Don't blame me, I'm just the editor

Two weeks ago, the editors of Montclair State University's student newspaper, The Montclarion, made a grave mistake in their decision to run a racist cartoon.

For some, that mistake was encouraging hate speech. For others, it was heeding the threats of censorship. For me, The Montclarion e-board were reckless student journalists who blatantly violated their responsibilities as editors.

The mistake was made manifest after the Oct. 23 issue of The Montclarion made its way around the campus. The issue featured a controversial drawing penned by syndicated cartoonist Keith Knight who, incidentally, is reported to have received no complaints so far.

In the cartoon, Knight depicted a story from Fivethirtyeight.com that recounted a canvasser's encounter with a couple who use a racial slur to reveal who they'd be voting for.

Those on the Montclair campus were less than thrilled to see the partial racial slur (the "N" word was truncated as it ran off the edges of the panel) make an appearance in the newspaper. The editors issued an apology on Oct. 28 and removed the cartoon from their online edition of the paper.

But here's the problem: In their apology statement, the editors wrote, "In this event, The Montclarion relied on others [MCT Campus, a service that provides comics and other ancillary features to newspapers] to judge content appropriateness, rather than making their choice as a staff decision."

In other words, the editors were looking for an easy way out. They didn't want to claim responsibility for something deemed inappropriate or unpopular. The editorial board's passing of the buck onto, in this case, MCT Campus on matters of editorial decisions was a disheartening display of irresponsibility.

I don't know the aspirations of the editors. For all I know, none of them may have dreams of someday becoming professional journalists. Regardless, serving as an editor of any publication requires a level of accountability and integrity that the editors of The Montclarion clearly find irrelevant.

Generally speaking, editors hold a vital position on any newspaper, regardless of whether it's a student publication or a metropolitan daily. These are the people we trust to have the knowledge, skills, talent and integrity to make the best choices for the newspaper and the community it serves.

It almost would have been better if the editors decided to keep the cartoon and invoke their right to freedom of the press. After all, the cartoon was printed in the safety net of the editorial pages. At least then there would have been some concession of journalistic principles rather than this blatant disregard for the professionalism that the newspaper industry demands.

Megan McGinley is a junior communication major whose views expressed herein are her own and do not necessarily represent those of The Lamron or of SUNY Geneseo.

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