Tuesday, February 07, 2006

NYT's Lame Excuses for Not Running Danish Cartoons

Because Barney Calame, the public editor for the New York Times, posts so infrequently to his blog, I don't check it on a regular basis, but independent gay columnist Paul Varnell of Chicago alerted me this morning that Calame in the past few days addressed the matter of the controversial Danish cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed and why they've not appeared in the Times.

From Calame's Feb. 4 blog posting:

> “We've had long and vigorous debate in the newsroom and concluded that publishing the cartoons is not essential to telling the story,” Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, wrote to me in an e-mail Friday evening. I had asked him how The Times was dealing with the cartoon issue.

> “On the one hand, we have abundant evidence that a significant number of people -- some of them our readers -- consider these cartoons deeply offensive and inflammatory,” Mr. Keller wrote. “Indeed, to publish them after seeing the outrage and violence across the Islamic world could be perceived as a particularly deliberate insult,” he said.

Huh? Sounds a bit to me like Keller is saying mobs of Muslim fanatics play a significant role in determining what gets into the Gray Lady these days.

> “On the other hand,” he continued, “we feel we can quite adequately convey the nature of the cartoons by describing them.” I quite agree. I doubt that the descriptions of the cartoons in Times articles over the past four days have left many readers with any major questions about why the drawings could offend Muslims or why some people might find humor in them.

Well, Barney, this reader and NY Times shareholder strongly disagrees with you and thinks the paper's audience should see what the Danish illustrations look like in the paper whose motto is supposed to be "All The News That's Fit to Print."

By not publishing the cartoons, the Times is willfully not giving readers all the news about this global story.

> “Like any decision to withhold elements of a story, this was neither easy nor entirely satisfying,” Mr. Keller wrote, “but it feels like the right thing to do.” It’s a tough call. I’m not going to quarrel with it.

How nice of Keller to honestly state the paper is withholding elements of an important story. Makes me wonder what else Keller and crew may withhold from readers because some may find parts of a story insulting or offensive.

> Recalling the newsroom discussions, Mr. Keller said some editors proposed publishing “a photograph that shows the front page of one of the European papers on which the cartoon was prominently displayed.” Others, he said, “argued that publishing it in context -- as information readers would find useful in forming their own opinions about the indignant reaction from many Muslims -- was the right thing to do journalistically.”

Too bad Keller, Calame and others at the Times lack the moral and journalistic courage of Amanda Bennett, editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and her publication which ran one of the cartoons on Saturday.

Reading the lame excuses from Keller, and Calame's lazy support of Keller's weak arguments, I am more impressed today with the strong spine of Amanda Bennett and her news room in Philadelphia. Keep up the great journalism, Ms. Bennett!

And three cheers to Clinton Fein of Annoy.com for posting the Danish cartoons on his web site.

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