Thursday, February 7, 2013

Does Grady Want the R&B?

Sorry, this blog is usually about how people learn from the media or public opinion research.  I'm hijacking it -- briefly -- to discuss a couple of posts I read about the place where I work, Grady College at UGA, and the independent student newspaper, The Red & Black.

I don't want to rehash the 2012 spat between the R&B's board and student editors.  That's done, settled, and remarkable progress has been made since.  But I did read a couple of posts recently that caught my eye, especially one that suggests, well, read the January 6 Facebook post below:
Of course the J-school would LOVE to take the Red and Black--they have built quite a nice little nest egg to ensure their independence. But if anyone thinks that bunch of empty suits in the J-school can do a better job, they should look over their shoulders first. 
What a complete load of bullshit.  

Okay, maybe not the "empty suits" thing (though I never wear a suit, so "empty sweatshirt" instead?), but we'd LOVE to take the paper?  Sorry, the faculty agreed some time ago that's the last thing we want, the last thing we'd approve, and frankly we've avoided formal relationships with the paper through our classes.  Informal relationships have worked fine for decades.  It's all about collaboration now, but we do a pretty good job of collaborating without owning the thing.

Certain Grady faculty were quietly approached in summer 2012 about a more formal relationship.  I even heard a rumor that the University was also approached.  Pass, and pass.

The R&B has made exciting changes to its board of directors, it's produced some solid news stories and packages this year, and I'm hopeful for the future despite all the challenges in circulation and advertising.  I'm just an "empty suit" watching from the sidelines.  I chat often with student reporters and editors, but I've never once -- not in 21 friggin years -- been asked by the publisher or board about my thoughts on their strategy or approach.  And that's fine by me.  I'm not a management guy, I'm a reporting guy.  Yeah, I've said for years there are certain things the R&B is doing wrong strategically, but so has every other paper in America.

Simply put, short of some financial disaster at the paper, I never see us likely to "take" the R&B

Finally, as some of you know we're in the middle of a dean search at Grady.  Four candidates, all of them good ones, will visit this month.  We have a new department head coming in the Department of Journalism this Fall.  And there's been talk for quite some time now, very serious talk, that the broadcast news folks will merge with Journalism as a single department (as well as other changes, not important to get into here).  That's a cool idea, full of potential.  One aspect of this could very well affect the R&B.  Stick with me.  Newsource already exists in broadcast news, the TV program put out by students with a solid online and social media presence.  I can see a combined department taking and building on that, creating a true multimedia platform so journalism students can create all kinds of interesting news stories.  How does this effect the R&B?  It's a potential competitor, not for advertising dollars mind you, but for something far more important -- attention.  We live in an attention economy.  If you don't get that, you've fallen far behind.  Assuming a bunch of "empty suits" can lead a bunch of much smarter students, I see a multimedia site and a buffet of mobile apps that may very well threaten the R&B.  I don't like that.  I don't want to see that.  But it may also be possible that through collaboration, the paper becomes part of this approach.  Again, all of this is still up in the air.

Just throwing this out there to anyone who may actually give a damn -- and who can have an informed discussion on the major changes and how to turn them in the right direction.

Next post -- some PhDweebish research thing.  And maybe I'll go buy a suit.



welch said...

Maybe this could evolve into the same kind of relationship as the Missourian and the Maneater.

Hollander said...

I'm willing to bet someone else's paycheck that we'll eventually see a formal collaboration between the R&B and some Grady "thing" if -- and only if -- we see an integration of departments. But any integration remains a couple of years away, if it happens at all. That will require faculty approval on both sides, plus I suspect in broadcast they'll require I be put out on waivers before they agree. Maybe I'll get picked up by AD/PR.