Audrey White

A crowd assembled Wednesday in the CMA plaza to protest The Daily Texan in response to the controversial editorial cartoon published in TuesdayÂ’s paper.

Photo Credit: Nathan Goldsmith | Daily Texan Staff

The Daily Texan editorial board apologized for a cartoon published in Tuesday’s Daily Texan at a Wednesday protest by students and Austinities who said the illustration reflected ignorance and racism.

The five members of the editorial board signed off on the cartoon before it ran, said Daily Texan editor-in-chief Viviana Aldous, Plan II and philosophy senior. In an official apology published in today’s Texan, Aldous said the board should not have approved the cartoon. Stephanie Eisner, the editorial cartoonist who drew the illustration, is no longer working at The Daily Texan and has apologized in a separate statement.

The cartoon depicts a mother reading to her child the following words: “And then the big bad ‘white’ man killed the handsome, sweet, innocent ‘colored’ boy.” The mother reads from a book entitled “Treyvon (sic) Martin and the case of yellow journalism.”

Many were upset with the use of the word “colored” and timing of the comic, which was released the same day as a large downtown rally for Trayvon, said Black Student Alliance member Jasmine Kyles, journalism junior.

“A lot of people don’t realize how insensitive this comic is, and this affects the recruitment of African-American students to the University by making the campus look bad,” Kyles said. “When they see things like this, they think the University is racist even though that hasn’t been everyone’s experience here.”

Eisner said she created the work to criticize the media’s attempt to simplify and sensationalize news stories.

“Our intent was not to offend anyone, and we are sorry that it happened,” the board said in its apology. “There was clear oversight that happened in allowing this cartoon to be published.”

The usage of the word “colored” also tied the cartoon directly to racist sentiments deeply embedded in U.S. history, said journalism professor Robert Jensen, who teaches a class on media law and ethics.

“Any cartoon that uses an overtly racist term such as ‘colored boy’ expresses a racist sentiment,” Jensen said. “The evidence is clear that in a white-supremacist society, we white people who do not endorse a racist ideology are not free of racist sentiments at an unconscious level.”

Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old African-American, was allegedly shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman while walking through a gated community to his father’s fiance’s home in Sandford, Fla. last month.

Zimmerman has claimed the killing was in self-defense, and because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law he has not been taken into custody. Following a slow build of awareness through a number of articles published in The New York Times and discussions in online forums, the killing rose to national awareness and clamor has grown for Zimmerman’s arrest.

Occupy UT members Lucian Villasenor and Michelle Uche, who is also a member of the International Socialist Organization at UT, created the protest that began outside The Daily Texan’s office at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. They also drafted a petition to censure the cartoonist who created the illustration, replace the editorial board and open The Daily Texan to commentary and guest editors from the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies to raise awareness about racial issues, Villasenor said.

Daily Texan Managing Editor Audrey White and the editorial board spoke and answered questions from members of the protest.

“We have not done enough to try and explore how racism affects this campus,” White said. “You deserve a paper that reflects the interests of everyone at UT.”

Many members of the protest were unhappy with just a simple apology, such as anthropology graduate student Elvia Mendoza, who said UT needs action about racism and not just discussions about diversity.

“We need to do more than just talk about race and diversity, we need to talk about how racism continues to affect this campus, and that means having more than just forums and meetings,” Mendoza said.

A large number of Daily Texan and UT alumni were also unhappy with the publication of the cartoon, including those who published comments on The Daily Texan website.

Journalism graduate student Tara Haelle, who taught journalism for four years at Sam Houston High School in Arlington, said she was disappointed by the “knee-jerk” reaction of the alumni and believes the board should not have apologized.

“I would expect the alumni to recognize the importance of free speech and not to chastise and patronize the editorial board,” Haelle said. “I don’t happen to agree with the opinion of the cartoonist, but if nothing else, that cartoon encourages a discussion about race.”

Journalism professor Maggie Rodriguez, who teaches a class on Hispanics in the media, said journalists could not use professional practices as a substitute for sensitivity.

She also said that while The Daily Texan was not being intentionally racist, more diversity in the staff was needed.

“By diversity I don’t mean people of the same race, but people who can be anyone and have special sensitivity to ethnicity,” Rodriguez said. “Just filling The Daily Texan with people of different races wouldn’t work, because you can have a person of a special race who is not aware of certain issues in our country.”

Rodriguez said she hopes The Daily Texan is able to grow from the oversight involved in publishing the cartoon.

“I hope people don’t just get fired,” Rodriguez said. “If people can come out of a mistake on race related issues and learn from it, then you can become a huge advocate for looking at race in a more nuanced way.”

In the board’s apology, it offers steps to improve the Texan’s coverage of race and racism, including requiring education about race and media for Texan staff and seeking submissions from a wider range of columnists.

“We understand these are only small steps in the much larger transformation we must undergo,” the board said. “We sincerely apologize for publishing the offensive cartoon and for the harm that decision caused.”

