The Red & Black editors, designers, other staff quit in protest of recent changes

The Red & Black bills itself as an “independent student newspaper,” but I’m not sure if all those words apply tonight.

From the Athens Banner-Herald’s Online Athens, Red & Black student staffers walk out:

The student editorial staff of the University of Georgia’s The Red & Black newspaper walked out Wednesday evening after a non-student was named editorial director with final say on all editorial content.

The Red & Black’s student editor-in-chief, Polina Marinova, along with other top student editors and staff members, walked out after Ed Morales, who had been the paper’s editorial adviser and then became editorial director, was given full editorial control of the newspaper.

“The students have lost control of the paper, and a student newspaper is supposed to be run by students,” Amanda Jones, design editor for The Red & Black, said in a phone interview. “We’re losing power while they are hiring permanent employees that are not students. We are losing control. At this point, every single top staffer walked out.”

The new site Red and Dead has published a letter from the (former?) editor in chief that reads in part:

I, Polina Marinova, have resigned as the editor-in-chief from The Red & Black, the student newspaper covering the University of Georgia. The Red & Black’s top editors, design staff, photo staff and reporters walked out of the newspaper building this afternoon.

The Red & Black has covered the University of Georgia community since 1893 and has been independent of the University since 1980. The newspaper has always been a student-run operation, but recently, we began feeling serious pressure from people who were not students. In less than a month, The Red & Black has hired more than 10 permanent staff with veto power over students’ decisions.

In a draft outlining the “expectations of editorial director at The Red & Black,” a member of The Red & Black’s Board of Directors stated the newspaper needs a balance of good and bad. Under “Bad,” it says, “Content that catches people or organizations doing bad things. I guess this is ‘journalism.’ If in question, have more GOOD than BAD.”

The Red & Black is a 501c3, according to this About Us page, which gives a brief history of the paper (founded in 1893) and includes a list of the board of directors.

I don’t know enough details about the reasons behind recent board decisions to say much else right now, but it’s fair to say that the board now has a public relations crisis on its hands. The Red and Dead Facebook page, which was created about an hour ago, already has over 800 likes. There’s also some interesting discussion in The Red and Black independent student newspaper alumni Facebook group.

Even though The Red & Black is an independent 501c3, this obviously is going to be a PR problem for UGA and its excellent journalism program.


    • Bill Dawers says:

      As I hang it up for the night, that Twitter account has been suspended, probably because a computer program thinks it’s some sort of scam or spam because of its explosive growth.

  1. Harry says:

    Seems like a jobs program to get a few more employees on the payroll. The Regents are looking for more ways to spend money?

    • Bill Dawers says:

      It’s an independent 501c3 fully funded by advertising. The Regents and UGA officials apparently have no direct say in board decisions, but the inference is going to be made over and over and over as this thing sprints like wildfire through the interwebs.

  2. Bill Dawers says:

    I’m not going to track this story all night, I swear . . . But an AJC piece posted tonight ( includes this:

    “Kent Middleton, chairman of the Grady College of Journalism at UGA, serves on The Red and Black board. He told the AJC late Wednesday he was still learning the facts about the walkout, but hoped the student journalists would be able to resolve the conflicts.

    “I hope the students go back and assert their right to practice good journalism,” Middleton said in a phone interview. “We want a strong and thriving Red and Black and I hope the students will go in and make it that way. … They can’t be as effective journalists outside The Red and Black.”

  3. Good for the students for walking off & sticking up for the original purpose of the newspaper.

    The non-student “adults” are behaving like children though a cheap power grab.

    • Engineer says:

      I found the part about the “balance of good and bad” on page 2 to be the worst of it. “If in question, have more GOOD than BAD.” God forbid they post stories critical of the University. I honestly can’t blame them for walking out. For what it’s worth, I support their actions.

      • Stefan says:

        Page 3 is good, too. Along with some neat examples of ethnic insults under things they won’t tolerate is this stand alone last category

        Maybe it was short for “being liable for libel”, but I suspect whoever wrote that doesn’t have a strong knowledge of words.

