Racism Or Satire? Cartoon Sparks Outrage p.10

By: david noack Editorial cartoonist accused of racism after trying to criticize it; cartoonists mixed;
Blade bosses call cartoon 'stupid,' promise stricter prepublication review

A TOLEDO BLADE editorial cartoon trying to condemn Ku Klux Klan slurs about a black man who was dragged to death in Jasper, Texas, has itself become the target of racism charges.
John Robinson Block, co-publisher and executive vice president of the Ohio newspaper, says the work by staff cartoonist Kirk Walters was "a stupid cartoon, badly executed."
The June 22 cartoon depicts a hooded member of the Klan opposing the act of "tying Negroes to the bumpers of pickup trucks and dragging them around" because "it could hurt the resale value of the truck." It came in response to the June 6 killing of James Byrd Jr., a black man who was tied to a pickup truck and dragged for two miles, allegedly by three white supremacists, now in custody.
While the cartoonist says he intended to emphasize inconsistencies between recent Klan comments about nonviolence and their violent history, the cartoon has become a flash point in a city that is about 19% black.

Group Calls for Newspaper Boycott
Organizers of a protest movement, called Concerned Citizens for a Fair and Free Press, have called for a 60-day circulation and advertising boycott of the Blade and are also seeking an apology.
Block defended the paper's long tradition of progressive stands on civil rights. He said one outcome of the incident will be a stricter editorial cartoon review process. The 147,000-circulation daily is owned by Blade Communications Inc.
"This was a land mine," he said. "We didn't deliberately get into this and cause a problem. What [protesters] seem to say is well, even if it wasn't deliberate, it shows how insensitive you are. You have sensitivity issues there. . . . Maybe it does."
The group, formed by former Republican mayoral candidate Woody Adams, denounced the cartoon as a "slap in the face of the community" and morally unacceptable.
At a recent meeting between newspaper executives and community leaders, Block criticized the cartoon and pledged to work more closely with the community.

Printed Apology Demanded
Adams, saying the Blade's explanation was no apology, demanded a printed apology in the newspaper. "Our position is that it is outside the bounds of proper journalism," he said of the cartoon. Over the weekend, Adams said, he met with the Rev. Jesse Jackson to discuss the situation.
Johnny Mickler Sr., president and CEO of the Greater Toledo Urban League, said, "With all the rest of the country feeling sadness about this incident we're really appalled that whatever the reason was for the cartoon from the Blade's standpoint, that the newspaper wasn't sensitive enough to realize that this is a real issue that we do not take lightly."
The Toledo chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Urban League have denounced the cartoon.
The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus joined the chorus, blasting the cartoon as "inappropriate and highly insensitive."
"Political cartoons are expected to be either funny, sharply provocative, or with enough 'edge' to make the point," the group said, declaring Walters' cartoon "fails miserably to meet any of those tests."
Scripps Howard News Service distributed Walters' cartoon to 400 clients, but heard no feedback and didn't know how many papers, if any, printed it."There was no reaction one way or another that we heard about," said managing editor Peter Copeland.
Walters, a 13-year Blade veteran, called the community response "terribly distressing."
"I am now being accused of doing something that I am totally against ? racism," he said. "The cartoon was not meant to be racist in any way." He drew the cartoon because he was "simply outraged by the fact that the Klan was trying to make these offers of condemnation of the death of James Byrd and they were getting away with it, and nobody was calling them on the fact that their history is just littered with people just like James Byrd."
But publisher Block said Walters' cartoon "seemingly trivializes" the legacy of violence and terrorism associated with the Ku Klux Klan. It was "a bad cartoon by a cartoonist who is struggling, unfortunately. . . . It was an idea that did not work, and the additional problem is that it became very highly charged."
Despite "good intentions," it was " just a bad cartoon," said Michael Ramirez, president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and a Los Angeles Times cartonist. "I don't necessarily agree that it's a stupid cartoon," said Ramirez. "I just don't think it's one of Kirk's best cartoons. . . . It wasn't very clear or focused because Kirk's stuff is usually very, very good. . . . In this case, the cartoon was trying to show, despite some of its members' peaceful overtures, that the KKK is still a nasty organization."
Paul Fell, editorial cartoonist at the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star, said he sensed no bad taste in the cartoon, simple people misreading it. "I'd say that what Walters has done is more of an example of what cartoonists should be doing these days. . . . The cartoonists should not be a cheerleader for the community, but rather more like the boy in the story of the Emperor's New Clothes. . . . Kirk is doing exactly what we in the profession should be doing, rather than lame gag cartoons so that we can get reprinted in Newsweek," said Fell.
?(toledo blade cartoonist - kirk walters) [Caption]
?("I am now being accused of doing something that I am totally against ? racism," editorial cartoonist Kirk Walters (above) says of
bitter reaction to his cartoon intending to skewer KKK.) [Caption & photo]

?( Editor & Publisher Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyrigh: Editor & Publisher July 11, 1998) [Caption]


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