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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: Press’s freedom at stake in attempt to bully Wildcat

    When we heard that students were gathering to hold a celebration today called “”Stop the Hate and Celebrate: Yes We Did!”” we were pleased. We were under the impression that this was intended to be an inclusive upbeat event with no political agenda.

    We assumed that this event was meant as a delayed celebration of the election of the first African-American president in the history of the United States, a celebration that was unfortunately delayed due to the public’s uproar over the “”K Chronicles”” comic strip that the Daily Wildcat mistakenly printed Nov. 5.

    We thought that, with the Wildcat’s public apology for the comic strip and explanation of how it was mistakenly printed, the community was ready to move on.

    Unfortunately, the real intent was made clear to us Monday, when we received a press release for the event.

    The press release said the organizers have four “”goals”” for the event. Besides the fact that the four “”goals”” are merely statements concerning the Daily Wildcat, none of them even concern the election of Barack Obama – which the celebration is allegedly about.

    The first two “”goals,”” we are told, are that the comic strip “”was not representative of the UA students, staff or faculty,”” and that the event is aimed at “”promoting change, diversity and unity on campus and in the Wildcat in order to be sensitive to the whole UA and Tucson community at large.””

    Aside from the fact that the comic strip was neither about nor drawn by anyone in Tucson, it was not deliberately chosen for print by anyone at the Wildcat. But there’s a larger issue at stake – the issue of the Wildcat’s credibility as an independent newspaper.

    It is not the responsibility of the Arizona Daily Wildcat to “”represent”” any community, even the campus community, any more than it would be the New York Times’s responsibility to “”represent”” the people of New York. A newspaper’s responsibility is to print the facts. It is not an organ of social change or an instrument to promote the values of “”change, diversity and unity.””

    The third “”goal”” of the event is, apparently, to inform the Daily Wildcat that members of the community “”forgive your mistake, but please do not make it again.”” We find it difficult to interpret this statement as anything other than a threat.

    We appreciate that some members of the community have decided to “”forgive”” us, but we would like to point out that quite a few students – many of who have appeared in the Daily Wildcat Mailbag – were not offended by the comic strip.

    That did not change our decision to apologize for running it, but we would like to note that many members of the UA community did not feel they have been represented by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona or the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership.

    Finally, and most troublingly, the event is meant to make the Daily Wildcat “”accountable for the education of their staff members with specific MANDATORY (sic) training in diversity and tolerance so this never happens again.””

    This is out of the question. It is the business of the Daily Wildcat, not the community, to police its content. To allow the community to make its editorial decisions would be to abdicate its responsibility as an independent newspaper – something we refuse to do.

    We view this declaration of “”MANDATORY training”” as a threat of a punitive measure – one that many may not realize the UA cannot legally enforce against the Daily Wildcat.

    While the comic strip was not intended for publication, its content is still protected under the First Amendment, and retaliatory action against the expression of non-libellous speech strikes at the heart of freedom of the press.

    Requiring “”diversity and tolerance”” training of its entire staff would also make little sense, since the final responsibility for running content rests with the editorial staff, and ultimately with the editor in chief. That is why Wildcat Editor in Chief Lauren LePage took full responsibility for the mistake.

    We chose not to defend the comic strip on free speech grounds, as some readers urged us to do, for two reasons. First, the cartoon’s appearance was a managerial mistake; second, we did not think that those who responded to the cartoon were advocating censorship.

    Sadly, that is no longer true. We are deeply concerned that ASUA and CSIL have joined together in an effort to call for censorship of the Daily Wildcat and to bully the newspaper into tailoring its editorial decisions to the whims of some members of the community.

    That elected representatives of the student body, including President Tommy Bruce, are trying to harass a student-run newspaper into silence and submission is profoundly disturbing. If a student government has any role at all to play on a campus, it should, at the very least, include protecting students’ right to exercise their Constitutional liberties.

    We’re glad to hear that this celebration is happening. We think there are many things to celebrate about America right now, not the least of which is our freedom of the press – without which, as Thomas Jefferson once said, “”our liberty cannot be guarded.””

    Perhaps, rather than “”sensitivity training”” for the Daily Wildcat, what the UA community really needs is “”MANDATORY”” First Amendment training.


    Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Andi Berlin, Chris Carter, Justyn Dillingham, Lauren LePage and Nick Seibel.

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