Worst thing about anti-police editorial cartoon is that it was no accident

The outrage of the year may have been an editorial cartoon* the daily newspaper published depicting an overweight white police officer shooting a black youth in the back. It included the caption, “Far from the border … children are being separated from their families.”

The next day, faced with the outrage of both the law enforcement community and the public, the newspaper doubled down, running a rationalization and justification concluding, “This freedom of thought and opinion is invaluable and priceless in a true republic.” But the message of cartoon was no more about the First Amendment than it was the Second.

The day after the newspaper raised the stakes, the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas and Texas Municipal Police Association, called for an advertising boycott unless the newspaper apologized. CLEAT’s statement revealed the depth of the resentment over the outrageous caricature, “We intend to push back against this kind of cookie-cutter media garbage that fosters resentment and anger towards police officers in Texas.”

Finally, six days later, and after numerous elected officials joined in the call for an apology, the newspaper issued a tepid apology highlighted by six inches of  white space.  “Shallow … but … they caved,” observed one law enforcement chief.  “Are we supposed to pretend we believe that?” asked another.

The tepid apology came 6 days after the cartoon was run and five days after the “explanation.”

It is a sobering reminder of how quickly a thoughtless act can spin out of control. Institutions matter to the degree they are an influence for good. A once-fine institution has weakened itself by its disregard and disrespect for another institution: law enforcement.

Even when we agree with an editorial we’re left with the sickly sweet aftertaste of the newspaper’s obsequiously patronizing attempts to find the political sweet spot of its audience.

Lest we think the choice of an anti-law enforcement cartoon is an aberration, we should remember the same editorial page was silent when a video showing Lubbock Police officers being assaulted in a Lubbock neighborhood went viral earlier in the month. The choice of when and whether to comment is itself a powerful statement.
 

It was no accident.
 And no one was sorry. Twice. And thus, six days later, what the newspaper published was more a capitulation than an apology.  It was a white flag; a surrender. 

Yes, they got it right the third time, But therein lies what is most offensive about the entire matter: the pandering. Someone believed a hate-filled caricature of police was appropriate. And they did again the next day. And then they didn’t.

They misread the market. It’s easy to do when you aren’t from here and are doing one-size-fits-all editorial pages written 120 miles away in Amarillo.


Even when we agree with an editorial we’re left with the sickly sweet aftertaste of the newspaper’s obsequiously patronizing  attempts to find the political sweet spot of its audience.

Efficiencies of scale extend to the editorial page with the two papers sharing much of the same content.

It is for the combination … that we say the institution has lost its integrity.

This probably should not come as a surprise from the same publication that accepted “dark money” political advertising in the May municipal election.
 The scope of this transgression  is easy to overlook: it goes to trust. For three consecutive days the local newspaper did not disclose to voters the name of the person or organization paying for the political ad even after its representatives were notified of its failure to include the required information.

It was no accident. And no one was sorry about that one, either.

This is a dark money ad because you aren’t told who paid for it. Political advertising is required by Texas law  to include the name of the person or organization paying for the advertisement. It’s about transparency.

So, it is the for combination of its failure to comment, the dark money affair, as well as promoting a false narrative about police that we say the institution has lost its integrity. It’s not to say there aren’t yet writers at the newspaper I admire. My favorite entertainment and sports columnists still write for the newspaper, but as local content providers they’re swimming against the current. Ironically, the best material the newspaper is putting out these days is history, not news. 

Lubbock Lights supports law enforcement and accountability. The two concepts are compatible, as demonstrated by the organizations led by Sheriff Kelly Rowe and Police Chief Greg Stevens as well as the vast majority of their counterparts across the South Plains.

The greater cost of the … editorial obscenity will ultimately be measured in audience, not advertising

They deserved neither the insult nor the jeopardy the false narrative creates for their women and men.

And while we support the police and condemn bigotry and false narratives, we do not hold with advertising boycotts or public officials calling for them. Advertising isn’t support; advertising is about audience.

But it is the audience that matters. The greater cost of the Daily Nickel’s editorial obscenity will ultimately be measured in audience, not advertising.


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*The cartoon the newspaper chose to run was not produced by Gatehouse, the newspaper owner. It was a syndicated cartoon by political cartoonist Rob Rogers who was fired by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier in June. You needn’t ask why.