I wrote briefly yesterday about the battle between The Red & Black's board and the student editors who walked out in frustration. Again, I hijack my own blog to comment because, hey, it's my blog. I can do whatever the hell I want.
Of all that's been written about this mess, I think the Student Press Law Center has the best summation. This piece gets to the heart of the problem which is, quite simply, an aging out-of-touch board and one board member in particular, some guy named Ed Stamper, who the board sent into the newsroom this summer to turn journalism into something akin to a sorority newsletter.
For me, the problem began with the clumsy shift from a daily paper to a once-a-week print and digital-first version. This should have been done gradually, with some grace. Instead, the paper quickly became irrelevant even as it did good stories online. By the way, it's not digital first. It's audience first. Perhaps the board and paper management could return for some remedial journalism courses.
The board approved that move, apparently without engaging its collective brain cells.
The result? This summer, a knee-jerk reaction in which the board appears to have brought in one of its own. He went rogue. The memo he produced, draft or not, is enough reason for him to leave the R&B and resign from the Board. It's a sexist, racist, non-journalistic embarrassment. Hell, he can't even spell libel.
The solution? There's an open meeting today, 2 p.m., at the building on the hill. I doubt much will get done there other than a massive bitch session, but maybe it'll work out. I hope so. If not, below are the minimum steps I think are necessary for the R&B to get back to doing the best student journalism in the country:
1. Ed Stamper leaves the newsroom, leaves the board. Non-negotiable.
2. Editorial control is given, unequivocally, to the student editor-in-chief. Again, non-negotiable.
3. The R&B board begins a 1/3-at-a-time rotation off the board to bring in fresh folks who remember it's a student newspaper. The quotes alone from a board member suggests there are people who honestly have lost touch with the University.
This story has been picked up by everyone, from Athens Patch to the New York Times to a host of journalism sources. Today, the SPJ is sending someone down to monitor the meeting and do interviews for a story. It's that serious, folks. If you're on the board, take notice that nearly the entire planet knows you're wrong. Knows it.
Bend, board members, before you break The Red & Black.