August 12, 2005

SPJ Joins in Criticism of Editorial Cartoon

The Society of Professional Journalists notes with dismay an editorial cartoon critical of illegal immigrants that ran in the June 18 edition of the Dearborn (Mich.)

The cartoon generated criticism from area ethnic groups as reported in other local news media.

“Just because you can run something, doesn’t mean you should,” said Society President Irwin Gratz. As the Society’s Diversity Committee Chair, Sally Lehrman points out: “The cartoon is ignorant and offensive. If the artist wanted to protest immigration, there are ways that don’t rely on tired racist stereotypes and misinformation — particularly the assumption that immigrants (who apparently are all Mexican) don’t pay taxes, and by extension, that people of Mexican heritage aren’t ‘us’ — taxpayers.

The image relies on bigoted imagery, the overweight (lazy), big-nosed, mustachioed, sombrero-wearing person who has crawled through a hole in the border.

“As newspeople, we have a responsibility to cover today’s issues responsibly and accurately, whether it be in a cartoon or in the news pages.”

The cartoon also runs afoul of the SPJ Code of Ethics, which admonishes journalists to avoid stereotyping by race or ethnicity.

“If journalism wants to improve its standing with the public, journalists will have to display a higherlevel of responsibility than was demonstrated here,” said Gratz.

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

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