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Red and Black Board Apologizes; Student Staff Might Return

"We felt like we were being walked on so we walked out," said Editor in Chief Polina Marinova.

An advertising executive has resigned from The board of directors. Students will have more input into editorial decisions. And there won't be a non-student review of stories prior to their being published.

With all three of their demands met, the former staff of The Red & Black student newspaper may return to their jobs, said editor-in-chief Polina Marinova. Marinova and her staff walked out Wednesday night, fed up with what they believed was too much interference and emphasis on happy, upbeat stories instead of real news about the UGA community.

"We'll talk among ourselves and then reapply for our positions," said Marinova. "We're happy they met our demands and that we finally had a voice."

The Board of Directors will hire a new editor-in-chief and managing editor, and Marinova plans to re-apply for the editor-in-chief's job. She would then, she said, "personally hire the same staff."

Melita Easters, vice president of the newspaper's board, read a statement from the board in which it apologized "for the deep misunderstandings" and hoped a few brief statements will "allow us to bring resolution to several matters."

She said "the student editor has always had the final editorial responsibility for news content. That is still the case." The professionals hired by publisher Harry Montevideo are to be only coaches and advisers.

Easters also said board member Ed Stamper, a Norcross businessman and the author of a much publicized ungrammatical memo, has resigned from the board and apologized.

"It's hard to see his hard work and dedication to this institution be so maligned," said Easters. She described Stamper, who worked in ads for the Red & Black during his student days, as diligent and hard-working.

Marinova and other staff members gathered at the Red & Black building Friday afternoon for what they believed would be an open meeting. Also in attendance were faculty members from the , professional journalists, interested community members, Red & Black alumni and supporters.

Among them was Susan Percy, a Grady graduate and Red & Black alumn. She has worked for various publications, including Atlanta Magazine, and now runs Georgia Trend magazine. She said she was there "as a professional journalist" and had been disturbed by the Stamper memo.

While the crowd milled around, UGA students who wanted to work for the Red & Black were invited to go upstairs while everyone else waited downstairs. Josh Buce, a camera-carrying reporter with Grady News Source, soon came shouting down the stairs, saying he had been "put on the ground" by a bald man later identified as Montevideo.

Montevideo later said Buce followed the would-be staff members upstairs, and  Montevideo asked him to leave and to turn off his camera. Buce didn't turn off the camera, so Montevideo reached to turn it off, and "he went to his knees," Montevideo said.

Former Red & Black opinions editor Yasmin Yonis, who graduated in spring 2011, said the changes being discussed on Friday were small compared to the "deep, institutional changes" that need to occur at the student newspaper. Students are paid a pittance for their stories -- $15 is the maximum they can receive -- and they work long hours.

The decision to stop publishing the print version of the paper five days a week -- the emphasis now is on online -- was made because it was said to be so expensive, Yonis said. The Red & Black had a profit last year of close to $600,000, according to tax records, and Montevideo received an annual salary of $173,000.

Montevideo said that returning to a weekday print product was something the board discussed during their summer meeting without making any decision about changing the frequency of publication.

Marinova said the staff "had felt a lot of pressure from Stamper," and that his leaving was a major concern. Reading about the Red & Black walkout in national publications, like the New York Times, "feels like I'm reading about someone else," she said. "It's a little surreal. We just want to thank everyone who supported us."

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The Athens and Suwanee Patch editors provided these stories.

 

 

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