As iMediaEthics wrote earlier this week, the Daily Wildcat, an “independent news organization” at the University of Arizona, and its editor apologized after running a comic that “readers felt was homophobic and inappropriate.” The comic strip showed a father telling his son that he “will shoot you with my shotgun, roll you up in a carpet and throw you off of a bridge” if the son is gay. The two are shown laughing after the son calls the actions a “fruit roll-up.”
iMediaEthics heard from the Daily Wildcat’s editor Kristina Bui about the cartoon, what will change at the newspaper because of the incident, and a petition calling for her and others at the newspaper’s resignations. Bui explained that the newspaper’s editors have discussed the cartoon both “informally” and in an Oct. 18 “formal meeting.” After those meetings, the newspaper has decided to beef up editorial review of the comics page. Moving forward, the comics page will be reviewed the same as other content, will be checked by three people beforehand and won’t be left “until the last minute before deadline,” Bui explained, writing:
“The Daily Wildcat editors and I agreed that the comics page would no longer be the sole responsibility of the editor-in-chief. The other two reviewers will be the copy chief and design chief. This is typically the process for all other pages, and it never really made sense why the comics page was an exception.”
Bui added that she has “spoken with community members by phone and email about my mistake, and editors will meet this afternoon to speak to leaders from ASUA Pride Alliance (an LGBTQ program on campus).” (iMediaEthics has asked Bui for more information about these meetings and will update with any response.)
The cartoonist, D.C. Parsons, apologized for his cartoon, as did the newspaper, but Parsons was nonetheless fired over the incident. Parsons told iMediaEthics earlier this week that the Wildcat had helped him with some comics in the past but the newspaper told him “what not to say.” Parsons also responsed to Wildcat managing editor Bethany Barnes’ criticism of his apology as not “sincere” by saying:
“That was the first draft of my apology, and I sent it to the editor (once again) and told her to help me with the corrections and what I should most appropriately say. Also at the time I had no idea how offended people were about the comic.”
Bui responded to iMediaEthics that “there have been incidents when I asked him to please edit a comic or refused to run one.” She said she “made a mistake” by not being “more careful in reviewing” the “Fruit Roll-up” comic strip and noted that “this is not the first incident in which his comic strip has drawn criticism, as there was another regarding domestic violence last semester.” Bui added:
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“If he meant to say that he had hoped I would coach him in his apology, I suspect that would be even more of a mistake. I believed his apology sincere, even if others didn’t, but it would certainly not have been sincere if I had told him what would be most appropriate to say in it.”
iMediaEthics asked Bui about the Change.org petition calling for her resignation, which currently has more than 8,500 signatures. Calling the petition “understandable,” Bui reiterated that she has “no plans to resign, however, because I don’t believe that would make the problem go away.” Bui added:
“The best way for me to learn from my mistake is to commit to becoming a better editor from now on.”
Bui defended the Parsons’ firing and as in her apology in the newspaper, Bui wrote about incorporating “all perspectives” as an editor. She wrote:
“I understand that D.C. is angry over the termination of his employment, but, to be perfectly frank, no staff member is guaranteed a place in the newspaper. Just as news reporters may submit stories that do not run, and photographers shoot photos that aren’t used, the Wildcat and I are able to say we no longer want to print the ‘etc.; comic strip.
“I’m sorry for the hurt my mistake caused, and I can’t take it back. But what I can do is move forward from this incident, having learned from it how to be more careful, how to weigh all perspectives and not just the point of view of one cartoonist.”