Things are bleak in the world of publishing. Quick-fix readers gobble up blogs instead of books, journalists curse the internet and collect unemployment checks, and even Rolling Stone has been looking awfully anorexic lately. Evolution is a cruel and messy bastard.
That's why you kinda have to hand it to Mike McCormack. The 24- year-old University of Miami student was brave enough to launch a magazine this past August -- at possibly the worst time in printing press history. Founded by four UM students, Back/Slash is a college lifestyle paper that covers everything from university events to sports and sexuality. It circulates at 12,000 issues and has sold $29,000 in advertising since its inception. After a heated argument between McCormack and school administrators, Back/Slash was banned from campus two weeks ago. McCormack thinks he knows why: "We're competing with the school paper and they don't like that."
He adds: "Our dream is being pissed on...Wouldn't you want your students to succeed?"
Director of Business Services Sandra Redway counters that the distribution of for-profit publications on the private campus is a privilege, not a right. "We had more than a few complaints about areas bombarded with the magazine...we tried to be sensitive."
Redway contacted McCormack April 1 when she learned he was passing out fliers and copies of Back/Slash without permission. She explained he could be charged with a misdemeanor. "You may advertise in The Hurricane," she wrote. "Which is the most effective way of reaching our students."
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Six days later, Redway informed him the school would allow an exception for Back/Slash - because contributors were largely UM kids. Administration limited distribution to a few racks in cafeterias and the university center. After the paper was found elsewhere -- such as in the convenience store --Redway wrote McCormack again. This time she told him she'd be contacting the school's legal council. On May 5, she "terminated distribution privileges."
McCormack believes school president Donna Shalala -- who last year received The Presidential Medal of Freedom for her free speech efforts --should do more to help. He's not taking it lightly. "I'm transferring," McCormack says. "It's completely offensive."
Adds Back/Slash reader Drew Spears: "It's disappointing - there's not enough indie media out there to begin with."