I could write ten columns on "The Walkout" by the editors of the Red & Black. Conveniently, a billion people have written about it. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go google 'Red & Black walkout', read up, and come back.
I found out about it before most, when our summer intern Cailin O'Brien texted me that "everyone at the Red & Black just quit." Cailin was only a couple days into her gig doing crime reporting when, by chance, she ran into her editors leaving what, for all they knew, would be the last meeting they ever had at the paper. I got the text about 7 p.m. What happened over the next four hours fascinated me and those billion people that wrote about it.
Before I explain, I need to talk to the "older" folks out there, and that means you if you didn't grow up with a laptop on your lap and earbuds in your ears. Stuff has changed, and by stuff I mean all the stuff, everything. What i mean is, if you're thinking about trying to strong arm a bunch of young, idealistic, tech-savvy journalism students, don't do it.
You might as well pull the pin on a live grenade and just sit there, because either way stuff's going to blow up in your face, immediately.
I got a call from a nearly shouting Chris Dunn, our sports editor, around eleven, "the intern is on the news!"
Within four hours of actually walking out of the Red & Black building, the story had gone national. With their brand new Red and Dead website, the suddenly former R&B editors had dropped their grenade on the internet, and thousands watched and electronically interacted with the unfolding drama.
Nobody knew what was going on. A more than 100 year old paper just imploded; alumni and journalists around the country were suitably intrigued and unanimously outraged.
Fortunately, the Red & Black's publisher and board of directors immediately came to their senses, realized they had briefly gone totally insane, and welcomed the staff back with profuse apologies.
Huh? Oh yeah I mean they did the complete opposite.
It was not a train wreck, it was more like a train wrecking into a school bus full of puppies, then barreling off a cliff and inexplicably colliding with an airplane.
IRS documents revealed the publisher made over $180,000 last year, almost a fifth of the paper's total expenditures. He gave a stiff, emotionless rendition of a stiff, emotionless press release responding to the crisis and put it on the internet because of no possible reason I can think of. He called for an open house the next day to resolve the issue, posting an invite on the web that actually said "everyone is welcome."
THEN HE AND THE BOARD LOCKED EVERYONE OUT OF THE BUILDING.
And he tackled a guy with a camera. Tackled him to the ground.
Then it was revealed that a whole new crew of replacement writers had already been found, and if the old staff wanted to come back they had to apply again and may or may not get re-hired. He literally forced Red & Black alumni, who had showed up to his OPEN HOUSE to speak, to stay outside and speak there. Board members came out to issue a statement then left before the alumni gave theirs, which upset a lot of people.
Do you know how I know this? Because the Red and Dead live tweeted the whole thing! This bumbling, ridiculous PR meltdown was tweeted punch for punch, and it seems that, improbably, the old people at the Red & Black couldn't see any of this coming.
Seriously. A professional publisher, who gets paid like a doctor to run a paper, and fourteen other adult board members just got taken out behind the woodshed and twittered in the head by a bunch of twenty year olds.
Board members, give all these kids their jobs back. Give them their paper back.
They're better at this than you.
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