There’s a lot that could be said and a ton that has been already been written about the departures of student editors from UGA’s independent student newspaper, The Red & Black. I’ll keep my opinions to myself on many of the crazy twists and turns in this two day saga that has unfolded.
What I will say and do want to chime in on is The Red and Dead. One year ago, The Red & Black went to a “digital first” publishing format, significantly scaling back its print coverage in the process and focusing on creating a “24/7” news operation in line with what many professional newspapers have done. (In the interest of disclosure, I taught many of the student editors and reporters who led the digital first charge in the past year although I certainly cannot take any credit for their stellar efforts in doing so).
Given the R&B students’ deep dive into the digital “revolution” a year ago, it is not surprising that the former staffers (and presumably soon to be current again R&B staffers) went about creating an alternative digital news operation within minutes after walking out the door of the paper’s Baxter Street office.
I was mostly impressed by the “digital first” reporting and the use of social media in disseminating the story of their stand for journalism ethics that the staff of the Red and Dead displayed. Within two days, the Red & Black ex-pats created an online operation that could have proven a formidable student-run rival for their former employer. Most importantly, they went about reporting news and covering the university community.
As of this afternoon, the RedandDead Twitter account had 3,776 followers and had put out 284 tweets and the group had a Facebook page with 3,298 “likes.” The Red & Black Twitter page has close to 15,000 followers but has been in operation for a few years. To develop a sizable following and create a digital news outlet run from an apartment within two days is laudable.
The use of social media to disseminate news of the situation at the Red&Black was also another admirable takeaway from this otherwise ugly incident. Social media helped give the story “legs” as some famous nationally known journalists such as ESPN’s Rick Reilly and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King even tweeted about it. National publications wrote about the story, including The New York Times and The Huffington Post, as did national groups like the Student Press Law Center and Associated Collegiate Press.
There’s a lot more that can be gleaned from this episode and I’ll leave that to future research, ponderings, blog posts and class discussions. I’m certainly glad there appears to be an amicable resolution.
Kudos to the student journalists for applying their digital first reporting and social media skills so successfully.