Friday, February 20, 2009

The New York Post's 'non apology' is part of the problem

At his blog (www.middletownmike/, Mike Morris discussed the recent New York Post cartoon that depicted President Barack Obama as a wild chimp. There is little doubt that the Post's 'non-apology apology' falls short of actually expressing regret over this characterization of President Obama. Congratulaitons to Mr. Morris for taking on a tough issue.

The Post's adversaries are noted in the so-called apology. Yet, this error of judgment was not about the Post's adversaries. No one compelled this publication to print any material it presented. The fact is, in my opinion, that an editorial error was made (people being imperfect sometimes make errors). It should be owned up to, but it wasn't. The apology fell short, and so was an opportunity missed.

It is true that there is freedom of the press, and that artists are allowed to express themselves also. So too, there is also the concept of accountability for what one prints and says. It appears that, sadly, this concept is lost upon the New York Post.

Newspaper accountability should not stop at libel and defamation. If the idea of journalistic ethics is simply to not print that which is legally wrong, then that really isn't ethics. To be 'ethics,' there is a higher bar that speaks to character, of the lack of it.

I was always a fan of the Post, because it was daring and often brave about stories. But there is a difference between bravery and stupidity. The comparison of African Americans, or any African American, to a monkey is an echo of another day. It is unnecessarily hurtful to not only the president but to a race of people that fought hard to free themselves from not only captivity but also oppression afterward. In many ways, this fight still goes on.

Personally, I have no idea why the Post is trying to pull back the hands of the clock on racial characterizations. I have heard it said that "all controversy is good controversy." I look at it differently. Anything that comes off as vulgar and without taste is just that.

North America has struggled with various issues involving race since the 17th century. There is nothing clever about the old, degrading references to African Americans. Certainly, there is nothing witty about it. As a matter of fact, those old characterizations were a part of the problem, and trying to breathe new life into them is spectacularly idiotic.

To have the privilege of delivering news to any community is an honor. I think the New York Post has lost touch with that, and its responsibilities to that community.

-- Jim Purcell, Publisher, The Courier

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