By: Dave Astor
After The Hartford (Conn.) Courant‘s reader representative criticized a staff cartoon, the artist criticized her comments.
Bob Englehart’s cartoon showed two African-American residents of Hartford talking to a police officer as bullets whizzed by. One resident says: “Sure, we could give up the names of known criminals and make the neighborhoods safe for children but then we’d be ‘acting white.'”
Karen Hunter, the Courant‘s reader representative, responded to the July 13 cartoon in her July 20 column. She noted that Englehart “is more than entitled to his opinions, he is paid for them.” But Hunter added that the cartoon “insult(ed) a community.” She wrote: “Beyond the complete disregard for the reality of fear of retaliation was the outrageous implication that black people in Hartford don’t value the safety of their children and their neighborhoods as much as white people do.”
Englehart, contacted Monday for his reaction to Hunter’s column, told E&P Online: “I thought it was out of line and wrong.” He said crime in Hartford — and what he feels is the inadequate response to this crime by residents and those in authority — is an “embarrassment.” Englehart added that if residents don’t report criminals because of fear of retaliation, “it’s not going to help their neighborhoods.”
The cartoonist also questioned whether a reader representative should be criticizing editorial-page material.
“I usually don’t challenge people about their opinions,” Hunter told E&P Online Monday. “But I truly felt the cartoon did a disservice to the paper.”
As for Englehart’s statement that she was “out of line and wrong,” Hunter said: “He has every right to his opinion.”
Hunter said she knows of about 20 reader responses to the cartoon and her column, with most people troubled by Englehart’s drawing. Englehart said he thinks reaction has been split more 50/50, and that there hasn’t been much reaction overall.
“It’s a tempest in a teapot. There were more letters after the rock critic wrote about the American Idol tour coming to Hartford,” said Englehart, the Courant cartoonist for 22-plus years.
“He’s definitely had more response in the past to other cartoons,” said Hunter.
The reader representative said she “did not take a scientific poll” of internal Courant reaction to the cartoon, but that some newsroom people stopped by her office last week to say they were bothered by it.
Courant Editorial Page Editor John Zakarian could not be immediately reached for comment. But he was quoted in Hunter’s column as saying: “Bob is a cartoonist, and cartoonists frequently aren’t subtle in their graphic pronouncements. If they are any good at all, they are on the edge. Sometimes they are over the edge. Sometimes the cartoons are edited. This one was somewhat.”
Hunter, when interviewed Monday, concluded: “This isn’t anything personal between Bob Englehart and me. I still respect him for what he does.”