Red and Black statement

In response to the resignation of student editors at the Red & Black Wednesday evening, The Red & Black board of directors and publisher, Harry Montevideo issues the following statement.

August 16, 2012

For a communications company, we clearly have been at the center of a great deal of miscommunication during the past 24 hours. We regret this failure of clarity with our core constituency, the student journalists. We want to set the record straight on several matters.

The Red & Black is still and will remain an independent student media organization. It has been in the past and will continue to be supported by a dedicated group of professionals.

In an effort to provide a better product for our readers of print and digital news and to provide better training for our student journalists, The Red & Black recently decided to add additional professionals to both the editorial and business staff, half of whom are part time.

The Red & Black does not plan to have these professionals assume the role of our student Editor in Chief. The editorial director is a counselor, teacher, mentor, coordinator and manager. The editorial director is charged with helping students make smart content decisions prior to publication, particularly on stories, which involve issues of libel or standards of quality and ethics. It is not, nor has it ever been the intention of the board to censor student content.

We expect our students to collaborate with our professional staff to establish and maintain standards for quality, develop plans for content and create quality journalism products, which engage our audience.

The Red & Black champions the best interest of student journalists.  Core to our mission is providing the best possible training and experience, which mirrors the real world.  We are optimistic about our future and the board has made a significant investment in additional teachers for our student journalists, multimedia staff, and graphic design team.  We have also established a Marketing/PR group to expand the experience we offer students and have added to our advertising staff.

The changes reflect our board’s optimism and the recognition that we must maintain pace in a rapidly changing world of news delivery beyond our traditional print format. The board is a volunteer group comprised of formerThe Red & Black staff and other journalists and business leaders, who have a passion for its heritage and wish to see it remain strong and independent for decades to come.

We are open for business and want to encourage any UGA student interested in working at their student newspaper to come by our office at any time. And that includes any former, staff members. There will be an open house and discussion at 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17 in our office at 540 Baxter Street.

Contact: Melita Easters, 404-408-9863

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28 thoughts on “Red and Black statement

  1. Comment I left on Red & Black website: I don’t remember this level of interference with students even back in the 1970s when the paper — then part of the J school — was uncovering problems at the library. I ”guess” that was journalism. After a news career of more than 30 years (currently in China) it’s shameful to look back at where I cut my teeth and see this happening. The board should realize that there are GENERATIONS of Red-&-Blackers out there who oppose what they’re doing. … Class of ’79

  2. Truly, this is a pathetic and self-aggrandizing “statement.” I was a columnist for my own college newspaper (not The Red & Black), and wrote some controversial ones. Not one time did a non-student editor ever intervene to keep them from going to press. And I was only even “visited with” afterward by our own “Fink” one time, and that was just to make certain I was prepared for the storm of emails I was going to get from readers.

  3. That’s a pretty generic statement, but what would you expect?

    To the students who walked out, kudos to you for standing up for what you believe. However Montevideo’s statement is true in at least one regard that the students can understand. He says their goal is to prepare the students for the real world. In the real world of journalism, like it or not, there are 3rd parties with access to your stories, projects, etc. Many of these 3rd parties are worse than a board with veto capabilities. Oftentimes they are advertisers, sales managers, or random owners who will force you to do the job the way they want. And in the real world, when your family depends on your paycheck, you may not have the luxury of walking out.

    Bottom line: I commend a commitment to journalistic integrity, but journalistic integrity is unfortunately not a right for journalists. It is found in pockets and bright spots on the map. If you’re a journalist, you have to work to get to those bright spots, otherwise you’ll be serving someone else’s view of how things should be done.

    I never wrote for the Red & Black, but I am a Grady grad, a business owner, and I write for the Savannah Morning News (who has never censored or dictated any of my work). I just know that it doesn’t surprise me to hear of disagreements between the board and journalists anywhere. It seems an unfortunate par for the course.

  4. This is disappointing. I optimistically (perhaps too much so) thought Harry and the board would own up to the major seismic change it made to the Red & Black and endeavor to explain to the public *why* it made this decision, but instead, I read shameful spin. We haven’t replaced the student editor-in-chief. Sure, all the previous responsibilities (final say on content) has been shifted to a different role, but she’s still technically the editor-in-chief. What’s the big deal? Sorry, but a cactus is not a cucumber, Harry, not matter what you call it.

    Someone leaving their job is not an “over-reaction” or an “emotional decision.” There are people twice as old as the former R&B journalists who would leave the company they worked for or perhaps even sue (given the terms of their contract) if their job duties were changed so completely.

