Top Red & Black editors rehired

GEORGIA – Five days after resigning in protest over concerns about editorial control, The Red & Black’s top editors have been reinstated by the paper’s board.

Polina Marinova and Julia Carpenter were the only candidates running to be the paper’s editor-in-chief and managing editor, respectively, in a search that was opened up to the student body. The pair’s reinstatement was a reassurance to newspaper staffers who feared the board would be reluctant to rehire those who initiated the walk-out.

“It finally feels like we’ve been heard,” Marinova said.

Board vice chairwoman Melita Easters described the meeting with the two editors as “cordial” and said she is pleased that both will be returning to work at the paper.

“We all are satisfied that they have a real commitment to The Red & Black and that they have a lot of good ideas for moving forward and getting beyond the misunderstandings of the last few days,” Easters said.

In Monday’s interviews, and discussion that followed, Marinova, Carpenter and the board worked out agreements on students’ concerns that lingered following a tense meeting Friday, when the board apologized for overreaching into newsroom management and emphasized that student editors would continue to have final oversight over news content.

Student editors say other questions that remained after Friday’s meeting – the issue of prior review and student representation on the board – also were addressed Monday.

The board announced Friday that it had changed Ed Morales’ title back to editorial adviser from editorial director. But board members would not answer students’ questions about whether that meant Morales would still be expected to review stories before publication, as the infamous memo that prompted the walk-out suggested. Morales himself told students there would be no mandatory prior review.

Marinova said she and Carpenter insisted that the statement issued jointly by the board and the two editors explicitly rule out prior review, something the board member’s present initially balked at including.

“I think they thought it was redundant,” Marinova said, adding that the board members’ proposed statement said that students would have editorial control.

Students also sought both representation on the board and a copy of its bylaws. The bylaws were promised to students Friday and provided Monday by Harry Montevideo, the paper’s publisher. They call for two student members to serve in an ex officio, non-voting capacity, Marinova said.

“Us having two seats on the board is just so, so important,” she said. “I think from now on we can move on and work together.”

In addition to the student seats, the board will also be filling slots vacated by two members who resigned in the last week. Ed Stamper, the architect of the memo that prompted the students’ walk-out, tendered his resignation Friday.

An additional seat opened up Monday evening, when, following Marinova and Carpenter’s reinstatement, attorney and newspaper alumnus Charles Russell announced he was leaving the board.

“I cannot in my mind – and will not in my heart – be a party to what you are about to do as a board today,” Russell wrote in a letter he posted on an alumni Facebook group.

Russell, who could not be reached for comment, also called on Kent Middleton to quit the board, alleging a conflict of interest. Middleton is the head of the journalism department at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Easters said the board was impressed by the many “eloquent” statements issued by alumni throughout the controversy, and said several had expressed interest in joining the board.

Carpenter said the she and Marinova felt much better after the meeting with the board. Marinova says the two plan to meet with the board in the coming months to discuss ways to improve the paper.

“I feel like The Red & Black as a whole is better for this,” Carpenter said. “We wouldn’t have (quit) unless we felt there was no other option.”

Marinova plans to rehire all of the editors who resigned with her, and the paper’s regular edition will be on stands Thursday., the website students created to document their grievances and to publish news on during the walk-out, will remain intact though inactive, Carpenter said.

“It’s going to exist as a part of history,” she said.

By Sara Gregory, SPLC staff writer.