Red & Black editors stage walk-out, start new publication

GEORGIA – Top editors at The Red & Black, the independent student newspaper at the University of Georgia, have quit in protest over concerns about students’ editorial authority over the paper’s content.

In a statement on a blog set up by the editors, former Red & Black Editor-in-Chief Polina Marinova said she and other editors have been “feeling serious pressure from people who were not students.”

“For years, students have had final approval of the paper followed by a critique by the adviser only after articles were published,” Marinova wrote. “However, from now on, that will not be the case.”

Student editors’ concerns have been growing for the last month, after changes to the professional staff. Editorial adviser Ed Morales’ title was changed to Editorial Director, and an assistant editorial director was hired as well. The exiled Red & Black staff say that more than 10 professional, non-student staff have been hired.

A memo from the Board of Directors appears to have prompted the walk-out. The memo announces new expectations for the editorial director and professional staff.

The memo outlines that Morales will be responsible for “providing direction to students on what to cover to ensure we are cover topics that are compelling” and “holding our students accountable for quality, by correcting poor quality before publication and grading quality post-publication.”

The memo also advises a mix of “good and bad” content: “BAD: Content that catches people or organizations doing bad things. I guess this is ‘journalism.’ … If in question, have more GOOD than BAD.”

Marinova said in an interview that Morales approached her about the memo today, saying that the two needed to talk.

“Ed explained to me that he would read and be responsible for all the content that was to be published in print,” Marinova said. “I thought this was a student-run paper. Why now?”
Marinova said she was not consulted about the changes suggested in the memo, which is labeled as a draft. No students sit on the paper’s board of directors. 
After talking with Morales, a board member and Harry Montevideo, the paper’s publisher, Marinova said she decided she could not remain as editor. She then met with other student editors.
“They all said, well, we’re going with you. To see that we all stuck together, it was amazing,” she said. “So then everyone packed up their stuff and we all just left.”
Morales and Harry Montevideo, the paper’s publisher, could not be reached for comment. Elliot Brack, the chairman of the paper’s board of directors, declined to comment.

The editors walked out during production of Thursday printed edition. The paper publishes in print once a week, a decision made last year. It’s unclear if any staff remain to complete the paper, what would have been the second of the school year.
The former editors have begun publishing on and on Twitter at @RedandDead815. None of the editors were available for comment.
Student Press Law Center Executive Director Frank LoMonte said the student editors’ accusations raise concerns.

“Without having the benefit of a full investigation, any infringement on student’s autonomy to publish content without heavy-handed oversight is worrisome and would represent a significant step backward for the Red & Black,” he said.