Student reporters stick it to Cowsert

The Red & Black, the University of Georgia’s “premiere newspaper” (or, as they call themselves, the “dominant news source”) blasted GA 46 Republican Senate candidate Bill Cowsert in an editorial today.

The article, which appeared in the “Our Take: Majority opinions of The Red & Black’s editorial board” section, was entitled Cowsert can’t call: The man running for State Senate in Athens too preoccupied for press. In the piece, the editors excoriated him for “not returning calls,” saying that “one of the few explanations one can assume” is that “Cowsert doesn’t care about our readers.”

The students write:

If the mass-communication media is a direct link between a candidate
and thousands of voters in whatever district they’re in, then a person
running for public office would want to get to know the local news

But Athens resident Bill Cowsert apparently has a different view.
The Republican running against State Rep. Jane Kidd, D-Athens, for
State Senate District 46 recently failed to return multiple phone calls
from a Red & Black reporter seeking comment for a story that ran in
Wednesday’s paper.

First, I have it from the Cowsert folks that the reporter’s deadline was not made clear to the campaign; were they to have known the time by which he needed to be reached, they say, the calls certainly would have been returned in time.

Second, an official, staff-written, 600-word editorial ranting about a lack of phone calls? Really? It just seems a bit…well…neglectedly childish to me, I suppose — much in the vein of “I’m not getting attention and now I’m mad about it, so I’m going to cause a scene!”

What do you think?


  1. Rusty says:

    Having written a column for a college newspaper, I can atest that nobody cares about what you write unless it’s 20 years later, you’re running for office, and you were dumb enough to call Ghandi a ninny in a column. It took more than a month before my first hate mail showed up.

  2. rugby_fan says:

    Rusty, I meant to send this to you 20 years ago when we attended U of Whereveritwas, I just didn’t…

    your column from last weekinspired me. Good job.

  3. Overincorporated Fulton says:

    Sounds like typical Cowsert to me…

    The Red & Black is not just some filler paper in Athens. It is widely read by University staff and students and should not be treated as anything but a critical link between candidates and the student body at UGA. Cowsert has always been more interested in taking cues from his brother-in-law than connecting with his potential constituents, whether in his State House race, which he lost in a landslide, or his State Senate race.

    Meanwhile, even though most students probably don’t share her party affiliation, Jane Kidd makes herself available to students on a continuous basis, appearing at dozens of events annually. As a former University employee, she also knows that returning phone calls to the Red & Black should be a priority when seeking office in Athens.

    While Jeff characterizes the paper’s response as childish and irresponsible, I can only imagine that it is quite natural. Considering the frequency with which students’ concerns are ignored under the Gold Dome (Republican HOPE cuts, etc.) it’s not surprising that the voice of UGA students would (and should) point out those potential leaders who do not make students a priority.

    From a campaigner’s perspective, I also don’t buy the “we didn’t know what his/her deadline was” line at all. I’ve worked on campaigns and know that you don’t play with reporters’ deadlines. Even if they’re irresponsible enough not to indicate one, you don’t presume it is non-existent. Get in the news cycle. Spin in your way. Don’t rest on your laurels and assume they won’t print without your comment. Who’s running the show over there?

  4. rugby_fan says:

    Considering the frequency with which students’ concerns are ignored under the Gold Dome seems somewhat natural because of the frequency of students *NOT* voting. Afterall, the government is supposed to answer to the *voters* is it not?

  5. Jeff Emanuel says:

    I’d agree with that, rugby. The need for a “critical link between candidates and the student body at UGA” will become much more prevalent — and will be much more greatly addressed — when students actually begin to vote in anything approaching significant numbers.

  6. UGAMatthew says:

    Here’s my question…
    Its August; why must the story be at the press in August? It seems that if the R&B truly wanted to relay their opinion/story on Cowsert, they’d have waited closer until November. I don’t understand the urgency over there at the R&B.

