Skip to comments.Showing cartoons isn't worth hurt to readers
Posted on 02/19/2006 9:05:55 AM PST by Jefflg
By Mike Fancher
Seattle Times executive editor
Why hasn't The Seattle Times published the Danish cartoons that sparked an international crisis?
Readers who have asked that question see it as central to a complicated set of issues involving free expression, religious tolerance and international conflict. Those issues are complicated, but the answer to the central question is simple. We haven't published the cartoons because we believe they would needlessly and deeply offend a portion of our readers. That is the standard we routinely apply to potentially offensive material, asking ourselves whether there it is a compelling journalistic reason to publish.
The standard applies broadly to language, photos and illustrations. For example, our policy on the use of potentially offensive language says, in part: "The Seattle Times recognizes that racial, ethnic, religious and other slurs are very hurtful to many readers, so we use them in the newspaper only when they are absolutely essential to the reader's understanding.
"In the same vein, this is a family newspaper, and we want to encourage parents to read it with their children, not to have to hide it from them. Difficult subjects are unavoidable in news coverage, but profane and vulgar language almost always is avoidable. Therefore, we apply the same standard as we do with slurs: the language must be absolutely necessary to the reader's understanding."
Images can have even greater impact than words. In the case of highly offensive photographs and images, we use them only in a case where a written description would not suffice for readers' understanding of an important story.
The spirit behind this approach is that most of the time there are thoughtful, sensitive ways to inform readers. Because we respect readers, we are obligated to thoroughly explore those alternatives.
In the case of the Danish cartoons, some readers have said they don't understand the outrage that has led to embassy burnings, death threats and the killing of some protesters. They wonder whether their understanding would be enhanced by seeing the images, but that is doubtful.
"Why would a reader expect to be able to make a ruling on whether the cartoons are offensive if he or she is not Muslim?" asked David Birdwell, Times nation / world editor. "That's the whole point of the story: Muslims see them as blasphemous; others don't."
The essence of the cartoons is easily described in words. They depict the Prophet Muhammad in various ways, including one with a bomb-shaped turban with a lighted fuse. The issue for Muslims isn't just how he is portrayed but that he is portrayed at all.
So our coverage has explored why Muslims generally abhor any depiction of the prophet, as well as the international context in which outrage has become violent.
We've done this extensively in the pages of The Times, and even more so at seattletimes.com.
Some readers have argued that not publishing the images amounts to censorship and a failure to defend press freedom. We don't see it that way. Press freedom means we have the right to publish or not publish based on our judgment of what serves readers.
Birdwell said: "We can run anything we want to, but we have a responsibility to be sensitive to people. Freedom of the press isn't about just running anything you want."
Other readers wonder if we are intimidated by the outraged reactions elsewhere. "That has nothing to do with it in my mind," Birdwell said. "I just don't understand the point of intentionally offending a portion of our readers."
For readers who want to see the images, our Web site offers a link to a reproduction of the original Danish newspaper page. Enabling you to take the step to see them if you choose is far different from bringing them into your home in the pages of your newspaper.
We don't expect that every reader will agree with every decision we make, but we do hope readers see our news judgment as thoughtful and respectful. firstname.lastname@example.org
Inside The Times appears in the Sunday Seattle Times. If you have a comment on news coverage, write to Michael R. Fancher, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111, call 206-464-3310 or send e-mail to seattletimes.com">email@example.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company
Don't get too ticked off at cowardly and illogical liberal arguments. It's not worth the heartache.
The editor of the small Danish newspaper is the small boy who finally yelled at the emperor of multiculturalism that, in fact, the emperor has no clothes.
Craven Western newspapers can pretend that this didn't happen, but it can never be stuffed back into the box.
"So our coverage has explored why Muslims generally abhor any depiction of the prophet, as well as the international context in which outrage has become violent.
We've done this extensively in the pages of The Times, and even more so at seattletimes.com."
You people want all those naked facts, but we know them, have already processed them, now here is how you should think on this story.
How long before they run something disrespectful to Christians and then tell those that complain to be more tolerant.
I give it 6 months.
Although I do not read the Seattle papers (in fact, I read no papers other than IBD), I would bet my bottom dollar that they have published cartoons that offend Christians, Jews, Catholics, Baptists, etc.
What a lame and infantile excuse! They are cowards, just like most liberals.
Translation: We're Chickens!
Pray for W and Our Freedom Fighters
These guys want us to believe Washingtonians are "tender" and "sweet".
Yet they do just that with their editorial cartoons everyday.
The Seattle Times recognizes that racial, ethnic, religious and other slurs are very hurtful to many readers, so we use them in the newspaper only when they are absolutely essential to the reader's understanding.
---The issue for Muslims isn't just how he is portrayed but that he is portrayed at all.---
The Muslims do in fact portray the Prophet when and where it suits them. No offense, but they are idol worshipping primitives of the first order.
These are the same people who dont mind showing crucifixes photographed in human urine. I guess they feel only Muslims are capable of being offended
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