An editorial cartoon is considered the granddaddy of political satire. It is an illustration meant as an exaggeration, often humorous, conveying a particular point of view on current events and personalities. It's an art form that has been around as long as the printing press.
One of the most famous editorial cartoonists was Thomas Nast, who in the mid-1800s attacked the corrupt political machine of Boss Tweed in New York City.
When successful, the editorial cartoon can prompt critical thinking and discussion, even when it may be deemed offensive and insensitive.
When it's not successful, it generates a reaction that is way off the mark of its intended message.
That was the case with our editorial cartoon that ran Wednesday.
And that's my fault.
We received a number of complaints and some cancellations over the Cal Grondahl cartoon that showed four law enforcement officers walking away from a dead body, holding their firearms up, with one saying, "Respect the badge or else."
The work was meant as a companion to the editorial that day in which we criticized the decision not to prosecute officers in two police shooting cases that were deemed "unjustified" after investigations.
It is understandable that some would be offended by the cartoon, especially when taken by itself without consideration for the editorial.
Many of those who complained did not mention the editorial, only the accompanying cartoon, citing it as slamming all law enforcement officers. They were offended by the portrayal of the officers, appearing as if they enjoyed shooting an individual. Some of the complaints came from family members of law enforcement officers in the area, It is unfortunate that the cartoon became the focal point of discussion and outrage, because this took away from the point the editorial board was trying to make about unjustified shootings.
"Being a law enforcement officer is an admirable profession. It comes with great responsibility. When that responsibility is abused, it damages the public trust for the police," the editorial said.
When I approved the cartoon for publication, I only saw it as portraying an "unjustified" shooting, rather than a reflection on the work of all police officers.
That was my mistake. I can see now where, when taken on its own, the cartoon would give the impression of a broader statement. The editorial board does not see the cartoons before publication, so my decision put them in an awkward position. I'm sorry for that.
I'd also like to apologize to the dedicated law enforcement officers, who risk their lives every day for us, and their family members, if they thought the cartoon was directed at them. That was not our intent. I'm sure most feel the same way as we do about "unjustified" shootings.
The editorial and cartoon was not about shootings that have been cleared as "justified," or the Matthew David Stewart case at all.
It was meant to be about the rule of law and how important that is for a democratic society. If those who enforce the law are deemed above the law, then society collapses into a police state.
LEFT OUT: Garry Trudeau, another cartoonist who doesn't shy away from political controversy, will be taking the summer off to work on a television project. The syndicate plans to rerun some of his strips through Labor Day. But we see this as an opportunity to try out another comic strip.
So beginning next week, we will run Barney & Clyde in Doonesbury's place for the summer on the editorial page Monday-Saturday. Doonesbury will still be available in the Sunday comics.
Barney & Clyde is about an unlikely friendship between a homeless man and a tycoon. "It's about our modern, polarized economy of haves and have-nots," according to its syndicate. "It re-examines traditional measures of success, failures, and the name of happiness."
The strip is written by the father-and-son team of Gene and Dan Weingarten and drawn by David Clark.
It has a similar liberal point-of-view as Doonesbury but not as specifically topical to current political events. Let me know what you think.
Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-625-4300 or email@example.com.