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Newspaper apologizes for Keith Knight cartoon

K Chronicles Slur Cartoon

The Montclair State University (NJ) college newspaper has issued an apology for running The K Chronicles strip that used a racial epithet. The Keith Knight cartoon shows a woman going door to door asking people who they’ll vote for and the resident responds with the epithet.

The editor, while apologizing for running the cartoon that resulted in a dozen calls to campus officials, blames the thought that all material coming from a syndicate would be safe and not need editing.

“Many of you have voiced your displeasure with this cartoon, as is your right,” editor-in-chief Bobby Melok wrote. “It is never The Montclarion’s intention to offend its readership, and we sincerely apologize to all who were upset with this comic.”

In an interview, Melok said the strip was received through MCT Campus, a syndicate that provides content for colleges across the country. A production editor placed it on the comics page without raising a flag, Melok said.

“We assumed because it was part of the syndicate, it was appropriate,” Melok said. “We didn’t take the care that we should have. It was a mistake. From now on, we’re going to be more aware of what we put in the newspaper from outside and what we do ourselves.”

The K Chronicles is a three time winner of the Glyph Award and has won the Harvey Award in 2007 for Best Syndicated Strip or Panel.

UPDATE: Keith has issued an “official” statement regarding the controversy on his blog:

To Whom it May Concern,

It’s nice to know young people are still reading the paper.

In all seriousness, the strip is based on some true incidents that happened to canvassers in some battleground states.

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/10/on-road-western-pennsylvania.html

Is it offensive? Yes. Is it sad? Sure. But that’s the reality of the United States and this very unique election.

We have the first African-American candidate for president who could actually win. And folks of all colors are coming face-to-face with bias and race issues they didn’t know about, have ignored or pretended didn’t exist. Neighbors, co-workers, and family members are learning a little more about the society we live in.

The comic is pointing out one aspect of it. Straight-up racists are prepared to pull the lever for a black man. While some folks out there, who never thought they were prejudiced, aren’t going to vote for him because of his skin color.

Should we ignore stuff like this? I don’t think so.

Should it be in a comic strip. Yes!!

Comic strips aren’t always “ha-ha” funny. They can be peculiar or strange or dark or embarrassing. Some of the most effective cartooning addresses serious issues. I suppose there are still a lot of folks who think comics should all be like “Garfield”.

I think it’s good that people are discussing the strip, whether it be negative or positive. It shows that they care and are willing to confront issues that are often swept under the rug.

The strip ran in papers across the country. So far, Montclair’s been the only place where there’s been a dust-up. If given the opportunity, I would love to do a slide-show on campus about cartooning, politics, race and the media. It would be nice to talk to the Montclair readers in person.

Cheers,

Keef

Community Comments

#1 Charles Brubaker
October/29/2008
@ 7:41 am

As Keith pointed out on his blog, the strip was based on a real incident.

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/10/on-road-western-pennsylvania.html

#2 Jason Nocera
October/29/2008
@ 9:14 am

Personally, I think this is a great cartoon. Clever use of panel borders to hide the full word. Great ironic gag. Great expressions. Well done.

#3 Beth Cravens
October/29/2008
@ 11:21 am

It wouldn’t have been as effective using a different word.

#4 Mike Witmer
October/29/2008
@ 11:25 am

I wouldn’t apologize for it either. I think it jabs more at the folks using the word than the word itself.

#5 Phil Tography
October/29/2008
@ 12:21 pm

Though a bit crass, isn’t that what editorial/political cartoonists do ? Cause controversy, if not then he/she is not doing his/her job. These cartoons help sell newspapers, bring up debates/letters to the editor. The newspaper editor blew a big chance to write about the freedom of the press and freedom of speech. The cartoon is the same as a Letter to the Editor. It reality it is the cartoonist’s opinion on a subject. Sure it upset some readers, but did they call for a massive boycott of the paper ? The fault lies within the two parties, the cartoonist and the editor, why pay the editor his salary if he is not doing his job ? If the editor had a problem with it then he/she should have called upon the cartoonist and/or replaced it with another. Cartoonists do the dirty work of telling us what we may be thinking to ourselves about certain subjects but not speak aloud.

