Deciding whether to publish Charlie Hebdo's controversial Mohammed cartoons | KBIA

Deciding whether to publish Charlie Hebdo's controversial Mohammed cartoons

Jan 17, 2015

Credit Yves Tennevin

The French publication Charlie Hebdo has a long history of publishing controversial cartoons. But after an attack on its offices that left 10 staff and two police officers dead, news organizations are grappling with the ethics of reprinting those same cartoons. The graphic depictions may provide relevant context, yet are deeply offensive to many of the Muslim faith. Missouri School of Journalism professors Jamie Grey, Ryan Thomas and Amy Simons discuss the publication on KBIA-FM's media criticism program, "Views of the News."


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There are a complicated set of calculations that go into deciding whether or not to publish these cartoons. Thomas described how journalists must provide context for events, but to publish these cartoons there must be a more compelling reason than "because I have the right." Thomas was also troubled by the pressure put on media organizations to publish these images, and Grey added many news organization have policies against publishing depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. 

 

"Are we generating more light or heat by publishing these images?"

Marc Cooper, a journalism professor at USC Annenberg, asked New York Times editor Dean Baquet "exactly how many people have to be shot in cold blood before your paper rules that you can show us what provoked the killings?" Thomas took issue with Cooper's criticism of the paper's decision, stating editors must apply their normal standards of editorial value.  The location in which the images appear matters as well, according to Grey. In some cases, Newspapers have chosen not to publish the cartoons in their news section, but allow some to appear in the editorials. 

"In the local television format, we do not have an editorial page, and that is part of the key argument."

Grey said the conversation over publishing Charlie Hebdo's cartoons may force journalists into the uncomfortable position of having to take a stand on the very issue they are covering. Simons added journalists must professional separate themselves from the topic they are covering. 

"[As journalist] We don't sign petitions, we don't change our social media avatars... yet this cause hit so close to home."

For more, follow Views of the News on  Facebook ,  Twitter, and  YouTube.