Furor Over The Daily Texan’s Trayvon Martin Editorial Cartoon
UPDATED: The Daily Texan editorial board issues a statement apologizing for Stephanie Eisner's cartoon. It also says that Eisner no longer works for the paper.
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The Daily Texan editorial board issued another statement at 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday night.
On Tuesday, a cartoon ran on the Opinion page of The Daily Texan that offended many readers, and we sincerely apologize for our decision to run it.
The cartoonist, Stephanie Eisner, no longer works for The Daily Texan.
However, the decision to run the cartoon showed a failure in judgment on the part of the editorial board.
The statement goes on to say that the incident “prompts us to reflect on a larger problem that persists at The Daily Texan and on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin,” and that “The Daily Texan will hold an open forum in the coming weeks to raise consciousness of race and diversity both at the Texan and on campus.”
Update, 4:35 p.m:
As Wells Dunbar and Ben Philpott of KUT News reported, The Daily Texan cartoonist Stephanie Eisner has issued a statement apologizing for her “ambiguous cartoon.”:
“I apologize for what was in hindsight an ambiguous cartoon related to the Trayvon Martin shooting. I intended to contribute thoughtful commentary on the media coverage of the incident, however this goal fell flat. I would like to make it explicitly clear that I am not a racist, and that I am personally appalled by the killing of Trayvon Martin. I regret any pain the wording or message of my cartoon may have caused.”
Original post, 8:42 a.m.:
The first couple of headlines in reaction to the above editorial cartoon, which ran in Tuesday’s Daily Texan, pretty much summed up the furor:
The Houston Press: You Won’t Believe UT’s Daily Texan Trayvon Martin Cartoon
Gawker: University of Texas Student Paper Wins ‘Most Racist Trayvon Martin Cartoon’ Contest
“The paper pulled this comic off their website as we were writing this post,” wrote Gawker‘s Hamilton Nolan. “Good backlash anticipation.”
But that did not turn out to be the case. An editor’s note appended to the cartoon, which was written and drawn by University of Texas at Austin sophomore Stephanie Eisner, explained that it “was temporarily taken down at 2:20 p.m. to alleviate web traffic and prevent the web site from crashing. It was republished at 4:50 p.m.” 52 minutes later, The Daily Texan editorial board expanded on that action with a statement:
A controversial editorial cartoon on the Trayvon Martin shooting was published Tuesday on the Opinion page of The Daily Texan. The Daily Texan Editorial Board recognizes the sensitive nature of the cartoon’s subject matter.
The views expressed in the cartoon are not those of the editorial board. They are those of the artist. It is the policy of the editorial board to publish the views of our columnists and cartoonists, even if we disagree with them.
Dr. Gregory Vincent, who holds the position of Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin also issued a statement, writing that:
We embrace free speech on campus and encourage the open exchange of ideas, especially in our student media.. However, we recognize that the cartoon published in today’s Daily Texan was of questionable taste and was offensive to many members of the campus community.
The cartoon was the top story at 10pm for Austin’s ABC affiliate KVUE, which took note of the coincidence that there was also a “Justice for Trayvon” rally at the state capitol building on Austin Tuesday night.
Naturally she got an interview with Eisner, who said she felt the media coverage of the Martin case was overblown.
I feel the news should be unbiased. And in the retelling of this particular event, I felt that that was not the case. My story compared this situation to yellow journalism in the past, where aspects of news stories were blown out of proportion with the intention of selling papers and enticing emotions.
Munir also reported that Eisner said “some of the media seems to be sensationalizing the facts and making race the more prominent aspect of the case.”
But that, wrote Ben Sherman of the progressive blog Burnt Orange Report (in a post that was actually written before Munir’s story had been published) is simply wrong:
The tragedy of this murder is the murder itself, and the racial component is undeniable. It must be discussed when talking about the motive for the case and the handling thereof. The cartoon, which misspells Trayvon’s name, mockingly depicts this murder as a hateful man against an innocent child, but that is exactly what happened. Eisner’s cartoon boils down the vicious murder of an American child to a media conspiracy to bash white people.
The Texan also collected reactions to the cartoon on its “Opinion” page. Among them:
“This has been an embarrassment to the University and the students who attend.” – Priscilla Thompson, President of the National Association of Black Journalists
“There is a certain air of truth to the cartoon. The media often does frame stories in a way that allows you to easily pick a side or form an opinion because, let’s be honest, gray areas are not the American public’s forte. So is the cartoon overstating that opinion to a bitter, if not tasteless, degree? It wouldn’t be an editorial cartoon if it weren’t….This whole ordeal kind of proves the fact that people are more interested in a narrative — newspaper runs ‘racist’ cartoon — than the ambiguity of reality: opinion section runs somebody’s opinion.” – Jeremy Burchard, former Daily Texan associate editor
“‘Yellow journalism’ is defined as ‘a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers.’ So, after happening across the Trayvon — not Treyvon, as you misspelled it in your abhorrent cartoon — Martin commentary you printed today, I was floored not only by the blatant racism but by your incorrect application of the term ‘yellow journalism.’ My advice to you amateurs — since clearly you haven’t been keeping up with the play-by-play on the Martin/Zimmerman case — is to read. And then when you finish reading, start reading more. Why? Because that’s what real, objective journalists with enough talent to at least mask their bigotry do. They read first, think second and write last.” – William Igbokwe Communication senior