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Interesting development and a bit of a history lesson.

8/16/2012

MY history, that is. Nothing special. The student staff at the Red and Black, a student-run newspaper at the University of Georgia walked out and started a blog. In the old days they would have started a new student newspaper, mimeographed after hours in the English department's office. In the old days, the open letter from the resigning editor would have been coherent at least, even if not proofread or spell-checked. Maybe I'm wrong (I'm not) but almost everything I've read lately from journalists, teachers or lawyers reads poorly. Marketing people write well, editorialists don't. I wonder why that is?

 At any rate, the Red and Black is not run by the University, it is a non-profit with its own board of directors. These Directors assumed a good deal of editorial control of the newspaper in some kind of boardroom coup while the staff was out on vacation or whatever it is that students do. The staff, predictably, threw a fit. I would have too. A complete meltdown. Warranted or not, it's what newspaper-types do when they don't get their way.

 I did not attend the University of Georgia, but I did have a newspaper induced fit during my freshman year of college. As a communications/broadcasting major I had to participate in what the school called "media practicum" and this involved doing the jobs the upperclassmen no longer wanted to do in the student-run media. Holding cue cards for the 4am TV news, the midnight to 4am radio show, and writing "campus notes" for, selling ads and distributing the campus newspaper (fresh from the printer at 5:00am Monday morning).

 I honestly liked the newspaper best, for a couple of reasons. First, I was comfortable with newspaper, I had worked on my High School newspaper and yearbook and since my High School did not have radio or TV, I was always at a disadvantage learning the ins and outs of electronic media (I have a foul mouth and bad handwriting). Second, I am not a morning person, but because I had to get up to deliver the newspaper, I always made it to my eight o'clock class on Monday. Once I even made it to breakfast, I think.

 I also got to be stupid. I wasn't allowed to do anything on the radio other than the time, station ID and song title. On TV, I just stood there and held up poster board. In "Campus Notes", I could be a bit silly. For example, I would goof on calendar items:
"The Campus Quilters will be exhibiting their prize-winning quilt in the Commons on Wed. Left-hander Mary Jones will be signing autographs and taking questions from the public. Faculty Advisor Dr. Smith will be speaking on "Playing Through It: How Injury Can Elevate The Competitive Quilter". Plus, Cookies! You don't want to miss this, folks!".
My blurbs were surprisingly popular, and sometimes I'd even get a special request from a campus organization to go over the top with their blurb. Until...

The Director of Student Life read the newspaper one day and decided that the "Campus Notes" section wasn't being "respectful" of the University. She approached the newspaper's faculty advisor (whom I had never actually met) and told him to "fix it". The faculty advisor told the editor to tell me to knock it off. The editor blew up, claimed censorship and interference with her job etc... etc... a real scene, evidently.

 I didn't know any of this had occurred. As a lowly freshman, I wasn't invited to the staff meetings, besides I had other things to do. At that meeting the editor resigned, effective Sunday, after the paper went out to the printer.

I had already put the "Campus Notes" together when I found out, late Thursday night at an off-campus party where I was drinking an awful lot of Schlitz Malt Liquor (the ORIGINAL Red Bull). That night I was accosted by the very drunk, very blonde, editor and apprised of the situation. I decided at that point to recommend a re-write the column, add in some facetious items and make sure to include the name of the Director of Student Life in each one. Such as
"The campus anti-circumcision league will be meeting for mutual support and positive stretching in the library on Tuesday at 6:00pm. With Dr (insert name of Director of Student Life here) advising on weight placement and respect."
It may have been silly and childish, but I thought it was funny. Besides, I was OUTRAGED! So, slightly tipsy, I went to the newspaper office (after striking out with the editor) and re-wrote the column.

No surprise, by that Friday afternoon, the editor had had a change of heart. I hadn't.  My changed column went off to the printer, since grunt work, like "proof reading" also went to the freshmen. My changes weren't  discovered until Sunday night, and in a hysterical meeting (that I also was not invited to) it was decided that the newspaper would not be distributed after printing, it would be destroyed. A new edition would be printed, with an explanation written by the editor (why they bothered explaining something they were trying to cover up, I'll never know), and I would get kicked off of the newspaper and lose one-third of my "media practicum" grade (the faculty advisor saw to that.  You know, the guy I never met?). The editor, of course, did not lose her job and did not lose a grade.

I eventually transferred to another, better university but I still treasure the lesson I learned my freshman year:
Everyone's an asshole. They'll fuck you over if you give them half an excuse. Either don't give them an excuse or fuck them over first. Either way, someone's getting fucked over, in every situation, no matter how trivial. In fact, the more trivial the situation, the more certain types of people will try and fuck you over. Recognize these types. Avoid them if possible, if it's not possible, plant a dead hooker in their car. It's what Jesus would want you to do. -- Abe Lincoln

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