The editorial cartoon by Cal Grondahl in Wednesday's paper drew some strong and, in my opinion, unwarranted negative reaction from several readers.
Grondahl's cartoon showed Susan Powell and her two young sons, Charlie and Braden. The cartoon accompanied an editorial about Josh Powell and his actions Sunday in killing himself and the two boys.
Based on the comments of several callers that the cartoon was "not funny," I want to clarify what an editorial cartoon is and what it isn't. And to be clear, these callers were speaking in the literal sense of "funny," not just saying they didn't appreciate it.
The main purpose of an editorial cartoon is a visual comment on the issues of the day. Depending on your stand on the particular issue, it may provoke a shrug, a smile, a laugh, a scowl or an angry call to the editor.
But its main goal is to make a point about the issue, not humor. If you're looking for humor, the comics pages is the place to go.
Those that I talked to who objected to Grondahl's work felt the cartoon showed a lack of respect for Susan Powell and her children.
Editorial cartoons recognizing well-known people who have passed away are hardly new. I wouldn't call them a staple, but certainly there have been a number of them over the years.
Several of the callers thought that the images of the Powells were depicted in the ashes of the house that Josh Powell burned down Sunday in his murderous spree.
Actually, the boys were sitting in trees and Susan has her arms around them.
Several things drove the misperception of what the cartoon depicted. Specifically:
* The cartoon caption was one word: Ashes. The reference was to the tragedy of a family wiped out, not a literal reference to the physical aftermath of fire.
* The cartoon was based on a photo of the Powell family that has been widely used in the media since Susan Powell's disappearance more than two years ago. Editors planned to run the photo with the accompanying editorial, but at the last minute, the Associated Press issued a mandatory kill because of a dispute with the copyright owner over publication fees. If the photo had run, I think the intent of the cartoon would not have been in question.
* The cartoon depicted a broken picture frame with a puff of smoke rising from the top. The smoke came from Josh Powell's location in the original photo.
Opinion Page Editor Doug Gibson believes some of the negative reaction was driven by the magnitude of such a traumatizing event and people's efforts to deal with it.
"The cartoon tried to show the loss of three innocent people, destroyed by such callous acts," he said.
Finally, when I write these columns explaining why and how we do things, the focus is often on the negative, why readers didn't like something or are upset with what we did or didn't do.
But in fairness to both you, the readers, and to the newspaper, I should point out that not all of the reaction to the cartoon was negative. We did have positive comments, both to us directly and online, including Gibson's Facebook post about the reaction.
We want to hear what you like and don't like about what we do every day. Remember, though, that not everybody out there agrees with you.
Dave Greiling is managing editor of the Standard-Examiner. He may be reached at 801 625-4224 or via email at email@example.com.