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Sacramento student paper apologizes for cartoon

An editorial cartoon that ran on Sept. 29 in the Sacramento State University student newspaper has caused the paper to issue an apology. The cartoon was entitled “Why Baseball is the Best Sport Ever” and was meant to mock a column that ran in the same edition touting the sport, but the cartoon depicted a man beating a woman with a baseball bat. That image alone, coupled with the death of a student last year who was beat with a baseball bat pushed readers to call foul.

In an editorial, the paper defended the right to publish provocative cartoons, but this cartoon was insensitive to the community.

As journalists, we are all avid defenders of the First Amendment and do have the right to express ourselves and our opinions. While we will continue to offend and provoke if necessary to make our messages clear, we have learned from this experience that offending for the sheer sake of stirring up emotions is not a practice we would like to support or continue here at the Hornet.

The opinion expressed through the cartoon “Why baseball is the best sport ever” is not the opinion of the entire Hornet staff. Many of the editors and staff members never got a chance to review the cartoon before it was printed, and those of us who did were wary of holding it back because we advocate freedom of expression.

The editors who ultimately made the decision to print the cartoon did not recognize its reference to the tragic homicide of Scott Hawkins. If we had, we absolutely would not have printed this cartoon.

Community Comments

#1 Dan Bielinski
October/6/2010
@ 10:13 am

According to a comment attached to the article, a woman created this cartoon. That was a surprise.

And not to get all “Kurtz” here, but that cartoon really stinks. The art and the content.

#2 Ben Carlsen
October/6/2010
@ 11:18 am

Often when some newspaper or cartoonist is apologizing for a comic strip, I think, “Oh, come on. Stand up for yourself!” This time, not so much.

I can tell that the artist really doesn’t like baseball, though.

#3 Woodrow Barlettani
October/6/2010
@ 12:05 pm

the paper should apologize for lack of paying attention, the cartoonist need not, as they are sadistic and juvenile;
D -, for immaturity, and needs improvement in drawing ability….

#4 Rich Diesslin
October/6/2010
@ 12:05 pm

Deja vu all over again.

#5 Steve Walsh
October/6/2010
@ 12:32 pm

I wonder if they apologize every time there’s a cartoon with an implication of a crime that follows up that has occurred within the last year in the “community”.

#6 Derf Backderf
October/6/2010
@ 1:03 pm

I never had more fun than when I was drawing bad cartoons for my college paper.

#7 Pete McDonnell
October/6/2010
@ 1:12 pm

There was a student beaten to death with a baseball bat? Good Lord. If the cartoonist was trying to ironically reference that incident, I gotta question the lack of sensitivity involved. Yeah, hi-larious!

#8 Derf Backderf
October/6/2010
@ 1:40 pm

Yeah I remember that baseball bat murder. Happened last year.

Apology states the paper is a “laboratory paper.” What that means, for those of you who weren’t journalism majors, is that working for that paper is a hands-on class, and the entire staff turns over every semester. We had the same thing at Ohio State. It was fabulous experience, but resulted in some spectacular flubs, even from a J-program that was ranked in the Top 5 nationwide, which Sacramento State is nowhere near. In particular, at Ohio State, two young cartoonists– Jeff Smith and some Derf guy– set off separate firestorms. Smith with a, as I recall, unclear racial satire that was misinterpreted, and the other dope with a tasteless attack on a football star who ran afoul of the law.

What kind of idiot attacks the football team at Ohio State? Ah, to be 20 again!

This cartoon, however, judging from that one panel, is godawful.

#9 Terry LaBan
October/6/2010
@ 4:43 pm

Eeeew–what a nasty cartoon. And not in a good way. I wanna hear about this Jeff Smith racism thing, though. There was a famous stock minstrel show character called “Mister Bones”. Connection?

#10 Mike Peterson
October/6/2010
@ 5:21 pm

Disasters like this are almost inevitable at “lab papers.”

Lab papers are a disservice to everyone involved. The “staff” learns about one-tenth the skills they’ll actually need at a real paper and the readership gets a piece of crap that doesn’t provide real news. For instance, at a real college paper, there would have been someone in the Big Chairs who would say, “No, no, wait — we just had a kid beaten to death with a bat last year …”

The advantage of experience is not just technical skills, and not just a growing sense of judgment that helps direct the product. It is also an institutional memory that provides context for coverage. You can’t have this when the staff turns over constantly and every September becomes the Amateur Hour.

The downside of having a real newspaper in college, where last year’s reporter is this year’s editor, is that, as certain personalities ascend to the editorial positions, the newsroom tends to become cliquish, personality-driven and very unpleasant workplaces.

The upside, for aspiring journalists who want solid career preparation, is that real newsrooms are also cliquish, personality-driven and unpleasant places to work.

#11 Derf Backderf
October/6/2010
@ 8:24 pm

@Terry. It was Smith’s first BONE effort, a daily strip in the school paper, The Lantern. I can’t recall all the details, but it was a Pogo-esque satire of Jerry Falwell that had a racist doll involved somehow. It was a well-meaning attempt, but it was a little clunky and it just blew up in his face. One of the black student groups, led by a firebrand prof, got bent out of shape and actually stormed the newsroom to demand Smith’s head and “review power” over the paper. TV cameras came with them. Unfortunately, it was a Friday afternoon and the newsroom was empty (we published M-F), except for a couple sub-editors… and me. And then one of sub-editors, sensing a chance to escape, pointed to me and said “Talk to Derf. HE’S a cartoonist!” Yeah, that was fun.

To his credit, Smith later met with the group and got yelled at in person. And then a couple weeks later, I savaged the star quarterback in a cartoon and everyone forgot about Smith.

@MIke. I don’t think any 21-year-old has much of an “institutional memory.” Both lab and “real” college papers have their strengths and flaws. You’re right about the cliquish part, part. I’ve been married to MY college editor for 25 years!

#12 Terry LaBan
October/9/2010
@ 7:20 am

@Derf Ha! That reminds me of an incident that probably happened about the same time at a college humor magazine in Ohio. Someone drew a cover based on an offensive comment made by a member of the Reagan administration about the 3 things that black people supposedly need, which showed a black guy, complete with large afro, sitting on the john, throttling a cat and wearing a large pair of shoes. Upon its release, a mob of black students apparently stormed the publication building and made a bonfire out of all the copies they could find. I saw the cover some time after, and I have to say, I don’t really blame them. Though the intent was clearly not racist, it was a total misfire, a real “what in god’s name were the people who printed this thinking?” All of which goes to show that you’re free to say what you want and someone else is free to punch you in the nose for it. And just because people are offended by a cartoon doesn’t mean it isn’t actually offensive.

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