#6 Wiley Miller
October/29/2008
@ 12:46 pm

“Though a bit crass, isnâ??t that what editorial/political cartoonists do ? Cause controversy…”

No. They are there to honestly editorialize through satire. It’s easy to be “controversial”. Doing it honestly requires wit.

For instance, you can do a caricature of John McCain wearing a KKK outfit. That would be controversial, but is it honest? The same applies to the cartoon being discussed here.

#7 Wiley Miller
October/29/2008
@ 12:48 pm

Correction on that last sentence. I was thinking of the other editorial cartoon thread, not the Keith Knight cartoon. This cartoon was dead on the mark, which is lost on the satirically challenged.

#8 Clay Jones
October/29/2008
@ 1:47 pm

So from the editor’s explanation: The strip was read but they didn’t know it was controversial or offensive because the syndicate didn’t tell them so. Or, they don’t read what they put in their newspaper. Just now they want to be aware of what they put in their newspaper?

I can see why no newspaper in the world would run this cartoon (which I like) as the word is like a grenade in any context. But their explanation really sucks.

#9 Darrin Bell
October/29/2008
@ 1:52 pm

Eh. It’s a college paper. They’d apologize for using too many big words if they got enough angry letters.

#10 Mike Rhode
October/29/2008
@ 4:33 pm

Given that Keith IS a cartoonist of color, I think he’s probably heard this word in unpleasant situations far more than he would like to have done so. I agree with Jason’s comments – this is a particularly trenchant cartoon for this election.

#11 Mike Lester
October/29/2008
@ 4:35 pm

I like true story cartoons ala Stan Mack. This one doesn’t pass the smell test. I’m not calling the canvasser a liar but after reading the account (thanks Charles B.) the story sounds contrived and convenient. Wouldn’t be the first time. Racists are dumb but they’re not stupid enough to throw the n-bomb at a total stranger. (Now if she’d said “faggot”, that seems to be o.k. w/ the liberal effete. I don’t get the distinction, do you?)

But the good news, if it’s true, is that Obambi seems to have secured the racist vote so Welcome to the United States of Belgium!!!

I would like to politely and seriously ask the Obama-trons among you to please tell those of us who need a little more experience and gravitas than “a speech he gave in 2002”
(-Hillary Clinton) to please tell us ONE THING he’s done. Just one thing that might appear in the Congressional record. I’m desperate for a cartoon idea for tomorrow so step on it.

#12 Jeff Vella
October/29/2008
@ 5:11 pm

How does that saying go..? “There’s no such thing as BAD publicity, just publicity!”

There’s nothing wrong with having an edgy comic that gets people talking. It’s a good comic.

#13 Darrin Bell
October/29/2008
@ 8:40 pm

“Racists are dumb but theyâ??re not stupid enough to throw the n-bomb at a total stranger.”

Sure they are. Only they usually do it on the Internet. Sometimes the more clever ones put it in quotes, so they can have the thrill of saying it while at the same time pretending they were being ironic.

#14 Darrin Bell
October/29/2008
@ 8:42 pm

Forgot to add, I thought it was a great strip. I’ve read enough “racists for Obama” stories to know Keith’s speaking the truth.

#15 Mark Tatulli
October/29/2008
@ 9:56 pm

Hey, my son goes to Montclair state (and I have the bills to prove it!) I asked him about it and he knows the paper, knows the strip (yes, he reads the paper!), but he didn’t hear anything about the controversey. Apparently there’s an email apology going around to all students, but he thinks he deleted it without reading.

Frankly, I thought the gag was good. Reminded me of the scene from BLAZING SADDLES as Cleavon Little is getting close to the town and Gabby Johnson shouts…

“Hey, the sheriff is a nig-BONG (church bell)

“What did he say?”

“He said the sheriff is near!”

