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Newspaper drops its cartoonist over cartoon caper

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise has dropped the use of upstate New York freelance cartoonist Mark Wilson (aka “Marquil”) after they ran a cartoon critical of New York State’s handling of an armed standoff. Complaints flooded in and the paper caved (link provided goes to a google cached version of the story as the original is no longer on the newspaper’s web site).

The paper maintains:

In hindsight, we think it was the wrong decision, and we apologize to all those who were hurt by it. At the time, we felt a certain obligation to publish this opinion despite our aversion to it, but we feel no such obligation now. A syndicated cartoon â?? even one by a local cartoonist â?? is not the same as a letter to the editor written by someone whose sole motive is to be heard. Itâ??s a service we pay for, drawn by a cartoonist who draws them for a living. As a customer, a newspaper has no obligation to publish a cartoon that will damage its relationship with its readers.

Thereâ??s still a fine line between finding something disagreeable and finding it unacceptable. Looking back, we think this cartoon crossed that line.

While I think the paper certainly has a right to say – “oops” and make an apology. To sever the relationship with the cartoonist because they (the paper) made a mistake seems a bit unfair.

Community Comments

#1 Rich
May/17/2007
@ 3:30 pm

The paper says “We normally find Mr. Wilsonâ??s cartoons insightful, and we respect the intelligence of his opinions whether we agree with him or not. We regret running this one, however.”

Typical double-speak. If they aren’t planning to consider any of his work in the future, then this is just B.S.

#2 Shane
May/17/2007
@ 3:37 pm

Was there a particular premise behind the cartoon? Or just a knock on the police in general?

#3 Rich
May/17/2007
@ 4:48 pm

The links are provided above to show the article and the cartoon. I guessing it’s a knock on calling for too much support for a given situation, but I think it was complicated by the fact that an officer was killed. If an officer had not been killed, I’m guessing that this cartoon would not have been considered offensive (mildly critical perhaps).

Without more facts of the actual event it’s hard to tell why it’s considered so offensive. I don’t see it as such based on the limited write-up. On the other hand, if some nut had a gun pointed at me, I’d want to call in the national guard … another reason why I don’t see it to be damning.

However, back to the point … seems the newspaper basically tried to appease complaints at the expense of a freelance cartoonist. Their double-talk suggests either a) they never really liked the cartoonist (which seems unlikely since they were a customer) or b) they aren’t willing to take the heat for their own decision. At any rate, dispite their words, they don’t respect his work enough to consider more cartoons from him.

I have no problem with a paper not printing a cartoon they feel is too offensive, but I also see no reason why they wouldn’t take responsibility for running it. In otherwords, the paper should apologize and continue using cartoons they like from him. My 2¢ anyway.

#4 Cindermain
May/17/2007
@ 7:32 pm

Hey Rich.

Actually, the backlash is understandable, considering the subject matter.

I researched the area news stories backlog for that newspaper…it wasn’t just that an officer had died while on duty. It turns out he was killed by friendly fire during a raid.

“There was no criticism this time, even when preliminary investigation showed Brinkerhoff was killed by a trooperâ??s bullet.”

Also;

“In the latest shooting incident, a seven-member SWAT team went into the farmhouse at the western edge of the Catskills after an electronic alarm was tripped an hour earlier. Police said Trim was hiding upstairs with a handgun and rifle and opened fire. The Mobile Response Team replied with 69 shots, hitting Trim twice in the chest and once in the head. Brinkerhoff, wearing body armor and a Kevlar helmet, was hit in the torso and the back of the head.

Brinkerhoff was first hit in the body armor by a shot from Trimâ??s handgun, and Mattson was hit in the arm by a bullet from the 23-year-old gunmanâ??s rifle, Felton said. The team was sent in to secure the house when it was thought Trim may have fled into the nearby woods, police said.”

So it wasn’t just the sad case of an officer dying in the line of duty, but dying at the hands of someone IN HIS UNIT.

