American Press Coverage of Cartoon Controversy by Mitch E. Perry

02/08/06

Press Coverage Much of America’s Mass Media have Not run the cartoons…..NBC, CBS and CNN have not run them, nor have the Associated Press and most newspapers, including the NY Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today.

But Fox News, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Austin American-Statesman and New York Sun have ran some of the 12 cartoons that were published in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September.

New York Times editor Bill Keller said that he and his staff concluded ncluded after a “long and vigorous debate� that publishing the cartoon would be “perceived as a particularly deliberate insult� by Muslims. “Like any decision to withhold elements of a story, this was neither easy nor entirely satisfying, but it feels like the right thing to do.�

National Public Radio has decided NOT to post a link of the cartoons on their website. News Executive Bill Marimow told the Washington Post that he agonized over the decision, but said, “this case, I believe that our audience can, through our reports -- on radio and the web -- get a very detailed sense of what's depicted in the cartoon. By not posting it on the web, we demonstrate a respect for deeply held religious beliefs� .

Yesterday, 4 editors at the New York City weekly paper the New York Press announced their resignation yesterday when the were pulled out of an issue that had several stories devoted to the situation.

Now (former) New York Press Editor in Chief Harry Siege explained about the decision of himself and 3 other editors that they had no to be free speech martyrs, but wrote that “ it would have been nakedly hypocritical to avoid the same cartoons we'd criticized others for not running, cartoons that however absurdly have inspired arson, kidnapping and murder and forced cartoonists in at least two continents to go into hiding. Editors have already been forced to leave papers in Jordan and France for having run these cartoons. We have no illusions about the power of the NY Press , but even on the far margins of the world-historical stage, we are not willing to side with the enemies of the values we hold dear, a free press not least among them.�

Aly Colon is the Writing & Editing Group Leader at the Poynter Institute, the school for journalists based in St. Petersburg. …He says one thing that has resulted from the inflamed reaction of the cartoons is that there are aspects of the religion of Islam that American editors, publishes and producers realize they do NOT understand (roll tape#1 o.q.�the need for it�)

On the Poynter’s Website today, Jerry Ceppos, the former editor of the San Jose Mercury News said that he personally would publish the offending cartoons if he was still at his former job. But he says that whether a news organization opted to publish or not, they should inform their readers or viewers why they have chosen that way to go…But He writes that talking to readers or viewers is not something that comes natural to news editors and producers . Again, Aly Colon from the Poynter Institute (roll tape#2 o.q. “ one way or another�)

After hearing of French President Chirac’s criticism of a French publication in printing the cartoons, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the BBC today it was up to the media to decide what they should publish. He said, “"The government cannot interfere with the media," but added, But I think these events have stressed the importance of combining freedom of expression with respect for religious beliefs."

WMNF asked Aly Colon from the Poynter Institute if this calls into question for some of who actually speaks for a country that has a free press? (roll tape#3 o.q. “tends to be more emotional�)

To read the transcript of members of the Poynter Institute discussing this issue, go to the web at poynter.org

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