Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why the New York Post May Benefit from the Cartoon Scandal

So the NAACP is still planning widespread protests over the New York Post cartoon that allegedly compares Barack Obama to a monkey--a monkey who's been shot dead by police.

Obviously, the Post is facing a PR nightmare. Whichever editor was responsible for running the cartoon clearly shouldn't have done so, and now the paper is rightly paying the price for its indiscretion. And no media organization wishes to face charges of racism--both for those charges' moral implication as well as the negative press coverage that inevitably follows. But this thing has received a lot of press coverage; practically every news outlet, both paper and blog, has given it attention, and that may not be an entirely terrible thing for the Post.

Why? Well, they say that no press is bad press; as long as you're receiving any sort of press attention, this line of thinking goes, then you've already at least somewhat succeeded. And this Post scandal, despite the boycotts and vitriol it has caused, has brought talk of the newspaper back to the water cooler. And since the only thing people have to say about newspapers anymore is that they're dying, it must be validating to the Post on some level that what it runs in its print edition can still generate so much discussion. The paper may be beleaguered right now, but with all this blog and press coverage, one can hardly consider it irrelevant or obsolete, charges that right now are (unfortunately) more dangerous than that of racism.

In other words, people are talking about the newspaper--in a different vein than the "it's going to fold soon" one--more than they have in recent memory. And while I'm not saying that the solution to newspapers' imminent death is blatant racism, I am saying that whatever circulation lost due to the NAACP protests will be made up for by the headlines into which the paper will continue to enter. Especially since the Post has recently been forced to drop longtime gossip columnist Liz Smith--due to "economic gales"--I'm sure the paper needs a reassurance that even during tough times it can still get people talking, and for better or for worse, this cartoon scandal proved just that. Maybe editor-in-chief Col Allen foresaw this media attention when the time came to run or squelch the cartoon, and maybe he was willing to accept any outrage as collateral damage in the ongoing war to save print.


1 comment:

David Hodges said...

reminds me of this from my sophomore year:

it's the ultimate expression of free speech. i half think the DTH ran it simply because pip (the cartoonist) gave it to them, and one of the editors told me she felt like if they didn't run it, they'd be self-censoring, and self-censoring is worse than if the government did it.

both cartoons were incredibly stupid, but the people calling for the cartoonists and editors to get fired are even stupider.