Univ. of Ga. students protest newspaper changes

August 16, 2012 - 10:35 PM

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Students who work for a University of Georgia newspaper are protesting a decision they say gives control over stories to non-students.

Students at The Red & Black newspaper walked out Wednesday night after a non-student was named editorial director with final say on editorial content, The Athens Banner-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/R3wpSw ).

The newspaper's editor-in-chief, UGA student Polina Marinova, was among staffers who walked out. It happened after Ed Morales, who had been the paper's editorial adviser, was given full editorial control of the newspaper, the students said.

Morales did not return messages Thursday from The Associated Press.

In a statement published online, The Red & Black's board of directors and Publisher Harry Montevideo said the newspaper will remain an independent student media organization and that adding professionals to the staff was part of an effort to provide a better product for readers and better training for student journalists.

"The Red & Black does not plan to have these professionals assume the role of our student Editor in Chief," the statement read. "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."

A statement posted Thursday afternoon on a website created by the protesting students and attributed to the editor-in-chief says former Red & Black staff met with the publisher and board Thursday afternoon. The statement says the board members refused to speak on the record and that the students presented their concerns.

"The former student staff is dedicated to journalism and will continue to independently produce student-sourced, student-written, student-designed and student-approved content covering the University of Georgia and the Athens community," the statement says.

Founded in 1893, The Red & Black has operated independently from the university since 1980 and relies on advertising revenues for most of its funding.

The student protest followed an Aug. 6 email from Kent Middleton, head of the journalism department at UGA's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and a member of The Red & Black's board of directors.

Design editor Amanda Jones said the paper should be run by students, not professionals.

"The students have lost control of the paper, and a student newspaper is supposed to be run by students," Jones told The Banner-Herald.

Jones added the students also received memos advising them that they are no longer allowed to make mistakes.

"You're supposed to make mistakes and learn," she said.