I introduce myself as somewhat of an oddity to the former staff of The Red & Black. My Grady class résumé is slim, but not for lack of trying. I was a double major in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and I tried to triple major in newspapers. I wanted a full-on education that delved deep into the Associated Press Stylebook and learned the textbook basis of media laws, but a background in science, since my eventual career goal was to be a science and agriculture reporter.
However, one begging and pleading email led to another and ended up with me not being allowed to get that third major. Thus, the vast majority of my knowledge of AP style and writing came not from a classroom or the red pen of a Grady professor, but instead from the lessons I learned at The Red & Black.
The first of many lessons were learned from fellow staff members, and countless others from spending hours with Ed Morales, the editorial advisor. As a freshman, unsure of anything except I knew I loved to write, I brought a résumé and cover letter to then-recruitment editor Philip Kisubika. A couple of weeks later, I wrote my first story about the engineering majors at the university — or University, as proper Red & Black style dictated. Four years later, after semesters as the south campus reporter, a summer as editor-in-chief and a year as senior reporter, Morales gave us staff shirts that said, “Just Can’t Leave.”
While originally meant as an inside joke based on some filler copy for layouts, the statement rings true today more so than ever. Because we cannot leave. The Red & Black is just as much an ideal as it is a business. Look at these alums — most Grady grads, others not so much — who write in support of the student newspaper they helped continue a legacy that spans more than a century. Sure, things need to change from time to time, but I stand firmly behind the majority of fellow Red & Black alumni who agree that removing the core value of “student-run” from that legacy is a horrible idea. In several news stories published Aug. 16, board member Kent Middleton was quoted as saying, “They can’t be as effective journalists outside The Red & Black.” Publisher Harry Montevideo was quoted in videos insisting that surely there would be plenty rushing to fill the spots vacated by the editors and some staff writers on a campus of more than 30,000 students. But trust me when I say that having a staff full of students is not enough, even if there are 10-plus professional staff members serving in an advisory capacity. I worked on a news staff at one point with nearly 20 names on the roster, and I can probably count maybe half of them who showed up regularly and covered stories more than once a week. That is not the answer.
We “just can’t leave” because we never left. The lessons we learned, the critiques we got each day from Morales, the good times and the bad times will stay with us forever. And love it or hate it, people want to be a part of that. They don’t want to be a part of a newspaper that is controlled by others — trust me on this, there were days when former Red & Blackers I worked with at a “real-world” daily newspaper would lament about how we wished Morales and so-and-so were around to run things a little differently. They want to be part of The Red & Black legacy: a student-run newspaper that focuses on finding breaking news and teaches how to cover it.
I encourage members of the Board of Directors to assume transparency in this situation. We have many unanswered questions: What’s true in the memo Ed Stamper wrote? Why were student staff not more informed as to what was going on? Why were a consultant and team needed? Why hire a board member rather than a third party?
I applaud Polina Marinova, Julia Carpenter and the rest of their editorial team for driving to get the answers to these questions. I hope those other students Montevideo refers to as the future pool of Red & Black student staff get to learn from their experiences, the way they learned from the editors who came before them, the way I learned from those before me. I hope this issue gets resolved and the primary objective of The Red & Black is not compromised, but instead, greets the future with an open mind and understanding of both sides of this complicated story.
I am a proud University of Georgia graduate who firmly stands behind The Red & Dead in reaffirming the mission the campus newspaper was founded upon. I hope you will join me.
Animal Science, Agricultural Communication 2011
Former Editor-in-Chief/News Reporter