By Adam Rubenfire, Daily News Editor
Published August 16, 2012
Top editors of The Red & Black, the University of Georgia’s student newspaper walked out of their newsroom this week after a dispute with the paper’s board of directors over editorial control of the paper.
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The student newspaper’s board of directors — composed of alumni of the paper and local journalists and business leaders —drafted a memoWednesday detailing new responsibilities for the paper’s professional staff, which has grown over the past few months.
The paper has always had a professional adviser to give the editorial staff guidance, but The Red & Black’s editors maintained final editorial control. But, under the restructuring, editorial adviser Ed Morales’ title was changed to editorial director, and he was given final say over all editorial content.
Among other requests, the memo said the paper should be doing more “good” stories about positive events at the school, and less negative, critical stories.
Referring to the “bad” stories, the memo, which was written by board member Ed Stamper said, “I guess this is journalism.”
Though no students remain at the paper, according to the staffers who quit, a statement from the board of directors says the paper continues to be an “independent student media organization.” It encouraged interested UGA students to apply for editorial posts.
The board’s statement said the changes were made in the students’ best interest.
“The changes reflect our board’s optimism and the recognition that we must maintain pace in a rapidly changing world of news delivery beyond our traditional print format,” the statement said. “The board is a volunteer group comprised of former The Red & Black staff and other journalists and business leaders, who have a passion for its heritage and wish to see it remain strong and independent for decades to come.”
The former staff said in a statement Wednesday that approval by an editorial director prior to publishing is not an option.
“It inhibits the teaching process, preventing student journalists from learning from both their successes and mistakes,” the staff’s statement said. “But it is the opinion of The Red & Black’s board that allowing students to make these mistakes as learning journalists will drive away readers. We disagree — and it is our hope that these issues are resolved quickly so that student-driven and student-approved content can continue to be the priority of The Red & Black Publishing Company, as it has been for more than a century.”
Polina Marinova, the paper’s editor-in-chief, said in a statement Wednesday that she wasn’t notified of the board’s changes. In fact, it wasn’t until Marinova e-mailed a board member that she understood the gravity of the situation.
“Even then, nothing was solidified, and I still do not even know what the print product will look like in a week,” Marinova said. “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.”
UGA Senior Evan Stichler — a former chief photographer at the Red and Black who is now running the Red and Dead’s Twitter and other social media accounts — said in an interview Thursday that the board has recently taken an aggressive top-down approach, where the students have little say in how the paper is run.
“It used to not be this way,” Stichler said.