The student editorial staff of the University of Georgia's Red & Black newspaper resigned Wednesday after receiving a draft of a completely insane memo on behalf of a member of the paper's Board of Directors.
In addition to indicating students would no longer have final say on editorial content, the memo also demanded the paper cover fewer stories that expose "people or organizations doing bad things" and more pieces about people being happy. It came shortly after Kent Middleton, head of the university's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, announced to the student journalists that its board adviser would be named "editorial director" of the paper. Middleton also announced that they'd hired "new non-student marketing and product managers, a multimedia director, a business manager and a creative director."
The Red and Black's website describes the publication as "an independent student newspaper serving the University of Georgia community." It has been officially separate from the University since 1980 and is run by an independent board (of which Middleton is a member). It has traditionally been staffed by students, because it is a student newspaper.
The paper's newly resigned student editorial staff posted the full memo on RedandDead.com, where they are chronicling developments in the story. The memo compared using the adjective "Lilly Pulitzered" to describe the University of Georgia's Lilly Pulitzered student body to using the adjective "burr headed" to describe the University of Georgia's African American studies department.
According to the memo, "GOOD" topics for publishing include stories that are "unique, helpful, outstanding, new, [and] dramatic, ie scholarships for freshman."
Here's the explanation of "BAD" topics:
- Content that catches people or organizations doing bad things. I guess this is ‘journalism'. I think we are aligned on Crime and "who started off the year with a police record'. And that the freshman class lacks some minority demographics'.
If in question, have more GOOD than BAD."
After it was done advising students to cut down on "journalism" in favor of more stories about scholarships for freshman (the kinds of stories that really get people talking), the memo provided a list of offensive descriptors to avoid, including "yarmulke topped" for Jewish people, "burr-headed" for African Americans, and, of course the most offensive term of all: "Lilly Pulitzered."
We will not tolerate:
- Sarcastic comments directed at our audience in non-opinion sections, ie "It's been a solid, Lilly Pulitzered week…" We wouldn't say it's be [sic] a solid yarmulke topped week at the Jewish Community Center. Or a solid burr-headed week at the African American studies conference. Or a solid body pierced day at The Red and Black. Stop this now.
- Headlines that aren't in English, obscure the topic of the story, or are in clear violation of journalistic and company standards. What are our standards?"
The board of directors also emphasized that students must strive to eliminate "errors in fact, typos and other basic journalistic errors," and stated that they will not tolerate "liable."
Presumably, they meant "libel."
Some of the resigned student staffers are slated to return for a meeting with the newspaper's advisors Thursday afternoon.
Red and Black publisher Harry Montevido called the student and media response "an overreaction," but from our view it seems like the editorial staff was taking what little control remained after the Board's new hires.
In any case, this is ertainly more of a BAD story than a GOOD.