Student editor should be held accountable

Student editor should be held accountable

by -
Editorial cartoon originally published in The Daily Texan.

It’s been said that the captain always goes down with the ship. As the editor of a newspaper, mainstream or college, it is that person’s responsibility to assure his or her staff that no matter what, the editor has their backs.
Recently, that was not true at the University of Texas’ student publication, The Daily Texan, after an editorial cartoon drew a hailstorm of angry phone calls, tweets, Facebook comments and letters to the editor. The cartoon dealt with the Trayvon Martin issue and how mainstream media has turned the case into a racial issue. The cartoon was very well done and accomplished what it needed to by creating a reaction that has sparked a very heated debate to this day on the Daily Texan’s website.
Ultimately, the cartoonist was fired (although they are not actually saying that) and the editor issued an apology on the front page and removed the cartoon from their website.
The issue here is not the cartoon, although it’s the center of the argument. The issue is the poor leadership that was exhibited from the bottom up.
I had a chance to sit down with Wanda Garner Cash, the associate director of the School of Journalism at UT and, according to her; five editors as well as the Editor in Chief approved the cartoon.
The advisor recommended not running the cartoon, but the student journalists cited the First Amendment right to free speech and the freedom of the press, a freedom often perverted by many student journalists as well as those in the mainstream media.
Ultimately, the cartoon in question ran and the staff was immediately hit by an angry mob of protestors. The staff panicked and collapsed under pressure. The cartoon was immediately taken down from the website, an apology was then posted by the editor announcing that the cartoonists was no longer with the Daily Texan.
The cartoonist was thrown under the bus by the editorial board, the editor in chief, the advisors and anybody else connected to the decision to run the cartoon.
We, at The South Texan, experienced a similar situation at a smaller scale after running a cartoon featuring President Obama. We received phone calls and a few letters from angry readers. At no point did I even think about throwing my cartoonist or ed/ops editor into the fire. I stand by my staff and everything we run.
Every editor in chief should do that.
It is wrong to fire the person who did nothing but the job she was asked to do by creating a cartoon that spoke to the readers about the way that the media influences its consumers by preying on their sensitivities.
Don’t kill the messenger for sending the message that the editorial board asked her to convey. If she must go down, then so should the rest of them, starting with the editor.

Editor in Chief of the South Texan at Texas A&M University - Kingsville

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