I was sent an email pointing me to an op-ed piece in The Herald (Rock Hill, SC) that apologized for an editorial cartoon that ran in their paper “depicting domestic auto companies’ logos on a turkey.” The publisher felt that it made light of a serious topic. Furthermore he announced that cartoons appearing in the paper would be screened by more than one individual. The cartoonist was not named.
Few of the issues we address on the editorial page are clear-cut. Our editorial board meets to hash through topics of the day and come to consensus, or at least compromise, before stating The Herald’s position in its written editorials. We have not had the same kind of scrutiny in place with regard to cartoons, although a cartoon’s message can evoke quite different reactions from one person to another. That was evidenced yesterday. In the eyes of the person choosing the cartoon, it was simply putting a major topic in the news under the editorial microscope. To others, including myself, it should not have appeared in our paper.
Beginning today, we have a process in place to ensure cartoons are viewed by more than one person prior to publication. Will our cartoons still be thought-provoking and controversial? Absolutely. I’m sure we’ll continue to hear from readers who will disagree with what we print. The role of the editorial page, in written word or illustration, is to challenge and spawn debate. But by having several pairs of eyes previewing cartoons, we’ll be in a better position to determine what is appropriate caricature and humor, and what crosses a very fine line.
Recently, after accidently running a K Chronicles cartoon that wasn’t supposed to have run, The Montclair State University (NJ) college newspaper also created a policy that dictated that all cartoons are to be screened by two people. Before the controversy that ensued after the cartoon ran, the attitude was that cartoons coming from a syndicate would be safe and not need editing.
Is there such a thing as too much oversight or editing when it comes to cartoons in newspapers?