  4. Happy Face says:

    Sounds like the Board got The Red & Black confused with a general interest magazine. In order to keep advertisers happy, general interest magazines tend to stay away from controversial subjects, newspapers by definition are full of the controversies of the day. They serve very different purposes and require very different personnel. The Board doesn’t seem to get this or maybe they’re simply want to make The Red & Black into a cheery alumni magazine instead of a news reporting organization focused on the university community.

  5. Bill Dawers says:

    The Red & Black board of directors and publisher Harry Montevideo have issued the following statement on their Facebook page ( and website (

    For a communications company, we clearly have been at the center of a great deal of miscommunication during the past 24 hours. We regret this failure of clarity with our core constituency, the student journalists. We want to set the record straight on several matters.

    The Red & Black is still and will remain an independent student media organization. It has been in the past and will continue to be supported by a dedicated group of professionals.

    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.

    The Red & Black does not plan to have these professionals assume the role of our student Editor in Chief. The editorial director is a counselor, teacher, mentor, coordinator and manager. The editorial director is charged with helping students make smart content decisions prior to publication, particularly on stories, which involve issues of libel or standards of quality and ethics. It is not, nor has it ever been the intention of the board to censor student content.

    We expect our students to collaborate with our professional staff to establish and maintain standards for quality, develop plans for content and create quality journalism products, which engage our audience.

    The Red & Black champions the best interest of student journalists. Core to our mission is providing the best possible training and experience, which mirrors the real world. We are optimistic about our future and the board has made a significant investment in additional teachers for our student journalists, multimedia staff, and graphic design team. We have also established a Marketing/PR group to expand the experience we offer students and have added to our advertising staff.

    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 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.

    We are open for business and want to encourage any UGA student interested in working at their student newspaper to come by our office at any time. And that includes any former, staff members. There will be an open house and discussion at 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17 in our office at 540 Baxter Street.

    Contact: Melita Easters, 404-408-9863

    • Blake says:

      “The Red & Black does not plan to have these professionals assume the role of our student Editor in Chief.”

      This key sentence is sufficiently ambiguous that this press release will fail to quell the controversy. IOW, putting it out was a waste of time.

      • Bill Dawers says:

        I should have put my longer reply (see below) up here, but this statement is pretty ambiguous too: “It is not, nor has it ever been the intention of the board to censor student content.”

        • Happy Face says:

          They might genuinely not think what they have planned as censorship. The Board seems to want to produce a Happy News entity. Their agenda might not be political in any way, they just have a vision for a watered down everything’s great message and don’t see it as censorship so much as producing content for a specific market segment. This of course is absolutely silly and not at all what the mission of a university focused newspaper should be about. Perhaps the Board should leave instead of the students and start up a infotainment magazine called something like “Red & Black for Happy Saps”.

    • Happy Face says:

      “We have also established a Marketing/PR group…”

      That much is obvious from the ‘lots of words to say nothing’ press release.

  6. Bill Dawers says:

    A few thoughts on that statement:

    I don’t see that the board and publisher have addressed the key questions: Who will have final say over content — students or non-students? Which parts of the released draft memo are going to be implemented as R&B policy?

    I think that the board is taking a big risk in this calculated under-reaction — like the runaway teen’s parents who patiently wait under the assumption the teen will return home. Surely that kid can’t survive without me?

    The Red & Black cut its print publication to focus on online news, but The Red & Black Facebook page has only 3,503 likes at this moment. (Facebook is an absolutely critical driver of traffic to websites, blogs, etc. that need to maximize page views and ad revenue.) The Red & Dead Facebook page ( has 2,352 likes and counting in less than 24 hours.

    It’s going to be really interesting to see how and if a purely student-driven online effort can challenge The Red & Black. The student writers are already used to working for little if any money and they are going to get lots of moral and technical support from alumni.

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