August 16, 2012
Graduating from a place as large and distinguished as the University of Georgia, I often see or hear stories about either people I knew from school or just others who went there. With the route I took through the Redcoat Band and getting a journalism degree, this has obviously meant more connections to those two groups compared to others.
Recently, one of my fraternity brothers has been in the news because of the unfortunate situation of his wife. Mark Rinehart, who I only know by name and maybe meeting him once or twice in person, is still going through the awful stress of his wife's affliction from a flesh-eating bug.
What is probably a great help for Mark and his wife, Hannah, is with our social media avenues, their story has been shared with a lot of people who maybe wouldn't have known all about this just a decade ago. And maybe that extra knowledge led Mark's colleagues to try to donate their sick and vacation time to him so he could better care for Hannah.
Nothing seems wrong about that, right? According to Gwinnett County Public Schools, it's apparently very wrong. This is what district spokesperson Sloan Roach told the Daily Post:
"While we understand this is a catastrophic situation for this employee, this is not a simple change. As a school district we have on average 550 people on leave at any given time. Currently, we have 131 people on leave who are not receiving pay because they have used all of their available sick leave.”
So what this amounts to is because other people are suffering hardship, Mark and Hannah can't be helped out by willing co-workers? The school district can't look at this policy and decide, "You know, maybe we're wrong. Let's change this."
I read some things online that made me not sure what is really standing in the way. In one story, it was state law. But in another, it was a local decision. Maybe that's what will be discussed at tonight's board meeting, where a bunch of the Rineharts' supporters plan to show up in support wearing royal blue.
Sometimes people higher in the chain of command need a wake-up call. Some employers are better at this than others, obviously, and I know that some businesses can't survive with a person out for a long time. However, it's hard to believe that Gwinnett County's biggest employer can't help a hard worker out when such a circumstance arises. Considering the amount of people afflicted by cancer and other diseases that can affect others for a long time, is there no wiggle room? These teachers have recently put up with furloughs in addition to the regular pressures of being a teacher, so you think school systems could work a bit better with employees. Hopefully GCPS or whoever calls the shots can do the right thing and make this change.
Mark's situation is definitely more serious since it involves the well-being of his wife. But later in the day Wednesday, another situation involving my other "family" at UGA arose.
Apparently The Red & Black student newspaper has been taken over by more and more "professionals" who are starting to dictate to the student editors what they should cover. Not just advising, but dictating. Veto power. This led to the editors pretty much walking out of the building Wednesday and resigning.
It almost seems silly to get worked up about this after everything about the Rineharts I just mentioned. But I guess that's life, so here I go.
The Red & Black is a student newspaper operated independently of UGA. As long as I have known, it has always had a few professionals around for guidance and to help the outfit break even financially. But in the short time I was there, I never saw or heard from these people. The students were in all of the jobs you find at "real" newspapers, which gave us valuable experience learning how to do things. I never ever heard any of the editors get told what to cover and how to cover it. If you want to know what would've happened, see today's events. Judging by reactions on Facebook and Twitter, even mentions from the likes of Keith Olbermann and SI's Peter King, I'm not the only one who feels this way.
I have seen the quality of people in those jobs before. They usually don't need much counsel from someone even as lowly qualified as myself, let alone those with more experience in the biz. If I went back there today, I wouldn't know what students want covered. I could offer vague ideas and then tell the students running the thing that they need to take that and develop their own idea of what works. Neither of us are really right or wrong, but actual students will most likely know better.
It's the same with news outfits around the country and what is important to communities. Someone with a ton of experience writing could come around here and not really know much about what's important to the community if he or she hasn't lived around here. Would some newcomer know the history of the airport privatization story or the amazing number of athletes from the area that go on to play in college?
A group of former Red & Black employees have right now set up a WordPress blog, Twitter account and Facebook page to follow. A bunch of industry pros coming in and holding veto power over students won't really help them learn much. Students have been leading the publication independently for three decades. It's not broke, so it doesn't need fixing.
And now for something completely different: I saw this video Wednesday, and it's just awesome. If you like good spoof videos, you'll like "We're NASA and I know it."
Michael Buckelew is a contributing writer for the Gwinnett Daily Post.