    The memo from the board member was awful but it seemed at cross purposes. It wasn’t just poorly conceived and written memo given to the student editor-in-chief that laid out expectations. Certain expectations hadn’t been met in the board’s eyes but the conclusion was reached that those expectations could never be reached by a student.

    Also, that memo is out there. And the statements of the former R&B staffers are out there. I think most objective onlookers can see what was an “over-reaction” and “an emotional response.” Hint: It was the memo.

  5. Folks, it’s really worth looking at the tax returns posted on this site, which shows that the publisher takes home a $173k salary before benefits, or more than 12% of their annual total expenses.

    This isn’t about new media journalism models or about censorship. It’s about maximizing ad revenue. That’s the purpose of the memo, which wants more than anything to prohibit content that would scare off an advertiser.

  6. Newsflash: Harry Montevideo has always been an overpaid piece of shit. He contributes next to nothing to day-to-day operations of the R&B and earns a salary package of approximately $200,000 a year.

    The reorganization isn’t about standards or professionalism, it’s about maximizing the paper’s profits at the expense of content and independent journalism. Once revenues show an increase I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the board gives him another $70,000 raise.

  7. If you watch the video clip below, Montevideo admits that the memo wasn’t supposed to go to student writers, but doesn’t refute any of its statements. Basically all of this was supposed to happen, but the student writers/editors/etc weren’t supposed to know about it. What a crook.

  8. So basically they said, “were not wrong, your wrong for misunderstanding us”

    Thank you Harry, for being a lying sack of shit who is too much of a pussy to say anything straight. (like that all this change is about is MONEY)

    Kindly put a gun to your head

    kudos to the staff for walking

  9. Why exactly is it a crime for him to make $173,000 a year? And where exactly are there examples of this change of pace affecting your journalistic integrity? Is there ONE time where this editorial director has directed any of you to publish something you didn’t want to, change your words or taken your story down? All I see is this “draft” concept, which is exactly what happens in a brainstorm session and it sounds like it was never even rolled out. Yeah, looks like y’all jumped the gun.

  10. Montevideo’s memo reads very much like an announcement from the publisher of a professional newspaper that “We’re making exciting, dynamic changes to enhance reader experience and improve the quality of the product while remaining committed to responsible journalism, going forward” when turning a daily into a thrice-weekly.

    Meanwhile, in the newsroom, we mentally wrote such heds as “Strange smoke seen blowing up asses.”

    Never, ever trust anyone without a journalism background to run a newspaper, except into the ground.

  11. “I hate to say it, but from my viewpoint it was an overreaction,” Montevideo said about Wednesday’s brouhaha, “and our best attempts at creating discussion and dialogue around it were met with emotional responses.”

    Wow. As a female attorney at a public company, I haven’t heard comments like this is ages — not since I worked for BigLaw. The female editor-in-chief is “overreacting” and offering “emotional responses”. Isn’t this a not-so-subtle, condescending and sexist way of discounting her views because she’s a young woman? Here in the “real world,” I do not believe that this sort of coded nonsense would be tolerated. We respect, value and cultivate talent, both out of business necessity and because it is the right thing to do.

    I do not think that meeting with someone who made these statements will be constructive. Life simply is too short to work for people who don’t respect you.

    • Give me a fucking break. You’re deriving sexism out of this? I think someone with the same level of “emotion” that was male would still be given the same response that they’re overreacting. Quit starting shit just to start it.

      • Yes, it is a sexist and condescending statement. And it’s very pot calling kettle. The memo is highly charged and outright angry. Compare it to the very reasonable statements made by the staff or the resignation letter by the editor in chief.

        Also, I would listen to the attorney. I know I did when firing people or making staffing changes. It seems that the board might not have an HR rep or labor lawyer on retainer so it makes statements that are not ideal and actions that are potentially worse. Perception is reality in business. Mr. Montevideo is fortunate that this isn’t a major corporation because de-powering a female head of a department and essentially giving her job to a man would risk a discrimination suit and Mr. Montevideo has only tap-danced around any reasonable explanation. Oh, and his statement makes it look worse.

  12. Let’s make something abundantly clear, Harry Montevideo’s salary is paid by the content created by students (newspapers aren’t read for their ads) who work for less than subsistence wages and often for free.

    Giving professional staff veto power over student decisions is a move designed to make the paper more palatable to potential advisors. So a professional staffer can tell a crime writer not to name the bar where a stabbing took place because said bar is a regular advertiser. Or, a writer could be told not to pursue a story about an athletic director getting a DUI because it would make UGA look bad.