Printed on Thursday, March 29, 2012 as: Protesters: racism still affects campus

It’s strange, but after a year working in the basement of The Daily Texan — cranking out stories on budget cuts, staff layoffs and technology commercialization — I don’t really have anything profound to say.

When I wake up Wednesday morning, it may seem like The Daily Texan was one long, irrepressible dream. But I’ll push myself out of bed, snap on my glasses and realize I won’t ever be a Daily Texan reporter again. What the hell just happened? Doesn’t matter, I guess. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

I met and spoke to some unforgettable people, such as Harriet Murphy, the first African-American woman to be appointed to any judgeship in Texas and a high school friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. I spoke with Red McCombs about leadership. I spoke with Colton Tooley’s high school friends on Sept. 28. I spoke with Mental Health NCO Aaron Puckett, who burst through a pair of doors during the Fort Hood shooting to pull his fellow soldier to safety. I spoke with William Behrens, a retired UT researcher who was the first to discover oil in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico in the 1980s.

It’s hazy now, but I remember Nolan Hicks, Tamir Kalifa and I rushing out of the news office to chase down a story about staff layoffs on campus. I spent two days in New Orleans chasing down a court story with Erika Rich, who snapped a memorable shot of UT President William Powers Jr. and his vice presidents. I switched roles with Audrey White and watched UT students protest across campus with drums and bullhorns as she held down the fort. But most importantly, I spent seven hours watching a UT student jam his way past a “Rock Band 2” world record.

After it’s all over, it’ll be the daily grind of putting out a newspaper that will really stick with me. Toiling away with dedicated journalists, like the ones we have locked away in the basement, was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had.

I can barely remember how I got here, or why I came at all. But a year later, I’m convinced that if it weren’t for the staff, I wouldn’t have made it through the long days, the long nights, the long weeks. These reporters, editors and photographers all bleed talent and they’re a dream to work with.

But all dreams have to end.

Shout outs:

Nolan, thanks for the good times at Arab Cowboy, the bad Walter Cronkite impressions, the whip cream joke, the drive to San Antonio to get a word with Bill White, running toward danger and for always being there. And God damn, you know a lot about politics and news. I always kept our debates to a minimum to avoid looking stupid. You also owe me money.

Audrey, your drive and go-get-‘em attitude inspire me daily. Thanks for Freaky Friday, for understanding people the way you do, for adding real depth to the stories we worked on, and for changing the world. You're right, I'll miss the job a lot. I already do. I'll come back and visit once I've perfected my Audrey impression.

Claire, I can’t wait to work for you at some national paper. You edited my very first story, which, I’m sorry about that. It sucked, and so did a lot of them after that. But you were always ready to listen, ready to work with me on something and you put an amazing amount of time and energy into it. Thanks for the "Rock Band" story and have fun managing the paper next semester, it'll be epic.

Aziza, you're one bad ass cops reporter, an extremely hard worker and fun to collaborate with. Thanks for all the tips on calling cops, man that must have been a tough beat, but you owned it and came out smiling every day.

Lena, thanks for taking me under your wing when I was a GR, your guidance through this semester and always being the voice of reason. Thanks for sharing epic UT System/Admin wisdom and nerd-out moments, we will always be slaves to that beat and you will always be my first boss in a newsroom.

Pierre, thanks for giving me damn good assignments when I was a GR and direction over the summer. Thanks also for scaring the ever loving out of Kalli and I that night you were driving us all around. It made me think about my life and how short it could be if I ever get in the car with you again. Next semester will be good times.

Andrew, thanks for the direction over long term stories and all the edits that made my clips better. I learned a lot working for you, like clarity and effective writing, issue-driven story-telling and getting hard-to-reach sources. You often pushed me to the limits of my reporting abilities, and I think I'm better for it. I'll take those lessons with me. Thank you.

Hudson, thanks for all the advice and taking the time to walk me through story ideas. That's a rare generosity. Your stories in the archives gave me inspiration, not to mention sources and more story ideas.

Erika, thanks for sharing the Johnny Cash filled New Orleans trip, all of the entertaining conversations and your professional, selfless work on the stories we put together. Thanks for trying to teach me photography, I failed, but I still had fun.

Bobby, Michelle, Cristina and Kelsey, you’re all very awesome people. Thanks for the good times in the office and understanding when I couldn’t pull a story together. You always caught my mistakes, never showed impatience and were a pleasure to work with.

Doug, I couldn't have made it without your guidance. You kept it fun and real, and I'm not quite sure I could ever thank you enough.

Thanks also to the advisors, lecturers and professors who helped me to grow as a reporter: Diana Dawson, Wanda Cash, Bill Minutaglio and Brian Brah, thank you all. Special thanks to Michael R. Whitney, you provided me great encouragement throughout these past semesters, I'll always remember that.

I’d also like to thank the many sources who gave me off-record advice and story ideas. You know who you are. Your contributions to my pieces were highly significant, and no reporter would get anywhere without the people who are willing to show them the way. Thanks.