By AUSTIN DeFOOR – Web Master
Wednesday, Aug. 16, the editorial staff of the University of Georgia’s independently run newspaper walked out, resigning in protest of a non-student being named Editorial Director.
Former Editor-in-Chief of The Red & Black Polina Marinova led the walkout, bringing other editors and staff members with her. All of this followed a memo sent to the staff outlining the new responsibilities of Editorial Director Ed Morales – a member of the professional staff who had been promoted to the position early this month.
“We didn’t do this to tick off the (Board of Directors), we didn’t do this to go with a plan, it just happened because it was something we didn’t belive in,” Marinova said. ”If (the Board) makes an effort to listen to us, then I think we might go back. I’m not sure; I can’t speak for everyone on this (situation).”
They have labeled themselves as “Red & Dead, The former staff of The Red & Black,” publishing redanddead.com to continue their roles as journalists on the UGA campus. Following the Wednesday evening ordeal, Marinova posted her official resignation on the website.
“Recently, we began feeling serious pressure from people who were not students,” Marinova said in her resignation. “In less than a month, The Red & Black has hired more than 10 permanent staff with veto power over students’ decisions.”
The former staff will continue their role as journalists on the UGA campus on their website.
“We, the former staff of The Red & Black — all of its editors and the great majority of its writers, photographers and designers — will continue to produce content driven by and for our audience: the University students and members of the Athens community,” a statement released by Marinova on redanddead.com said Thursday, Aug. 16.
The memo, drafted by Ed Stamper – a member of the Board who tendered his resignation Friday – granted the Editorial Director the ability to have final say on all articles being published. It also stated that the Editorial Director is “accountable for the final product,” and that each publication should have “a balance of good and bad” stories.
The memo defined “good” news as “content that is about our audience doing something unique, helpful, outstanding, new (or) dramatic … content that our readers have asked for,” and “bad” stories as “content that catches people or organizations doing bad things. I guess this is ‘journalism.’”
It went on to say that “if in question, have more good than bad.”
Harry Montevideo, publisher of The Red & Black, issued a statement in response to the resignations, publishing it on redandblack.com the following day.
“In an effort to provide a better product for our readers of print and digital news and to provide better training for our student journalists, The Red & Black recently decided to add additional professionals to both the editorial and business staff, half of whom are part time,” Montevideo said. “The Red & Black does not plan to have these professionals assume the role of our student Editor-in-Chief.”
Friday, Aug. 19, an open house was held at The Red & Black offices for former staff members and media representatives to here statements on behalf of various parties.
Montevideo was involved in an altercation with Grady Newsource reporter Josh Buce during the open house, after Buce ignored instructions to remain in the lobby before statements were issued. Montevideo declined to comment on the altercation and resignations.
At the open house, Board Vice President Melita Easters delivered a statement on behalf of the entire Board.
“The student editor has always had the final editorial decision responsibility for our news content,” Easters said. “That is still the case. The professional staff who work on the editorial side of this newspaper are intended to be coaches and advisers only.”
Morales made clear his return to the position of Editorial Adviser to the audience of former staff members and media representatives.
“I’ve been a part of what we’ve been doing for the last seven years because I care about what we’re doing here and I care about the students and I care about The Red & Black,” Morales said.
Easters also clarified that the former staff could return to their positions.
“We welcome all applicants for those currently vacant positions, including those who recently resigned,” Easters said
Former Editor-in-Chief Chuck Reece, who was on staff as the publication became independent in 1980, delivered a statement supporting the students.
“I’m glad to hear that (the Board) has rescinded the requirement that the Editorial Director have final accountability for the paper’s content,” Reece said. “That accountability belongs only to the students as it does at every other academic college newspaper in the nation, according to the Student Press Law Center.”
Former Opinions Editor for The Red & Black also read a letter signed by over 100 Red & Black alumni that supported the students’ actions.
In a statement released following the open house Friday on redanddead.com, the former staff was pleased with what has been accomplished.
“We, the former staff of The Red & Black, are thankful and excited for the progress that has been made today, following the afternoon meeting with representatives from the Board of Directors,” the statement said. “Prior review is off the table; student editors retain final content approval.”
The statement also said that Marinova and former Managing Editor Julia Carpenter would re-apply for their positions on staff. It did not give insight as to whether other former staff members would return to the newspaper.
However, it did express that they would help ensure the future of the publication.
“Today is the first day of an ongoing conversation between The Red & Black’s students, professionals and its board. Together we will work to ensure that The Red & Black continues to be a place of learning and great journalism.”