On Wednesday, students at the University of Georgia lost their voice. In an utterly disgusting move that jeopardizes the integrity of the First Amendment, the future of student journalism and industry standards as a whole, the university’s student newspaper—the Red & Black—named a non-student as its editorial director.
This non-student –– their adviser –– has the final say on all editorial content, and with this oversight, student journalists at the paper said they have been told to publish “grip and grin” photos, and balance “good” and “bad” articles in what was once a fully-independent newspaper.
But while the Red & Black’s board of directors and adviser clearly have no respect or even a grasp of journalism ethics, the students at the newspaper have shown to have the most integrity—more so than those industry professionals hired to mold them.
Top editorial student staffers resigned from the Red & Black Wednesday, a move that shows at least young journalists still honor an institution in our country designed to act as an independent watchdog for students –– not university propaganda.
“It wasn’t easy to do what we did at The Red & Black today, but we did it because we love journalism,” wrote former Editor In Chief Polina Marinova on Twitter.
Many non-journalist types may not understand why the hiring of a non-student to oversee editorial content is such a problem.
A student newspaper has one goal: to be the voice of the students on campus. With an adviser dictating editorial content, the Red & Black is no longer a student paper providing that voice.
Consider what Marinova wrote in her resignation letter about how the newspaper envisioned the future of the paper:
“In a draft outlining the ‘expectations of editorial director at The Red & Black,’ a member of The Red & Black’s Board of Directors stated the newspaper needs a balance of good and bad. Under “Bad,” it says, ‘Content that catches people or organizations doing bad things. I guess this is ‘journalism.’ If in question, have more GOOD than BAD.’”
Essentially with “expectations” like these, a well-respected student publication has turned into some sort of propaganda machine. It’s unbelievable that any journalist, or adviser or rational person would think this is an acceptable way to provide a campus with worthy news or young future reporters with guidance.
The Collegian Editorial Board fully supports the students who walked out of the Red & Black, as should anyone with a respect for ethical journalism and believes that all people deserve a voice and an access to information.
It’s not just the students trying to learn journalism who will suffer from this ordeal. The University of Georgia campus and community has lost a valuable, independent voice, and it is a practice that should be fixed immediately and never be repeated.
Show your support and follow the situation at the blog started by former Red & Black staffers, http://redanddead.com/.