The entire student staff of the University of Georgia “independent student newspaper,” The Red and Black, resigned en mass yesterday after returning to campus for the fall semester and discovering “that [in less than a month, The Red & Black has hired more than 10 permanent staff with veto power over students’ decisions.”
Editor-in-Chief Polina Marinova described the reasons behind the mass resignations in this public letter:
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.
According to The Red and Black website:
The Red & Black is UGA’s award-winning newspaper. Established in 1893 and independent of the University since 1980, The Red & Black is the largest college newspaper in Georgia and the 10th largest newspaper in the state. Each week, nearly 45,000 students, faculty and staff turn to The Red & Black for thorough coverage of University and local news, UGA and national sports, campus and local variety, opinions and commentary, sudoku and crossword puzzles, classifieds, and hundreds of ads for products and services…The Red and Black Publishing Company, Inc. is an independent, private, not-for-profit corporation established in 1980…
Founded in 1893, after 87 years operating under the University of Georgia umbrella, independent status was approved by the State Board of Regents in 1980… The Red and Black newspaper is operationally and financially independent from the University of Georgia. The paper receives no student activity fees or other funding from UGA. The paper is self sufficient through the sale of advertising. Our purpose: Our two-fold mission is: to provide a training ground for students interested in gaining experience in various aspects of newspaper publishing and to produce a high quality newspaper for the University of Georgia community. ..
As a 501 (C) (3) not-for-profit corporation, The Red and Black is governed by… [a] volunteer board of directors..The board of directors appoints the publisher and student managers & editors to carry out the day-to-day duties of publishing the newspaper.
When contacted this morning by Breitbart News about the current editorial staff and management of the newspaper, a spokespersons stated that “we are in the process of sorting everything out this morning.”
A phone call requesting a comment for this article from publisher Harry Montevideo has not yet been returned.
The Red & Black’s student editor-in-chief, Polina Marinova, along with other top student editors and staff members, walked out after Ed Morales, who had been the paper’s editorial adviser and then became editorial director, was given full editorial control of the newspaper.“The students have lost control of the paper, and a student newspaper is supposed to be run by students,” Amanda Jones, design editor for The Red & Black, said in a phone interview. “We’re losing power while they are hiring permanent employees that are not students. We are losing control. At this point, every single top staffer walked out.”In a post on RedandDead, a blog set up by Marinova, she said, “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.”On Aug. 6, Kent Middleton, head of the journalism department at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and a member of The Red & Black’s board of directors, sent out an email detailing the upcoming changes to The Red & Black. Among those changes were appointing Morales the editorial director, hiring new non-student marketing and product managers, a multimedia director, a business manager and a creative director.According to Jones, staff members also have gotten memos about how they are no longer allowed to make mistakes.“You’re supposed to make mistakes and learn,” Jones said.The editorial staff of The Red & Black have set up a Twitter account, @redanddead815, to get the word out about what happened and why they walked out.“We still have tons of alumni supporting us, texting and tweets from recent grads who are supportive,” Jones said. “Our biggest thing is getting the word out.”Morales had no comment when reached by phone Wednesday evening.
Breitbart News asked for a comment from Professor Kent Middleton this morning, but has not received a response yet.
Michael Patrick Leahy is a Breitbart News contributor, Editor of Broadside Books’ Voices of the Tea Party e-book series, and author of Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement.