August 17, 2012

Ed Stamper has resigned from the board of the University of Georgia’s student newspaper, The Red & Black, following a dispute about the paper’s independence. At a meeting Thursday, student journalists had called for his resignation.

Stamper had written a now-famous memo about the paper’s future. In his apology, which was read at a meeting Friday and which Poynter obtained a copy of, he said:

I sincerely apologize for all the embarrassment these documents have caused. I am also terribly saddened by the resulting misunderstanding and [its] impact on The Red and Black and its loyal, talented staff members. It is personally embarrassing to have the public see a document to I gave little thought and so carelessly worded.

The board, which is independent from the university, also apologized and promised the students editorial autonomy:

The student editor has always had the final editorial decision responsibility for our news content. That is still the case. The professional staff who work on the editorial side of this newspaper are intended to be coaches and advisers only.

In its statement, the board welcomed “applicants for those currently vacant positions, including those who recently resigned.”

During the meeting, publisher Harry Montevideo reportedly got into a scuffle with Joshua Buce, a reporter from the school’s Grady NewSource. In a statement, Montevideo said he and the reporter “fell to the floor” during Montevideo’s attempt to escort him out of the room.

The individual in question, was asked repeatedly by myself and several of our other staff members, to remain downstairs with rest of the media (most all of whom complied). He and one other media representative made their way upstairs. After being advised of this by staff, I asked the first individual to turn off his camera and return downstairs and the first individual complied. I made the same request to the second individual and he became confrontational. After repeated verbal requests for him to turn off his camera and make some progress to the stairs, I began to escort him towards the doorway. As a result of either my assistance or his resistance, we both fell to the floor. When I regained my balance I stood up backed away and he exited the building, but only after a good deal of verbal assault towards myself.

Grady NewSource has posted a video, along with Buce’s account:

Buce says Montevideo began to reach for the camera demanding that it be turned off. This is the part where the video goes dark because Buce s trying to protect the camera. Then Buce says Montevideo simultaneously applied pressure on the back of Buce’s neck forcing him to the ground. Buce can be heard saying “Get off me…the camera will go off…get off me…” Once Buce proceeded to exit the building, Montevideo responded, “I asked you politely.” Buce yelled, “oh does that mean force?”

Montevideo has apologized to Buce, who was considering whether to press charges.

Reached by phone, board member Kent Middleton — who is also the head of the journalism department at the university — said “many on the board didn’t think anything had changed” regarding prior review of students’ work.

“We did agree that the students would be required to at least talk with the adviser ahead of time,” Middleton said. “That’s now been removed.” Changing Ed Morales’ job title from editorial adviser to editorial director, he said, was “ill-advised.” (Outside of the meeting, Morales called himself the paper’s “editorial adviser,” which generated applause from students.)

“There was disagreement about exactly what the board voted on when it voted on the job description. No one argued that the description meant that the editorial director had any day-to-day authority to remove content,” Middleton said. “But there was a question of exactly what the adviser’s job was short of that. Now we’ve just gone back to the
status quo of what it was 30 years ago.”

Regarding the board’s statement, Middleton said, “we’ve just made it explicit now that we’re back to where we were.”

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
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