Student journalists who walked out from the newsroom of the University of Georgia’s independent student newspaper the Red & Black on Wednesday returned for an off-the-record meeting Thursday afternoon with publisher Harry Montevideo and a board member. Late Thursday, they began posting content on an alternate publication they’ve set up, Red and Dead.
“The immediate plan right now is publish stories and do journalism like we were taught to do,” News Editor Adina Solomon said in a phone interview. Solomon stressed she doesn’t speak for the other students but says her goal is to reform The Red & Black. “I love the place. That’s why I left in protest and that’s why I am fighting to save it,” she said.
Solomon said she couldn’t “explain the feeling” when Polina Marinova, the paper’s now-former editor-in-chief, “gathered us in the meeting room” Wednesday evening. “I’d already told her that if she leaves I leave. She said ‘I’m leaving,’ and we all said well we’re all going too. And there was nobody in the room who disagreed. We walked out the door packed up our stuff and left. It’s just been amazing how we’ve pulled together.”
The students were upset about the elevation of their editorial adviser Ed Morales to editorial director, a change that would effectively grant the paper’s board prior review of their work. In an interview yesterday, Montevideo portrayed the change as formalizing a relationship that already existed. Solomon said before this term, Morales would review each issue after it was published. Now, “instead of it being critiqued after the paper and articles would come out, a director critiques before they come out,” Solomon said.
She described Morales as “a great journalist” and a “tremendous resource” but said “at the end of the day we’re student journalists. If we make mistakes, we make mistakes. We’ll answer to them. We don’t want prior review.”
At the meeting the students presented three demands: They want the board to give them more input on decisions, they don’t want prior review and they want Ed Stamper ousted from the paper’s board. Stamper, they say, wrote a draft memo calling for new editorial standards that the students have since published.
Montevideo told me the memo was written by the board and that it was a draft and “certainly not meant for publication.” Solomon said Thursday’s meeting was off the record at Montevideo’s and the unnamed board member’s insistence. She said the pair promised them an “open and frank” discussion but objected when one of the students took out a recorder.