#16 Charles Brubaker
October/29/2008
@ 11:07 pm

Keef released his statement on the cartoon at his blog

http://www.kchronicles.com/labels/controversy.shtml

#17 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
October/30/2008
@ 1:24 am

This has reached the epic proportion of urban legend…reported on Daily Kos, and Politico. True? Hard to tell now.
The eigth panel should have the woman smiling, in order to fit the legend.

I only know that my grandfather broke the “colored” barrier below the M/D line in the 1930’s, and he used the “n” word ( like Harry Truman did ) . Not right, and no apology.
Change comes, even to dummies.
KK’s depiction is entirely within bounds, and funny.

#18 Mike Peterson
October/30/2008
@ 4:31 am

The syndicate has released an alternative version for Montclair State. The pollster asks the woman who she is voting for and she responds, “First of all, let me say that, as a modern woman, I don’t have to ask my husband because I am well-informed and independent minded. Sometimes we vote for the same candidate, sometimes we don’t. In this case, it happens that we have weighed the policies of each candidate and have agreed, coincidentally, to cast our vote for Barack Obama. His race had nothing to do with our decision, but we are, indeed, gratified that we will be helping to erase a boundary line that should never have existed in the first place.”

It’s a more acceptable text and it fills up all the balloons, too.

The editors are reportedly rolling on the newsroom floor holding their sides at the hilarity of this more acceptable version.

#19 Monty Rohde
October/31/2008
@ 8:28 pm

Smell test?
I’m originally from small town central Ohio ,”The Heartland” some people like to call it, and I’m pretty sure it has happened somewhere. Just too many people for an incident like this not to happen.

Who knows. Maybe the racists are just smarter down south.

#20 LINDA JOE-TANBAL
November/6/2008
@ 2:11 pm

POLICTAL JOKE OR NOT…IT ONLY FEELINGS REMOTELY O.K. WHEN IT’S NOT YOUR RACIAL GROUP THAT IS BEING MADE FUN OF. SOMETHINGS & TERMS ARE BEST LEFT UNSAID. ANYONE FROM ANY RACIAL GROUP CAN QUALIFY AS A “n” BUT YOU USE IT IN REFERENCE TO ONE OF THE “BEST” THAT OUR COUNTRY HAS TO OFFER: THE PRESIDENT ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. SHAME ON YOU! GO BACK TO SCHOOL AND LEARN SOME NEW WORDS TO USE WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO BE FUNNY.

#21 Jerry Exum
November/7/2008
@ 3:43 pm

I really think that people that do things like this are not very educated on the black american and they really don’t know any better because this is all that they know how to do and they really have nothing else to do but be ignorant. People like this need to find something else to do in their life other than put dirt in a newspaper. They are apparently afraid of the black american and what we are capable of doing and being in america.

#22 Mike Peterson
November/8/2008
@ 6:52 am

Yeah. Darrin Bell’s scared to death of black people. I knew there was an explanation.

#23 Mike Peterson
November/8/2008
@ 7:21 am

Yeah, yeah, I did it. My order of reading each morning is Daily Cartoonist and then Toon Talk and that’s no excuse.

But he is scared of ’em, too, I’m sure. And so was Ollie Harrington.

#24 Mike Wakowski
November/8/2008
@ 9:00 am

“United States of Belgium” says Mike Lester of the “knuckle-dragging right”, as Mike Luckovich so aptly characterized him at the Reubens a couple years ago…

Yes, half the financial system is going to end up socialized. Does Mike know why?

It’s because the “free-markets cure all ills”, “trickle down”, “just deregulate everything and it’ll be ok” he and his cohorts have been spouting is nonsense, and leads to nothing but massive risk-taking, instability, and the worst market fear level since the Depression.

So, once again, just like the Depression, the Democrats have to be the grown-ups and clean up after the Republicans destroy everything. Thanks, Mike.

Will Mike Lester admit this? Of course not. Though maybe if he looks at his stock portfolio and tries to sell his home, he will. But I’m sure not willing to take that bet, are you?

