Kernel apologizes for editorial cartoon

­We should not have published the editorial cartoon in Friday’s Kernel.

A large part of the student body and the community was rightfully offended.

Neither the cartoonist nor the editors at the Kernel intended for the cartoon to be hurtful.

But our intentions are irrelevant. The cartoon unnecessarily hurt many of our readers, and I apologize for it being published.

Sometimes, it is necessary to be offensive or controversial to make a point. But in this case, we crossed the line, and any message in the cartoon was obscured by its offensiveness.

I’ve always believed that the opinions page of a newspaper should act as a forum for debate and discussion. To keep from stifling discourse, we try to edit columns, cartoons and letters to the editor lightly so that the author’s viewpoint isn’t changed.

We’ve slipped, though, from light editing to lax editing, as the publication of Friday’s cartoon demonstrates. For instance, I did not review the cartoon before it was published, and no editors brought it to my attention. There is absolutely no excuse for that neglect.

Many different editors at the Kernel, including myself, should carefully discuss any potentially offensive content before it is published. That didn’t happen Thursday. If several editors and I had sat down together and discussed the cartoon, I’m confident we would not have run it.

This will certainly bring changes at the Kernel. I intend to immediately start reviewing our editing process, both on the opinions page and elsewhere, and I will lead the editors and staffers in a discussion of how we can be more rigorous and thorough.

It’s also time for the Kernel to reflect on its diversity, both on our staff and in our coverage. Discussion will be key in identifying our failures and preventing future mistakes. It will also be key in regaining the trust of many of our readers.

This cartoon is undoubtedly a step back for us. In an era where we’re trying to recruit more voices into the Kernel, we’ve done something that hurts our ability to do that.

I hope we can figure out ways to heal negative perceptions, both existing ones and those created by Friday’s cartoon, so that we can diversify our staff and better represent the student body with our coverage. The Kernel is a voice of the students, and we realize some voices are not as prominent as they should be.

My fear is that this incident will taint the Kernel and overshadow the work this staff has done to highlight important campus issues.

The reaction on Friday demonstrates that the Kernel is more than just a classroom distraction for students. What we print can elicit change for the better, but it can also hurt people.

I hope this column is only the beginning of healing some of the wounds we created.

I want our coverage to reflect the student body, and I recognize that it hasn’t always been that way.

I invite our readers to give us their thoughts about Friday’s cartoon and about the Kernel in general. We will print as many letters to the editor about this topic as possible and will add extra pages to the paper if necessary. I expect there will be forums about this topic in the coming weeks, and I hope Kernel editors will be invited to participate in those discussions. I believe that the only way to heal is through dialogue.

We made a mistake. We also know that we’ve only begun to learn important lessons from it.

The Kernel wants to be a voice about and for students. The only way to make sure it does that well is to work hard at listening. Over the next few days, weeks and months, I know a lot of you will want to share opinions about the newspaper, our cartoon and the way we cover this community.

I promise you this: We’ll be listening.

Keith Smiley is a journalism and computer science senior. E-mail [email protected]­