Georgia Red & Black Drama, Day 2: 10 Things We Know

Amid endless tweets, speculation, blog posts, news stories, and statements from the principal participants, here are what seem to be 10 confirmed facts about The Red & Black drama at the University of Georgia, now in day two:

1) The staffers who quit yesterday have three main sticking points in their negotiations toward possible reconciliation with the R&B Board of Directors: the elimination of any form of editorial content prior review, greater student representation on the board, and the removal of Ed Stamper from the board.  Stamper is apparently the board member who wrote the infamous “GOOD…BAD journalism” memo draft.

2) The memo is authentic, a working draft meant only for other board members.

3) Student Press Law Center executive director Frank LoMonte’s reaction to the former staff’s deal-breakers: “Those are incredibly modest demands. . . . You’re not asking anything more than the way any other college paper in the United States currently operates.”

4) Red & Black publisher Harry Montevideo does believe the staffers’ walkout yesterday was an overreaction.  As he told Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon, “I hate to say it, but from my viewpoint it was an overreaction, and our best attempts at creating discussion and dialogue around it were met with emotional responses.”

5) There were at least two important meetings today– one between the board and ex-staffers and one just for board members.  Both were apparently closed-door, off-the-record.  A bigger meeting between the two sides is planned for tomorrow afternoon.  Can someone confirm: Is it public??

6) The interrelationship between the UGA journalism school and the paper is, well, crazy complicated.  The easy catch-all description of the Red & Black being independent is not even close to accurate from a legal perspective.  This makes First Amendment issues involving prior review tricky to navigate.  Basically, colleges and universities cannot exert prior review on student publications, even when they fund them.  But the R&B is independent, so in theory its leadership can do what it wants.  Buttttt members of the UGA j-school are also on the R&B board and there’s some other nebulous interplay going on.  So is there a have-our-cake-and-censor-students-too situation?  SPLC’s Adam Goldstein: “A university doesn’t avoid a First Amendment problem by giving itself seats on a board and having its employees on that board censor, because at the end of the day, those employees hold the seats due to their government-related jobs and their actions are still attributable to the government.”

7) The former Red & Black staffers are receiving a lot of support for their fight and oodles of press and blogosphere attention.

8) The public statement released this afternoon by the R&B board is an almost comically masterful example of how to express positivity while not giving an inch or saying anything of any real value.  What the statement is not is a masterful example of how to use commas.

9) Editorial director Ed Morales may be getting blamed more than he should.  While certainly on spec the face of evil in this fight– as the man apparently named the new prior review villain– I have seen no evidence he had a hand in the decision.  He apparently did assent to the board’s wishes to the degree that he spoke to former EIC Polina Marinova about his new role.  But I’ve seen nothing linking him to the decision itself.  I suppose he could have resigned in protest, but I’m not going to fault a guy with kids for not going that route, especially when this part of the story is not clear yet.  I’ve spoken to Ed a few times, interviewed him a few more, and seen him speak at conventions.  I consider him a good guy, a student press supporter.  Let’s wait and see here…

10) The Red & Dead site prominently features a video of UGA j-prof legend Conrad Fink discussing the power of good journalism in the age of people constantly tweeting “about someone washing their dog.”  I’m unsure what the point of it is exactly.  On spec, it seems to be an indirect F— You to the R&B board, with Fink stating that good journalism is more than simply status updates, tweets, and the search for greater web traffic.  But then I showed it to a few colleagues, and they think it’s just an embarrassing video of a journalism statesman no longer ‘getting’ journalism.  Others’ thoughts?

4 Responses to “Georgia Red & Black Drama, Day 2: 10 Things We Know”
  1. ML says:

    Fink was a beloved and legendary faculty member who recently died… I think his presence is more symbolic than substantive (and since he’s dead, they can’t exactly get a better soundbite from him). He was a father figure and a standard-bearer who represented the golden age of journalistic integrity — and a value system that upholds journalism’s watchdog role in a democracy. If he were still around, he wouldn’t be winning any awards for new media convergence (FYI, he spent his entire career writing on typewriters, not computers), but putting aside his reputation as a Luddite, you can bet he’d be an unequivocal supporter of independence for student journalists. Read this story (from the Red & Black, actually) to get a sense of his legacy

    • Dan says:

      Thank you for this. Yes, the vibe I get from the video itself and the way it’s featured on the site is that it’s to honor this great man in some way. It definitely is a bit unclear though, as the confusion when I showed others proved.

  2. How odd that the Conrad Fink’s 2009 anti-new media rant is featured by Red & Dead in the video line-up. It’s hardly complimentary to see him utter statements that in 2012 seem foolish and ignorant. I would have said the same thing about his comments in 2009, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt that in 2009, social media hadn’t advanced as far as a news tool as it has today, and he still hadn’t caught up on the current state of media. The video doesn’t honor Professor Fink. What’s the point, then?