    It’s not ethical and it certainly isn’t journalism. Stripping the students of editorial control is contrary to the paper’s mission as a student newspaper, and more to the point, it’s an incredibly heavy-handed and dispicable thing to do.

    I’m sure Montevideo will get a group of scabs to staff the paper, ad revenues will increase and he’ll be able to justify another $70,000 raise to the R&B board. But the R&B won’t be the same, it will be about generating money for Montevideo and a select group of professional staff on the backs of young journalism students desperate for bylines.

  13. Harry’s splitting word-hairs re. censorship vs. editorial management: either the editorial director has the power to spike or edit what runs or he/she doesn’t. Which is it?

    From the student staffers’ statements, it appears they’ve already been pressured to cover fluffier, more positive, happy news. That’s not “miscommunication.” The smoking gun memo may have been misrouted, but its message seems pretty clear.

    Where is that influence coming from on the board and why? It can’t be unanimous. Sure wish some members would start talking. Were there problems with irresponsible editorial content previously or is it something else, maybe an idealogical change on the board or, as mentioned in the above comments, purely an ad revenue problem?

    Finally, OHMYGODHARRYMAKESTHATMUCHMONEY?!?!

    • Mr. Montevideo’s salary is not an insignificant issue. It is shockingly high if you consider that it’s Athens, Georgia. You can buy a single family home for what he makes in one year.

      The staff writers at the R&B made less than they would waiting tables at The Grill. I think I made $30 a week as an editor. Even if that’s double now, I do find it abhorrent that the staff makes less than minimum wage through some convenient “they’re students” loophole while the publisher makes a fortune.

      This is not an attempt at class warfare but it raises an issue about motivations. There’s significant incentive for Mr. Montevideo to ensure that the paper is financially successful.

      The board is volunteer with the exception of Mr. Montevideo. I strongly believe the paper should be not for profit. I worked at a not for profit in New York for a while (a legal publisher) and the *attorneys* there didn’t make this type of money. I’d like to think a not for profit could recruit a publisher or general manager or even divide the job so that no one gets rich working there. Because no one should.

  14. As an editorial staff receiving that memo, I’m surprised they didn’t splash the screed with red ink and send it right back. Misuse of quotation marks. “Liable” when he meant “libel.” “Scholarships for freshman.” “It’s be.” How does someone who writes like that expect to be taken seriously by a group of journalists?

    There’s a big difference between aligning style (online and inside teases, fundamental page design, etc.) and neutering journalism. Montevideo is doing a terrible job of damage control and of teaching the student writers the fundamental purpose of journalism. It looks like “BAD” is breaking free.

    • Red & Dead’s Twitter bio originally said “staff formally [sic] known as the Red & Black”…I don’t think they would have caught it either. #sophgomore

  15. There are quite a few UGA people who feel that news should be filtered to us, censored, to be rose-colored only viewpoints of UGA and about articles around our campus. They form quite a clique nowadays. They insist on their own viewpoints being presented uncensored, and then wish they could totally censor everything else anyone else says in contradiction to them. They shall not prevail.

  16. Congratulations to you folks for taking a stand against this nonsense. We had similar conflicts at my school, but our journalism program wasn’t as good and our students not as strong-willed, leading to a splintering into two separate newspapers (the big, glossy one with the school’s rubber stamp and a smaller, “guerilla-style” paper you could get in trouble for distributing on campus) over time. Glad to see that you guys had the kind of editorial cohesion to know who the bad guys are.

  17. While the issues of censorship, and the memo’s comment about focusing on “good” stories are definitely troubling, many of the other concerns expressed by the R&B board were completely valid. While the R&B might once have been one of the most respected college papers in the nation, in recent years it had become quite a joke. The content was usually asinine, typos and grammatical errors appeared on nearly every page, and the writing style rarely lived up to the expected level of college journalism. During my years at UGA I often felt embarrassed by the lack of professionalism displayed in my school’s paper, and wondered where the supposedly outstanding journalism students attending Grady were hiding. In conversations with several UGA friends about the issue, we often concluded that these outstanding students must have been purposely avoiding the R&B due to its general reputation as a joke. So, while the editorial staff’s concerns about censorship are valid, their righteous indignation over “not being allowed to make mistakes” is terribly misplaced. Accept constructive criticism, get over yourselves, and start turning out a paper to make the Bulldawg Nation proud.

  18. So, a few typos (I presume you’ve never read Chipper Towers or Jeff Schultz) are worse in your mind than what even you admit is troubling you call it that now their articles have to be focused on feel-good points of view ?

    So, go ahead, name an article you’ve read in the Red and Black ?

  19. Pingback: Red and Alive | Report Schick

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