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Oregon Daily Emerald Newsroom Goes On Strike

Without a doubt, the three years I spent in the Oregon Daily Emerald newsroom while I was in college were far more educational than any college class I have (and will ever) take. In this economy, however, newspapers are struggling to survive, so they needed some business oversight to keep things afloat (they decided not to renew the contract of long-time general manager Judy Riedl, which I don't know if that was necessarily a good idea). The one thing the newsroom valued above all else was their editorial independence from the University. With that independence potentially being threatened because of business-side oversight (and what sounds like an ugly conflict of interest), the newsroom has gone on strike. After reading through it all, I support them for the most part. I have met Steven A. Smith before (if I remember correctly, he came to the ODE during my days there to talk to our newsroom, and I'm sure he was at the 25th anniversary of independence festivities), and I believe he was trying to do his best to help the newspaper survive. He's a good guy, I'm sure, and his heart's probably in the right place. However, thinking that he could get $80,000 from the Emerald (who pays their editors far less than minimum wage, mind you) plus work at the School of Journalism and Communication (for another paycheck, conflict of interest be damned) is ludicrous. While he may have been the best candidate for the job, especially considering his background in the professional world as well as at the Emerald, putting him (or anybody else) above the editor-in-chief in the chain-of-command puts that person in editorial control. If that person works for the SOJC as well, you can see the issue. The fact that he didn't want to be part of the nationwide search for a candidate and won't go through an interview process (at least according to the Emerald) seems a little suspect as well.

That being said, Steve was not contacted for the Emerald article on the strike, so he may have been able to offer responses to some of those points. Hell, there may be more to this than meets the eye, I don't know, but I do think it's interesting, just the same. But it does sound like the Emerald Board of Directors has really shaken things up since Judy's contract wasn't renewed. I know their job is to keep the Emerald afloat, but to think they could do it without the newsroom is pretty silly.

I’d also be curious as to what the J-school’s stance is on this, as I know Dean Tim Gleason has been very supportive of newsroom independence in the past.

Steve has since taken himself out of the running, scratching off one of the Emerald's four demands (which editors have said are all essential). The story has hit Romenesko as has Steve's follow-up. The Comic Press has some great commentary on it as well (and sums things up nicely). The Emerald staff is publishing updates on a separate site. My guess is that the Oregon Commentator will have something as well fairly soon. Here's the Oregon Commentator's support of the Ol' Dirty.

Update: Day 2 of the Strike, and there are updates all around. Many of the links above have been updated as well with more commentary and links, so I'm going to encourage to read up on those links, as I won't bother to link to them all here.

Posted by Jake on 03/04/09 @ 10:40 AM
Posted in Interesting, Journalism | Permalink

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