Former Tribune Editor: I Would Have Run Cartoons
. . . an explanation of why, were he still Tribune editor, he would have run the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which have led to riots throughout the Islamic world.
First, the argument that the cartoons need not be published because they can be adequately explained is, at best, a copout. Name me an image in the entire world that can’t be explained with words. None exists. Does that mean newspapers should never run a photograph that might be unsettling? Quite the opposite — as the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words. Before I saw the cartoons, I imagined they must have been considerably more offensive than they actually were, and by being able to view for myself exactly what was causing these riots — how innocuous, for the most part, they were — it cast the whole story in a different light for me.Indeed.
On to the second argument — that the cartoons are available on the Internet for people who want to track them down. Indeed, the same could be said about myriad topics newspapers cover every single day. “We didn’t cover such and such because, if you’re interested, you can just search Google for info on it.” That’s not the way a newspaper should operate. . . . Furthermore, if news outlets were sincere about wanting to give the readers an alternative place to seek out the pictures, they would have included a Web address to do so. Few, if any, did.The Marquette Tribune decided not to publish the cartoons, although the editor at the Daily Illini at the University of Illinois did, and got suspended for his trouble.
We were initially opposed to the actions of Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper that first published the cartoons.
But as the protests and then riots broke out, the cartoons took on huge news value. It became important to readers to know what the fuss was about.
We never published the cartoons here, but we did supply a link (two actually, one of them a mirror site) where our readers could see the cartoons.
On the issue of whether the Tribune should have published the cartoons, we think publishing or not publishing them were both defensible, but the paper really should have supplied a web address so that readers could see them for themselves if they wanted.