Colossal incompetence leading to a local lawman dying…that’s a lot of tragedy and anger for a community to deal with, especially when there’s no one to pin the blame on. The criminal didn’t kill him, and the cop who did can’t really be blamed…there was no malice aforethought! Plus, he’s never mentioned!

So while it is a good thing to speak out on the topic like the cartoonist did, it also skirted the edge of good taste and pushed exactly the wrong buttons in that community. I honestly don’t think the newspaper anticipated the backlash the cartoon generated, but the cartoonist should have at least considered the possibility.

So with one to blame for the cop’s death and vent the rage, they struck at the first thing that offended them…the newspaper that ran the cartoon. It was only natural for the newspaper to deflect it to the cartoonist…it’s a risk editorial cartoonists have to face daily.

To ban him entirely, though…well, Janet Jackson got shunned by the public eye for showing her breast for 1/4 of a second. It isn’t surprising.

#5 DT
May/18/2007
@ 12:11 pm

Unless you’ve actually been in a fire-fight, it’s quite a leap to call this sorrowful incident colossal incompetence. I think that may be what the community was getting at when they complained bitterly about the unsympathetic cartoon.

Casual observers, as cartoonists oftimes be, can afford to be cavalier…but if they infuse their cartoons with that same cavalier attitude, they have to assume responsibility…

Of course, a good editor wouldn’t print this particular cartoon under those particular circumstances. If they did, they should bear the brunt of their decision, not cop out by firing the cartoonist.

#6 Rich
May/18/2007
@ 12:33 pm

Cinderman and DT, thanks for the update. That makes more sense why it was a very emotional backlash. I guess the cartoonist was the lightning rod for public outrage. However, given this new information the cartoonist makes an interesting observation, perhaps the problem was too many people in harms way.

Hindsight would suggest a more calculated approach. But hindsight is just that. I’m guessing that they will rethink this scenerio perhaps even along the lines the cartoonist is pointing out (few people charging the building).

Isn’t it common to teargas someone out in a situation like this? (lone gunman holed-up in a building)

Anyway, sounds like you are both correct in suggesting the paper wasn’t thinking it through. Too bad they can’t own up to their own mistake.

#7 Cindermain
May/18/2007
@ 8:44 pm

Hey DT.

You’re absolutely right.
“Colossal incompetence” seemed right at the time, but on reflection I really have no frame of reference to make that kind of judgement call. Sorry about that.

But it does seem that we are agreeing upon the same points.

Editorial cartoonists walk a fine line nowadays, especially with the editorial constraints placed upon today’s media. The negative reaction should have been expected by both the cartoonist and the paper considering the circumstances.

#8 Garey Mckee
May/18/2007
@ 9:06 pm

Cartooning in general and editorial cartooning in particular is all about timing.

I draw a police comic strip and looking at this editorial cartoon, had I not known the unfortunate tragedy that preceeded it, I would have thought it very funny. But it was the wrong call to run that cartoon at this time. And I agree that it was totally unfair to totally drop the cartoonist because they (the paper) made a mistake in judgement.

I have a friend who actually did fire off several rounds in a department store warehouse filled with mirrors. You couldn’t get away with things like that these days as police departments are very keen on accounting for every round fired for fear of a “bad shoot.” But back in the good ol’ days that wasn’t the case. I still don’t let my buddy live that one down. So that’s why I thought the cartoon was funny.

#9 Cindermain
May/18/2007
@ 10:05 pm

Hey Garey!

Yeah, it would have been a great cartoon to run at another time, I agree.

But again we trip over the circumstances of the actual event.

Also, what are we to take from it?

This strip certainly calls into question the competence of the officers involved, doesn’t it? Calling for backup for a house of mirrors? Out of context it’s a hilarious concept! But considering the situation, it is a harsh statement about the competency of the officers involved.

I think that may have been why I used the decription â??colossal incompetenceâ? before…it does paint the officers involved in a very bad light.

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