The Daily Texan, a University of Texas student newspaper, has fired Stephanie Eisner, one of its staff members, because of an editorial cartoon addressing the Trayvon Martin case, reported MSN News. The student was dismissed from the publication on Thursday, two days after the illustration first appeared on the Opinion page of newspaper.
In the controversial illustration, a woman wearing glasses holds a story book and sits on a chair labeled "the media" as she reads to a wide eyed, open mouthed young child. The book is entitled "Treyvon Martin and The Case of Yellow Journalism," with Trayvon's name misspelled. The mother reads to the child "and then...the big bad white man killed the handsome, sweet, innocent colored boy."
The Trayvon Martin case has inspired nationwide rallies, large media interest and debate about race relations in the country since Trayvon Martin was shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman while walking home from a convenience store in Florida a month ago. The cartoon has been virulently criticized by the universities alumni, students, and social commentators including Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Ben Sargent.
"When you are working as a cartoonist, it's important to know that the cartoon medium is a very powerful medium," said Sargent, according to NBC. "It's a weapon that needs to be wielded with some skill, and you want to hit the mark accurately."
The Daily Texan compiled and posted some of the complaints posted by readers about the cartoon. "
"To be clear, I am not a 20-something student. I am a 55-year-old woman who never gave up on a dream to graduate from UT. I slogged my way through my courses to gain enlightenment and to review my personal history in a new light. I grew up during the Civil Rights era and watched the events unfold firsthand. Today, I saw all of it crumble under the weight of racism on campus. Shame on all of you," wrote Cindy Hough, a University of Texas alumna.
"The Daily Texan is beginning to build up a reputation of poor judgment, and it honestly doesn't do anyone who graduated from UT, or anyone attending the University, any favors. Not to mention how it makes the 4 percent of undergraduates who are African-Americans feel," wrote Ryan Cunningham, a University of Texas alumnus.
Soon after the cartoon was criticized, Eisner responded to outraged readers by explaining her motives in the Daily Texan.
"I feel the news should be unbiased. And in the retelling of this particular event, I felt that that was not the case," Eisner, who has drawn up cartoons on such sensitive topics as the killing of Afghan citizens, congress, and the contraception debate. "My story compared this situation to yellow journalism in the past, where aspects of news stories were blown out of proportion with the intention of selling papers and enticing emotions."
Later, on Wednesday, she apologized for the cartoon through an e-mail to Gawker, assuring readers that she did not mean to offend anyone.
"I apologize for what was in hindsight an ambiguous cartoon related to the Trayvon Martin shooting," she told Gawker. "I intended to contribute thoughtful commentary on the media coverage of the incident, however this goal fell flat. I would like to make it explicitly clear that I am not a racist, and that I am personally appalled by the killing of Trayvon Martin. I regret any pain the wording or message of my cartoon may have caused."
The Daily Texan's editorial board also wrote an apology letter to its readership.
"We made a mistake, and we understand that the outcome of our action extends beyond Tuesday's cartoon and prompts us to reflect on a larger problem that persists at The Daily Texan and on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, something we should have done before Tuesday's paper ran."
The Daily Texan has since removed the cartoon from its website.
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