You can’t trust the right-wing in this country because most of them, like Lester, are intellectually dishonest and don’t argue on the merits, instead just throwing around catchy-sounding words like “Obambi” and “United States of Belgium”.

But I guess that’s all they have when almost everything they espouse fails miserably.

#25 Wiley Miller
November/8/2008
@ 9:32 am

“as Mike Luckovich so aptly characterized him at the Reubens a couple years agoâ?¦”

It was actually Garry Trudeau who was presenting the editorial cartoon category who said that, not MIke Luckovich. All 3 nominees that year were conservative cartoonists.

The rest of your post was a tirade mostly against Mike Lester, which is puzzling since he had nothing to do with the cartoon that is the subject of this thread.

#26 Mike Wakowski
November/8/2008
@ 9:52 am

Wiley, I believe you’re wrong about Trudeau. I may be wrong, but I don’t think so.

Mike Lester invited comment with his name-calling and request to “Obamatrons”.

#27 Wiley Miller
November/8/2008
@ 10:56 am

“Wiley, I believe youâ??re wrong about Trudeau. I may be wrong, but I donâ??t think so.”

Well, I was there, Mike. The “knuckle-dragging right” remark was actually directed at Mike Ramirez, who won the award that night. Mike Lester, by the way, won the Best Book Illustration award that night.

#28 Alan Gardner
November/8/2008
@ 11:11 am

Mike Wakowski – Lester did not use “Obamatrons” on this thread. Your comment is off topic and irrelevant to this discussion. Please bring them back in line.

Alan

#29 Mike Lester
November/8/2008
@ 11:13 am

“knuckle-draggers” wasn’t directed toward me. I’d remember if I had been singled out. Didn’t happen. I did, however, give birth to my own Downs Syndrome grandchild.

#30 Wiley Miller
November/8/2008
@ 11:14 am

Just for the record, this report from Bob Harvey on the event:

Editorial Cartooning — Mike Lester of the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune; Glenn McCoy of the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat; and *Mike Ramirez of Investor’s Business Daily. Interestingly, as E&Pâ??s David Astor observed when the nomineesâ?? names were first published, all three finalists are conservatives in a cartooning profession consisting mostly of liberal and centrist creators. (Makes me wonder which chapter did the editorial cartoonist selection this year.) Doonesburyâ??s Garry Trudeau announced the winner in this category, and his tongue-in-cheek recitation of the names of the finalists acknowledged the oddity: Lester â??on the right,â? McCoy â??on the far right,â? and Ramirez â??on the knuckle-dragging right.â?

http://gocomics.typepad.com/rcharvey/2007/05/index.html

#31 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
November/8/2008
@ 11:23 am

Wiley, that was 2006? Who were the other two conservative nominees? Was Trudeau’s comment in any way directed at them? ( Since you were eyewitness ).
Although I would not be so hyperbolic, I can appreciate the opinion towards Ramirez. Much of his product about our new president Obama during the campaign was truly awful and in lockstep with the lowest merchants of smear and slime that define the far right.
I would hope that emotions now calm. Plenty of good cartoon material will fade, but at least I have Arnold in state!

#32 Wiley Miller
November/8/2008
@ 11:40 am

“I did, however, give birth to my own Downs Syndrome grandchild.”

So THAT’S why you weren’t at last year’s Reuben Awards…

#33 Rich Diesslin
November/9/2008
@ 12:22 am

Joe, might be awful to you, but I think Ramirez’s cartoons were right on and I look forward to more of the same. I guess he’ll be one of the few will have plenty of material to work with over the next 4 years.

#34 F H Staley
November/11/2008
@ 3:31 am

Ainâ??t nothing that a whole lotta newspapers havenâ??t written stories on before, from the start of the primary(s) up until the election

This cartoonist is just pointing out in illustration what they pointed out in words!

Soooooooooo many non-Black Obama canvasers and staff members were greeted in just the manner pointed out in the comic strip sooooooooo why the need for an apology?

It is, sadly, still a fact of life in the good ol’ USofA . . .

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