Obama Cartoon Leads to Student Press Oversight Battle

The Chronicle student newspaper at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona published a syndicated editorial cartoon last month displaying an image of Obama that some outside readers felt was “too monkey-like.”  The result: A controversy over control of the publication that continues to brew more than a month after the cartoon ran.

The cartoon first appeared in the Scranton Times-Tribune.
The cartoon first appeared in The Scranton Times-Tribune.

The cartoon depicts Obama standing on a molehill labeled “Presidency” staring up at a much-larger mountain of expectations.  Is his appearance racially insensitive or downright derogatory? The Chronicle editorial team says the answer displays a generational divide, noting that complaints have come exclusively from non-student community members who editors believe are hypersensitive toward a bevy of perceived racial slights that younger adults have not lived through.

The worst part, according to the college’s journalism director: Most of the complainants did not even see the original cartoon, instead reading about its publication in a meant-to-cause-trouble mass e-mail that inferred the paper had run the infamous New York PostChimp Cartoon” instead of the one pictured above.  As the j-director wrote, “It’s amazing what one person with a districtwide email system and the wrong cartoon can do to damage the press.”

And while accounts differ on exactly what went down next (read 1 and then read 2), it does seem clear that at a subsequent meeting of the governing board overseeing local community colleges, certain board members expressed an interest in overseeing (and possibly “controlling”) future student press content created within affiliated schools.  In one board member’s words: “The School papers are paid for by the tax payers and therefore the tax payer, the people of Maricopa are the owners of the paper. The people’s college paper has an elected Board. We, the Board, answer to our funding source.”

My take: Give me a break.  Proper oversight is vital for any student press outlet certainly, but this high-and-mighty we must answer to the people schtick is as bogus as people complaining about a cartoon they have never even seen.  This is NOT about doing what’s best for the people of Maricopa.  This is about the local powers-that-be attempting to enact a reactive policy based on a scurrilous set of complaints.  To the board: Let the student press publish in peace, learn from its mistakes (real or perceived), and be led by competent people hired under your authority who know how to carry out quality journalism and weather storms of all sizes, mountains and molehills.

Comments
One Response to “Obama Cartoon Leads to Student Press Oversight Battle”
  1. jepoy says:

    My take: Give me a break. Proper oversight is vital for any student press outlet certainly, but this high-and-mighty we must answer to the people schtick is as bogus as people complaining about a cartoon they have never even seen. This is NOT about doing what’s best for the people of Maricopa. This is about the local powers-that-be attempting to enact a reactive policy based on a scurrilous set of complaints. To the board: Let the student press publish in peace, learn from its mistakes (real or perceived), and be led by competent people hired under your authority who know how to carry out quality journalism and weather storms of all sizes, mountains and molehills.