AAEC to Apple: end ridicule public figures policy

After the ruckus caused by the rejection of Mark Fiore NewsToons app from the Apple iTunes App Store – and its later acceptance after Mark received the Pulitzer Prize, The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists has penned an open letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs urging him to end the policy of rejecting apps solely on the grounds of ridiculing public figures because it “effectively bans all political cartoons and satire from the iPhone and iPad.”

The letter in its entirety:

Dear Mr. Jobs:

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists would like to commend Apple for approving Mark Fiore’s app, “NewsToons” (which incidentally became the top selling news app in less than 48 hours). Ironically, Apple rejected this very app as “objectionable” until Mr. Fiore received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and considerable media attention. We hope other apps that focus on politics and satire do not have to wait for a Pulitzer Prize before they are approved by Apple.

The recent attention given to Apple’s rejection of apps because they “ridicule public figures,” and are therefore in violation of the iPhone developer agreement, has brought some very important free speech issues to light. Apple’s policy forbidding ridicule of public figures effectively bans all political cartoons and satire from the iPhone and iPad.

While the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists realizes that Apple is a private sector company, Apple is also becoming one of the primary ways people publish news and information. With that innovation comes new responsibility.

A vigorous public discourse, opinion, satire and, yes, ridiculing public figures, are essential to journalism and our Democracy. Our nation would be a very different place if early technological innovators like Benjamin Franklin and those who followed him, forbade their presses from being used to ridicule public figures.

Instead of approving apps containing news and satire based on popularity, the quantity of public outcry, or the quality of award the work has received, there is a much simpler solution. The AAEC calls on Apple to immediately stop rejecting apps because they “ridicule public figures” and are deemed “objectionable.” Now is the time for Apple to welcome a vibrant and diverse world of news and opinion with open arms.

We would be happy to meet with you to discuss this matter further and look forward to journalism and press freedom being an important part of Apple’s continued innovation.


The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists

3 thoughts on “AAEC to Apple: end ridicule public figures policy

  1. Editorial Cartooning was once called “the only business that doesn’t have to pay for its source material.” It has a long history as a staple of the newspaper, especially those papers that began with political purposes (most of ’em). However, in today’s culture, editorial cartoons have followed the TV sitcom into put-down humor. Just as “situation comedies” are no longer about setting characters into a situation out of which comedy arises, but about which character can utter the funniest (perhaps meanest) put-down of another person, so too have many editorial cartoonists stopped utilizing clever plays-on-words or sly depictions in favor of cheap shots. While the change in TV fare has resulted in a culture of persons who harass, bully, and verbally abuse others, so too has once meaningful political discourse been reduced to pundits who harass, bully, and verbally abuse others. I challenge any editorial cartoonists reading this to rise above the norm in an effort to return your craft to the lofty profession it once was.

  2. “….utilizing clever play on words…..” ?

    The craft will survive in spite of Apple and readers who look to the visual art or graphic commentary for….a non-offensive clever play of words and sly depictions.

  3. Now that editorial cartoons have moved beyond the single panel to include strips, multi-panels, and animations, there really is no reason not to take a more nuanced look at the underlying ideas behind an issue.

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