From the newsroom: Whether or not to run a cartoon of Jesus being shot in the head

It’s been a typical Thursday night in the newsroom; at 7 p.m., the editors were mostly silent, editing stories and laying out pages. The Diversions page had already finished and Opinion was in the final stages of layout when assistant opinion editor Maria Romas said, “Guys, I think tomorrow’s cartoon is too offensive.”

“What is it of?” I asked.

“It’s Jesus being shot in the head.”

What ensued was a newsroom-wide discussion about whether to run the admittedly controversial cartoon, which depicts what would happen if Jesus were resurrected today. The answer, according to cartoonist Ben Stryker, was that he would quickly be called a Zombie and shot in the head.

Ultimately, after heated debate over whether the cartoon crosses the line, the editorial board chose to pull it, especially considering it would have run on Good Friday. (Full disclosure: The Diamondback has gotten some heat in recent years for running cartoons deemed offensive).

The incident presented an interesting discussion on journalistic ethics; because it was running on the opinion page, we had every right to publish it. But because part of a journalist’s duty is to “do no harm,” we chose to pull it.

So, we’d like to know what our readers think. Did we make the right decision? Would you have let the First Amendment triumph and run the cartoon?

— Lauren Redding is a junior journalism major and editor in chief of The Diamondback


8 comments on “From the newsroom: Whether or not to run a cartoon of Jesus being shot in the head

  1. Seeing this for the first time . . . I am glad you pulled it. Just because something can be done, does not mean it should be done. Good decision.
    xo, Ben’s Mom

  2. Just a thought, are the people who claim this is offensive just as offended by pictures or sculptures of Jesus on the cross?
    Do they boycott Family Guy for making Jesus jokes all the time?
    Think there was even one where God was personified as a guy trying to pickup girls and accidentally killed one before running away with Jesus.

    That being said, I agree with Cribbster, I don’t think it’s funny enough to waste your time going through the mountain of hatemail you’d probably get, and would probably have lead to some op-ed on Monday where someone is saying how offensive it is.

    “A secular paper shouldn’t publish anything in favor of or against any particular religions, especially if it’s doing it in a way that utilizes emotion rather than sensibility.”
    Where do you draw the line with this? Some would claim this is violated by having a cartoon where abortion is in a good light. How about an op-ed article where the writer defends a person’s human right to love or marry who they wish? Sure, you might draw a sensible line around specifically mentioning Christianity or some denomination, but not everyone will.

  3. People need to learn to take a joke.

    I’m Catholic and this doesn’t offend me–the author wasn’t disparaging Christianity, he was making a point about zombies. It was clearly a joke.

  4. ctschwink says:

    People can’t take a joke, especially religious folks. It’s like they live to pick fights over things they deem offensive and then they will absolutely refuse to let it go. Good call just to spare yourself all the headache that would’ve accompanied it. Quite obviously, though, it’s zombie joke, not a jab at Christianity. Everyone needs to lighten up a bit.

  5. I’m glad you pulled that cartoon…it’s really offensive. There are ways to be funny without being sacrilegious. That cartoon would have made a lot of people feel hurt and angry and would’ve only garnered disrespect towards the Diamondback. A secular paper shouldn’t publish anything in favor of or against any particular religions, especially if it’s doing it in a way that utilizes emotion rather than sensibility.

    Also, that’s not a resurrection, it’s a murder. That’s like the opposite of a resurrection.

  6. Thank you for choosing to pull this cartoon. There’s really no need to publish something that disrespects something so many people consider to be very sacred, especially considering it’s Easter. Free speech is important, but at some point you have to draw the line. You guys made the right choice. The Maryland community will not be missing out on anything by the pulling of this cartoon.

  7. Cribbster says:

    I’m not sure I agree with your interpretation of “do no harm,” but you made the right choice not to run it. Almost anything can be justified for publication in an editorial cartoon provided it’s one or both of two things: 1) genuinely funny 2) a sharp concept and something legitimately interesting to say.

    This cartoon is neither. And I’m in no way offended by it. As an editor I wouldn’t worry about offending people either. If it’s funny, without being prejudice or hateful, it’s worth it. If it’s got something worthwhile to say, it’s worth it. I don’t see how either can be said for this.

  8. h (@Kairius) says:

    No. In the context of the image, it’s perfectly fine. It’s not against religion, it’s not against christianity. The only thing it’s discriminating against is today’s society, which is an absolutely valid target for these cartoons.

    The only christians I can see raising a large problem with this are the few that are looking for any excuse to start a religion war.

    If anything, it is far less controversial than that FLAME ad that runs every couple weeks.

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