June 5, 2013

UPDATE: Red & Black Publisher Harry Montevideo Has Resigned


Photo credit: Journoterrorist

Harry Montevideo has resigned as publisher of The Red & Black, the University of Georgia student newspaper.

The decision was a mutual one between Montevideo and the nonprofit's board of directors that stemmed from financial struggles in the online world, said board member and spokesman Chuck Reece.

Reece credited Montevideo with putting the organization on sound financial footing during his three decades as publisher. It has "money in the bank" and owns its Baxter Street building, he said. But "The Red & Black is facing the same problems every newspaper is facing right now," he said. "The board and Harry felt we need the right kind of leadership to move where the paper needs to move in the current media landscape."

Montevideo's resignation came almost a year after The Red & Black's student staff walked off the job in response to a board member's plan to run more positive stories and turn editorial control over to the professional editorial advisor. The walkout turned into a national story.

The staff returned to work in August after the board member resigned and the board abandoned the plan. A student journalist accused Montevideo of manhandling him on the day that agreement was announced, but no charges were filed.

Prior to the Red and Dead controversy, Montevideo oversaw another controversial decision: to scale back print publication from weekdays to once a week. The digital strategy backfired as print revenue plummeted and was not replaced by online ads sales.

UGA journalism professor Barry Hollander wrote about Montevideo's legacy on his blog:

His leaving is an end of an era for the paper -- a creature he nurtured and nourished and helped grow into an award-winning operation with a really big building on Baxter Hill.  He deserves loads of credit for making the paper what it was, just as he deserves credit (along with a few of its kookier board members) for making the paper the lesser creature it is today.  His recent foolishness (wrestling a student to the ground, the walkout, the obscene salary, the mangled move from print to digital, trying to pick a fight with my department) all conspired to lead a fresher and more clearheaded board to a simple conclusion, that it was time for Montevideo to step down.

The Red & Black will remain "an independent student voice" and a training ground for journalists, said Reece, who was the paper's editor when it broke official ties with UGA in 1983 and spoke out against the board's plan last year before joining the board.

"I can't emphasize enough how much we want the student journalists and the student ad staff to be involved as we talk about what kind of strategy to put in place," he said.

Board Vice Chairman Steven Sears released the following statement:

ATHENS, Ga. — June 5, 2013 —The Red and Black Publishing Co. announced today senior  management changes. 

Harry Montevideo will leave his position as publisher after a distinguished 30-year career. Natalie McClure, the paper’s advertising director, was appointed acting general manager. The organization’s board of directors will begin a national search for a senior executive to lead the organization. 

“Harry’s leadership is directly responsible for some of the greatest successes realized by one of America’s oldest student newspapers. His careful stewardship and financial acumen have helped put the paper on a solid financial footing,” said Melita Easters, chair of the organization’s board.  

McClure has been the paper’s advertising director since 2008. She graduated from the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism in 2003. She will assume day-to-day operational responsibilities while the board of directors dedicates itself to building upon the solid foundation Mr. Montevideo helped establish. The board has already empanelled several committees, chaired by seasoned journalists and news executives, to hone the 120-year-old news organization’s strategic direction. 

“The Board of Directors of The Red & Black is dedicated to ensuring that the organization is one of the nation’s foremost training grounds for journalists. We are confident that The Red & Black’s brightest days are ahead,” said Steven M. Sears, vice chairman of the board. 

Reece called McClure "very good at her job."

The board is working with the student and professional staffs on a new strategic plan as it searches for a new publisher, he said. There is no timetable; the board will act "quickly" but "deliberately," he said.