 at 12:20 PM
I assume some of these top-down decisions were made in order to increase ad revenue to the paper to keep the doors open. The R&B was a daily paper when I was in school at UGA from '94-'98. I understand it is only published on Thursdays today. While it's cute and fun to 'walk out' and 'take a stand' about your purported 'journalism ethics', you should step back and realize that you have the opportunity to learn a very important lesson about business and life in this situation, a lesson that many newspapers have had to learn the hard way in the past few years. Like it or not, you are producing a product that requires willful consumption, and that consumption leads to businesses paying money to advertise in that product. If the product stinks, less will consume it, and ad money stops flowing. Given the R&B has been a student-run newspaper since its inception, perhaps the students leading the operation should look in the mirror to understand why they are in this situation in the first place.
Mary-Eleanor Joyce August 16, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I am proud of students standing by their convictions. I am proud that they are fighting to keep the mission of the Red & Black - a mission of education and journalism, not a financial mission. I understand the issues the students are frustrated with, and that the way it was presented by the board must have been infuriating. However, after looking at the Memo in question, I have to say that it made some good points. The standards of journalism and writing at the Red & Black are - in my opinion - unacceptable. I have been misquoted in the Red&Black every single time I have been interviewed (5 different times over 5 years). Grossly misquoted and misrepresented. For a time, I stopped accepting interview requests because I was frustrated with being misrepresented. I was interviewed on mostly unimportant topics, like my band, so these misquotes and misrepresentations were frustrating but ultimately meaningless. I can't imagine how angry I would be if I had been interviewed for an important topic about which I am passionate, and I was misquoted or misrepresented in a similar way. I hope that the board is able to see the student's side and the Red & Black can continue being a Student Newspaper. I also hope that the students are able to take some of these issues to heart and raise the standards of work in the future.
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Mary Eleanor, If I had had your experience at being misquoted, I would never have talked to anyone from the Red and Black again. You must be patient, kind and forgiving. I was interviewed for a magazine story once, and the author didn't just misquote, she MADE UP quotes and attributed them to me. When I called her and her editor, I was told, "Well, that's what her notes said." I went nuts. Hats off to you!
Jesse Tullos August 16, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Is this is the future of journalism? As a student at UGA in 1971-72, I worked for the Red and Black. It was a solid starting point for the next 35 years of my life as a journalist, the last 18 spent as the editor of South Carolina's oldest newspaper. Shame on those now calling the shots. This is a "student" newspaper.
Thomas Brown August 16, 2012 at 07:38 PM
This is America and The University of Georgia's newspaper for our campus by us, the students. If we have to have our message approved by a board before it is printed so that it conforms to root for the home team in every sentence, then it is a newspaper that board wrote, and not us. If you had an issue with articles where you are mis-quoted, send in a letter for printing about it. Not wait until now, and make it sound like this is about that, and not about having someone use a filter to look at articles as to whether or not it puts The University of Georgia, or its football team for example in the light in which we are viewed nationally. We're a great University. We do not need to present only rose-colored views of sordid situations. Should I bring up a specific example ? http://www.redandblack.com/sports/sec-media-days-georgia-s-mark-richt-defends-drug-policy/article_22dd73b2-d1d9-11e1-b3c5-001a4bcf6878.html The Red and Black wrote an excellent article about Mark Richt defending our Drug Policy here at UGA, where Mark Richt is quoted as saying that were Zach Mettenberger still on the squad that he would be competing for, if not the starter, today.
Thomas Brown August 16, 2012 at 07:39 PM
I am sorry; but, that is good journalism. What are we supposed to not report that, if the board of 10 says it might make UGA or UGA's football team, or coach not in a positive light ? I mean good heavens folks. Do we always want to be losing as we are today 9 games in a row to teams who made the top 25 ? Do we only want to beat SEC teams who put a Losing Record ? That's all we have done starting with the Kentucky game in 2007. If advertisers only want positive news, maybe they should pay for a commercial page to somehow refute the fact that we do have drug issues on our football team, our coach then has to address. Again, this is America. If the journalism calls for this story, there is nothing wrong in printing it. There does not need to be a board who says oh maybe this doesn't look good for UGA or our Coach, or our football team, so you cannot print that. I can assure you when this is all over, that the students will write their own stories. If it is not at the Red and Black and that has been taken over by a board of non-students without any even input from the students, that the newspaper will simply be called something else, and done somewhere else. I am not into censorship. I do not care one iota under what guise you attempt to hide behind to employ it.
Miles Andrews August 16, 2012 at 10:45 PM
The Red and Black sucked before when it entirely "student-controlled." I rarely read the craptastic material while I was a student at UGA from 2006-2009. I think the "student staff" at the R&B think a little too highly of their "journalistic independence." If what I read while I was a student there was considered by them to be "doing a good job," then they NEEDED outside supervision.
Miles Andrews August 16, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Oh and by the way, good luck with that "take my ball and go home" attitude in the real, non-University-subsidized world where walking out on your job like that will be a good way to make sure you're broke and unemployed in short order. Newsflash: you'll always have superiors and you won't always like their decisions. Grow up.
Thomas Brown August 17, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Miles, that is not what this is all about at all. All of the information is there available for you to read. I did. The students have to post positive only stories, not stories which are stories of UGA or its programs which are viewed as bad. It has nothing to do with the fact that the articles are not to your liking, as to what they do discuss. Ok, so the Red and Black was not a great newspaper done by hacks who have the ability to write a come-on story to get people to pick up the paper and actually read it when I was a student either. But, at least the students could write about whatever they wanted to write about, not having a filter placed on their stories that the stories had to be ones which are rose-colored glasses viewpoints of everything on campus. Anyone taking pot shots at the students are certainly welcome to do so. You will note that this newspaper Athens Patch allows you to have your own opinion and to come in here and write it. So, what you want is because the students did not do a world-class newspaper when you were a student, or me either, is that the students do not have the right to write a negative article about UGA and happenings on our campus, the students do not agree with. But, you demand that right yourself to write the article you just wrote.
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) August 17, 2012 at 01:39 AM
The Red and Black newspaper has been a place for students to learn how to write and edit news stories; to learn how to sell ads; and to determine what is and isn't news. Through the years, it has been a good, sometimes great, product for the UGA community, especially for the students. I always knew it was done by students, but so what? it's supposed to be done by students. I don't understand this sudden push to hire "professionals" to take over jobs traditionally done by students. Like the managing editor and the ad manager. Where are the students in those jobs? Maybe there's a good explanation for these drastic changes. And maybe it will be made public. For the time being, I believe that memo was strange and the changes are puzzling. The students did what they felt was right and best, for themselves and for the Red and Black. I can't fault someone for showing the courage of his or her convictions. I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting more details to emerge.
Thomas Brown August 17, 2012 at 02:13 AM
I, for one, have seen more than enough of the details already. Censor what they write about to be positive feel-good stories only, and then defend that by saying oh, no, we're not censoring what the students write about or how they write about it.
Miles Andrews August 17, 2012 at 04:01 PM
I'm not a "journalist," or an aspiring journalist. If the former R&B writers want to be bloggers, then they made the right decision. It's not a good career decision, but now they can write whatever they want. News is not about writing whatever you want. No writer at any newspaper in America gets to write "whatever they want."

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