Red & Black and Patronizing All Over?

Every year, writer and editors from virtually every major and minor college newspaper in the state of Georgia descend on Athens for a weekend full of sessions, workshops and probably more than a little bit of partying (let’s be honest).

For schools with larger circulations, bigger staffs and more advertising revenue, the annual Georgia College Press Association convention may act as a stepping stone to the larger national conventions later in the year, perhaps an indicator of how they will do later. Kind of like how the Screen Actors Guild awards often lays the stage for the Oscars.

For the smaller publications, GCPA is also time for validation. A chance at finally being recognized for the painstaking work of writing, editing and printing the news on deadline week after week, probably on top of grueling loads of classwork and secular jobs.

Yet, in the literal backyard of the largest journalism school in Georgia at the Classic Center in Athens, the perennial white elephant (or bulldog, if you prefer) in the GCPA awards room is The Red & Black, whose absence in recent years is both noted and remarked upon by attendees.

Indeed, the independent student newspaper of the University of Georgia isn’t a member of the Georgia College Press Association, nor does it compete in any of the organization’s annual contests like the rest of its state collegiate analogues. Rather, it chooses to submit its work to national associations like the Society of Professional Journalists, for example.

And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with submitting your work for professional accolades, especially in The Red & Black‘s case as an independent corporation that competes in practice every week against the pros for local advertising and readership.

But as good as The Red & Black may be, its lack of participation in GCPA can’t help but come off as somewhat elitest or entitled, as though they’re better than us and they know it. As though, if they competed, somehow it wouldn’t even be much of a competition. As though they can’t spare enough time to get out of bed and literally walk to the convention for the past four years it’s been in Athens.

Because, if they did, I think there’s plenty of other college newspapers in the state that would give them a run for their money.

In fact, lots of college newspapers in Georgia submit their work to national competitions. The Signal at Georgia State University was even awarded the “Best of Show” award at the National College Media Convention in November for the four-year weekly tabloid category, the largest they judge.

However, I don’t want to just brag on my paper, since the whole point of this post is that no one organization should feel itself entitled to praise and snobbery. After all, The Technique at Georgia Tech, which doesn’t even have a journalism program, mind you, won a Pacemaker in 2010 — coincidently also the last year the R&B won, as well.

Of course, I can’t confirm exactly why UGA’s student newspaper doesn’t compete, though the rumors certainly seem to back up the perception that it’s because they’re afraid they would sweep the award ceremony year after year.

If that’s true, how gracious of them… but we don’t want their patronizing attitude. If that’s not it, then what are they waiting for? Why not join in and participate in  what can be a very important community for aspiring college journalists?

Who knows, perhaps with the organization’s new appointments to the board of directors, things might change — especially after Red & Black advisor Ed Morales was spotted at the conference. It’s hard to say. Morales certainly seems keene on considering the idea based on his help Saturday, which is good.

So I issue this challenge: Join GCPA. Help build a community.

You might learn something in the process.

Comments
One Response to “Red & Black and Patronizing All Over?”
  1. Chris, fantastic points across the board. UGA’s absence is highly visible at GCPA, and I think it’s time we open dialogue with them.

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This is the personal page of Chris Shattuck -- an Atlanta-based media professional with a background in business reporting, nonprofits and agency PR.

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