One of the things we know is that our readers are passionate, smart and not afraid to tell us when they think we are wrong.
We received an earful on Thursday from people who were offended by our publication of the editorial cartoon from Mike Luckovich, a nationally syndicated columnist based at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The cartoon showed three children on the floor in a school classroom. On the blackboard were the words “Active Shooter Drill,” and a child of color hiding under a table is saying, “This feels like preparing for a cop to show up.”
The nature of political cartoons is such that they are very much in the eye of the beholder, and are designed to provoke thought and emotion. This cartoon did that – and then some. As one newsroom wag said, “This cartoon seemed to offer a lot to hate.”
The point the cartoonist seemed to be trying to make – that Black children may have a very different perception of police than their white classmates – was lost on the scores of readers who expressed their anger in calls, emails and social media posts.
Among those who contacted us to voice their disgust were parents, teachers and police officers, and the most common reaction was that the cartoon painted with a brush so broad that it unfairly impugned all police officers. Several readers pointed out – correctly, in our view – that police departments in our region are outstanding and local officers are not deserving of the anti-police message conveyed by the cartoon.
Many readers also let us know that they felt the cartoon could send the wrong message – that kids can’t trust police when they need help. It troubles us that anyone would take it that way, because every police officer we’ve ever encountered has a deep soft spot in their heart for kids – every kid. We want children to know that police officers are always there to help, and apologize if the cartoon sent a message that ran counter to that.
We’ve received complaints about cartoons before, though not to this extent, and the public’s response to this one has rekindled a conversation that has been going at The Daily Sun for more than a year: the value of running such cartoons at all.
One reader summed up the question rather nicely when he asked, “What was positive about this cartoon?”
Not everything we run will be positive, and that’s just the nature of our business. But when cartoons like this one and others serve mostly to inflame an already polarized public discourse, we conclude they have reached the point of diminishing return and no longer serve the engaging purpose they once did.
We think there is value to reporting on local responses to national issues of the day – such as the local Black Lives Matter demonstration we covered back in June – and will continue to report on such issues.
But we’ll use the space previously reserved for editorial cartoons for something else.
We’re open to suggestions.