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. 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 ballsy enough to launch a magazine last 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 administrators, Back/Slash was banned last week from campus. 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?"
University of Miami bans indie magazine
The 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 flyers 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 a campus 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."