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Updated: Thursday, 05 Apr 2012, 8:47 AM CDT
Published : Thursday, 05 Apr 2012, 7:55 AM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - University of Texas students have started an online petition to reinstate the controversial Daily Texan cartoonist who no longer works at the student paper following the fallout from a cartoon about the Trayvon Martin shooting.
UT student Stephanie Eisner drew an editorial cartoon referring to the slain teenager as a "colored boy" and later apologized for the drawing -- saying that her intended message "fell flat."
“I apologize for what was in hindsight an ambiguous cartoon related to the Trayvon Martin shooting," cartoonist Eisner said in a statement. "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 cartoon was critical of the way the media is handling the Martin story. It appeared on the Daily Texan's website March 27 and was titled "Trayvon Martin and The Case of Yellow Journalism."
The student newspaper reported the day after it was published that Eisner was no longer working for the publication.
And while the newspaper at first said that "it is the policy of the editorial board to publish the views of our columnists and cartoonists, even if we disagree with them," they later apologized that same day for their "failure in judgment on the part of the editorial board" and running the cartoon that "offended many readers."
Apology from The Daily Texan Editorial Board
"Update: The cartoon was taken down from The Daily Texan website.
On Tuesday, a cartoon ran on the Opinion page of The Daily Texan that offended many readers, and we sincerely apologize for our decision to run it.
The cartoonist, Stephanie Eisner, no longer works for The Daily Texan.
However, the decision to run the cartoon showed a failure in judgment on the part of the editorial board. We have engaged in meaningful dialogue with many people who shared their concerns and outrage with us.
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.
An expectation has developed over time at The Daily Texan that people will come to us with important issues. As a result, in recent years, we have failed to inject ourselves effectively into the University community.
This needs to change. This requires a fundamental shift in how we operate and will require us to actively engage with everyone in the community.
The Daily Texan will hold an open forum in the coming weeks to raise consciousness of race and diversity both at the Texan and on campus. We will require all Daily Texan employees to participate in a seminar each semester about the relationship between race and the media. We will also seek out and publish opinions that truly represent the views of the entire campus community. We understand these are only small steps in the much larger transformation we must undergo.
We sincerely apologize for publishing the offensive cartoon and for the harm that decision caused.
— The Daily Texan Editorial Board"
The cartoon takes a swipe at the way the Martin story is being reported, saying the shooter is being portrayed as "the big-bad white man (who) killed the handsome, innocent colored boy."
Although the cartoon is causing an uproar, some students on campus didn't see what all the fuss was about.
"They're cartoons, you know they're caricatures of reality and in that respect you should take them with a grain of salt," said David Hagan. "You shouldn't take them so seriously like it's an article in the New York Times."
Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Ben Sargent, whose work has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman for more than three decades, said anyone who pursues a career in the field must mindful of how such satire is perceived.
"When you are working as a cartoonist, it's important to know that the cartoon medium is a very powerful medium," said Sargent, who is a UT alumnus. "It's a weapon that needs to be wielded with some skill, and you want to hit the mark accurately."
The Daily Texan took down the cartoon from its website to keep it from crashing after thousands of people across the country went to check to take a look at the controversial comic.
"You had one person who was trying to be provocative in the market place of ideas, and the response was overwhelmingly, this does not represent the university," said Gregory Vincent, the vice president of Diversity and Community Affairs, at The University of Texas. "I think those responses reflect more accurately who we are
as a community."
Nearly 100 students gathered to protest outside of The Daily Texan offices on campus Wednesday to demand answers as to how the image could have been published.
"Our first demand is that they publicly apologize for publishing that comic," said Bernardino Villasenor, a university student and protester. "We'd also like them to denounce Stephanie Eisner and refuse to publish any more of her cartoons."
Demands from students like Villasenor forced The Daily Texan's editors to release the following statement the day after, though a full apology followed that later.
"The views expressed in the cartoon are not those of the editorial board. They are those of the artist."
"It is the policy of the editorial board to publish the views of our columnists and cartoonists, even if we disagree with them."
The cartoon, which has now received backlash from websites and media outlets across the country, has students on campus saying they're serious.
"I think people need to come to the realization that someone is dead," said freshman Demetria Lister. "There is an innocent child who died and there is a family who suffered from that death and that is nothing to joke about."
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