    The student body here is arguably 90% apathetic when it comes to politics, such as these, as evident with lack of voting. (Jeff and Rugby, you’re right on) Running a story about Bill Cowsert or any other candidates this early is not going to have any effect on the student body.

    I completely understand the whole deadline issue; its unproffessional to miss a deadline and with the R&B I’ll agree there. But, I wonder why the blatant attack as opposed to a simple “Cowsert unavailable for comment” tag. And the fact that its really really early for November politics bears repeating and especially since the story and opinion ran on the 2nd day of school where more students are picking up classes than the Red and Black…

    And IT IS just a college newspaper for heavens sake, the front page story was about sorority rush.

  7. rugby_fan says:

    “Its August; why must the story be at the press in August? It seems that if the R&B truly wanted to relay their opinion/story on Cowsert, they’d have waited closer until November. I don’t understand the urgency over there at the R&B.”

    I believe I answered this question earlier…its a college newspaper.

  8. Decaturguy says:

    I think more than just students read the Red and Black, Senator Douglas. What about the faculty, staff, and general Athens population in Athens who read the newspaper? Or do those people not count?

  9. Mike Hauncho says:

    I seriously doubt there are enough students on campus who read that paper that are from his district to make a difference. Plus most college students don’t vote so this is not going to hurt him.

  10. shep1975 says:

    College students don’t vote and the UGA staff votes Democrat overwhelmingly. The Red and Black is widely read (30K circulation), but no one reads it in August when they are still probably on a weekly schedule while school is out.

    Jason Shepherd
    Red and Black political cartoonist (1994-1995)

  11. atlantaman says:

    “Considering the frequency with which students’ concerns are ignored under the Gold Dome”

    I would put the GA University system and it’s value up there at the top of the list of states. I also think the Hope scholarship is one of the most amazing benefits to qualified students that is available. I’m not sure what is being ignored under the Gold Dome.

  12. Warrior says:

    This is a bunch of hooey from future liberal journalists trying to earn they way onto the Atlanta Constitution. A part-time candidate with a full-time job and no staff didn’t return a student’s phone call? Not a big deal. Jane Kidd is a limosene liberal with the power of incumbency and the backing of the entire Clarke machine. Give me a break.

  13. UGAMatthew says:

    Apparently we’re not the only who noticed the lack of tact with that opinion; they’ve apologized for it.

    “‘Our Take’ on Bill Cowsert was too harsh.” This being the title of one of the sections in todays Red and Black. Basically, they agreed that “sometimes politicians need more notice in order to properly prepare to deal with the press.”

    Another point was made by an opinion sent in by an Inger Coxe, she noted that only around 1500 students live in the 46th district; roughly 5% of students. So, maybe the story wasn’t all that pertinent anyway…as she notes “This shows the hard-hitting journalism I have grown accustomed to at the University.”

  14. Jake Tullman says:


    I think what rugby is getting at is that when any issues come up that might affect college students, such as the cuts to hope, everyone from the board of regents to college presidents are informed and given a chance to have input, but students are not. In fact, students and student government associations generally have to go out of their way to make their voice heard on legislative issues that will affect them, with only minimal success. But, like Rugby said, it all goes back to the fact that students don’t vote overwhelmingly, so thus they are often ignored. Brian Kemp was one legislator who actually took the time to know and care what the concerns of students were, even though they weren’t a huge voting bloc in his district (despite UGA being there).

  15. David Kirby says:

    The only thing that disturbs me about this situation is this little jab in the original news article on the day before the editorial:

    “Although his campaign manager returned calls, Cowsert himself did not find time to speak with The Red & Black, despite repeated attempts over five days.”

    All Ms. Smith needs to say is: “Cowsert failed to return phone calls for comment.” Simple and unbiased. Instead, she allows her frustration, and perhaps a little anger, to show through her writing, and resorted to poor journalistic practices.

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