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Davis, California

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Hail to the Chief

The Oregon Daily Emerald has resumed printing today.

Huzzah!

What, you didn’t know that they’d stopped printing? Nobody told you? You don’t know what the ODE is?

Well that’s not really unexpected. The ODE is (perhaps you already deduced this) the student newspaper at the University of Oregon. This past week they went on strike in order to protest some changes that were being forced upon them. Specifically, the board that oversees the newspaper was trying to forcibly install an advisor/consultant into a new “publisher” position. This person would, in theory, not have any control over content. Why should you care? Well there are some life lessons to be learned (strikes are an important bargaining tool!) and improved upon (it’s important to tell your entire staff that you’re on strike!).

So why did the ODE staff have a problem with having a consultant shoved down their gullet? Well there are a few reasons.

For one, while the publisher would not have any direct control over content, the editor in chief (the highest student position on the paper) would have to report to that person. This creates an inherent conflict of interest that should have been spotted as a source of contention for the consultant that came up with the idea. Job responsibilities, budgets and the like should all be designed for the long term and be able to operate under the least favorable circumstances as opposed to simply ideal ones.

This position was also to be paid $80,000 annually. For a newspaper that is already ailing financially, this is so fiscally irresponsible as to be appalling. I can’t even fathom anyone trying to suggest such a thing at The Aggie. The ASUCD Controller would go into convulsions. $80,000 is almost enough money to pay for a full staff of editors and senior staff writers for an entire year, let alone one single consultant.

The conduct of the Emerald Board of Directors is also highly questionable. By all accounts, they appear to have been singularly uncooperative with the staff of the newspaper. The editor in chief clearly represented the paper’s position, which was summarily dismissed, if not verbally then by action, by the board. This does not even come close to showing the necessary level of communication and unity needed between the two groups.

Fist pounds and bro-hugs to the staff of The Emerald, which stuck to their principles in going on strike. It’s important to stand up for yourself and it takes a lot of guts to stand up to administrative types. It takes even more to actually go on strike. By doing so, they demonstrated just how important it is that they be taken seriously by the board of directors.

That said, the strike could have been much more competently that it was. Of the 72 Emerald employees, 37 signed the petition in support of the strike. The rest of the staff did not, apparently, contribute directly to the production of the paper; It appears that the advertising staff was not informed of the strike ahead of time and found out when the paper announcing the strike was issued. This smacks of hasty decision making. Haste and rashness often go hand in hand, which are bad news bears for journalists.

While I completely support the principles and aims of the ODE, strikes are srs bidness and should be employed (get it?) judiciously. When people go on strike, they are depriving their community of a service even though the intended targets of the strike are likely affected by it indirectly. As such, strikes are inherently unfair to the people you want on your side 99 percent of the time. Deciding to stop printing your newspaper entirely is a significant decision. I am not as familiar with the situation as the editors at ODE; obviously this was their call and they did what they thought was right. It’s important to tell the entire staff, though. Oh well, they know for next time.

And in case you were worried, The Aggie has no plans to go on strike anytime soon.

Knock on wood.

 

RICHARD PROCTER has become inexplicably addicted to Tetris. Send him pro tips at rhprocter@ucdavis.edu.

 

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