Freedom of press in journalism is worth fighting for
It’s unsettling when our First Amendment right to freedom of the press is threatened. It’s even more unsettling when it hits unnervingly close to home at a fellow student-run newspaper.
Shockwaves of surprise and outcry rocked the media on Aug. 15 when student staff members of The Red & Black, the independently-run student newspaper serving the University of Georgia, staged a walkout upon reading a memo from The Red & Black’s Board of Directors stating new policies that would infringe upon the students’ editorial freedom.
Within hours of the walkout, the student journalists holed up in an apartment and launched the “Red & Dead” movement, beginning with a Twitter account that was quickly followed by a website and Facebook page. The Red & Dead’s tagline simply read, “The former staff of The Red & Black.”
The move was ballsy, without a doubt.
A media frenzy followed, with news outlets like The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Gawker picking up the story and quickly transforming the Red & Dead’s woes into a full-blown national issue.
The Red & Dead didn’t miss a beat – the newly-uprooted staffers began regularly uploading news stories and photos to their site, steadfastly continuing to serve UGA and the Athens community with timely and accurate news – all from the comfort of their apartment headquarters.
The students dealt with the sudden media storm with grace, some even experienced being followed by reporters while walking to their cars after school. Suddenly, they were on the other side of the recorder as the recipients of the hard-hitting questions, yet the student journalists handled the entire situation with composure.
A week and several negotiations later, The Red & Black had its staff back, with UGA students once again in the driver’s seat of creative and editorial control.
The Colonnade fully understands and recognizes the importance of editorial freedom and holding the responsibility to make the important calls on what content is included in each and every issue of our newspaper.
We commend The Red & Black staffers for their perseverance, unwavering integrity and deep-rooted dedication to the craft of journalism. As easy as it could have been to wave a white flag in defeat upon getting wind of the new directorial changes, the journalists held strong and fought for what was ethical and right.
Most importantly, The Red & Black staff proved that student media outlets truly matter and are fully capable of serving as a catalyst for the preservation of our First Amendment right to freedom of the press.
The long hours of researching, investigating, interviewing and reporting can be taxing at times, and the even longer nights spent producing a weekly newspaper can be momentarily arduous. However, our beloved craft of journalism is certainly worth fighting for.