TJ's legacy: Cav Daily gets Muzzled
Ouch. The 17th annual Jefferson Muzzle Awards bestowed by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression to the country's "most egregious and ridiculous censors" hits close to home this year– the independently run student newspaper at Mr. Jefferson's university.
The Cavalier Daily earned a Muzzle after around 200 protesters sat in the paper's office last fall to express their displeasure with Grant Woolard's "Ethiopian Food Fight" strip. The paper apologized, forced Woolard to resign even though two managing board members had okayed the cartoon, and fell upon its unfortunately named "censorship criteria."
Opines the TJ Center about Woolard's firing and CBS, another Muzzle recipient, for canning Don Imus after his non-PC remarks, "[I]t appears clear that the actions were taken not because of the substance of the public's reaction, but the amount of it."
"I think this is something we're obviously not pleased about, but the decision was a personnel decision," says Cav Daily editor Elizabeth Mills. "The Cavalier Daily never wants to limit personal expression, so I hope it was a misplaced award."
Herb Ladley, who was the editor in chief last fall during the "Food Fight" imbroglio, goes further, and calls the Muzzle a cheap shot against hardworking students, according to the Daily Progress. "It is further disconcerting that they would focus on speech, in this case, a cartoon, that had no intrinsic value," he says.
That wasn't the first time CD cartoons had created a firestorm. In 2006, two other Woolard cartoons about the Virgin Mary and a crucified Jesus on a Cartesian axis failed to draw yuks from the likes of Bill O'Reilly and others who said it was offensive to Christians. Last month, two other cartoons revisited those same Jesus/Mary themes and once again, the paper pulled the strips and apologized.
In a Cav Daily editorial today, the paper announces a new stance: "As long as personal belief or editorial bias isn't at play, cutting content from the Comics page isn't censorship– it's editing. And that's what we seek to do from here on out."