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Firefighter groups call Andy Marlette cartoon unfair
The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and local fire fighters are calling foul to a recent cartoon by Andy Marlette depicting firefighters hosing down two African-Americans with a caption that reads, “Don’t worry, since they laid off all the journalists in Alabama we can get away with this kind of stuff again!” The cartoon is based on a famous photo by Charles Moore during the 1960s documenting the Birmingham fire department hosing down civil rights protesters.
We rely on the sound, unbiased work of real reporters and editors to bring us the news, but on June 16, Andy Marlette and the Pensacola News Journal violated that standard by printing a senseless, confusing and bigoted illustration that should never have reached print. Mr. Marlette and the News Journal owe fire fighters and readers an unequivocal apology.
“At a time when we need more trained, qualified journalists to cover and report the really important stories on local, regional, national and international events so the citizens of this country aren’t left to rely on biased bloggers and propagandists, editors of a newspaper in a major city must remain smart and professional. Sadly, the editors at the News Journal have proven they are neither.
In response to the controversy, the Pensacola News Journal defended the cartoon and their decision to run it:
In the context of the mass layoffs of Alabama’s journalists, the cartoon is a dark comment on the fact that the most sinister things happen – in fact have always happened – when nobody is there to show and tell about them. The News Journal has a long history of inviting and publishing viewpoints from people who take strong exception to editorials and editorial cartoons. We believe that to be the mission of our Opinions section.
They also welcomed those offended to write letters to the editor.
Andy is also defending his cartoon by stating the message is greater than firefighters.
Four hundred laid off from three Alabama newspapers: That’s the news that inspired Saturday’s editorial cartoon.
It’s a depiction of a scene from the Birmingham Campaign of the Civil Rights Movement in 1963, when young black protesters were blasted with fire hoses under the orders of Birmingham, Ala., city official Eugene “Bull” Connor.
It is one of the most iconic and most horrifying images in Alabama history.
And the only reason the world ever saw that terrible image was because journalists were there to capture it. Because journalists captured it, a world outside the South saw what was happening, joined in protest and changed life as we know it.
Thus, in the context of the mass layoffs of Alabama’s journalists, the cartoon is a dark comment on the fact that the most sinister things happen – in fact have always happened – when nobody is there to show and tell about them.
The cartoon is about the staggering loss of journalists – those who show and tell – in Alabama, and ultimately, everywhere. It is about the danger of this loss and what happens to a society without its watchdogs. It is about what Birmingham could have been today had journalists not been on the scene in 1963.
It is simply not about firefighters.
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