A week ago, Mountain Xpress opted not to publish one of Brent Brown’s weekly cartoons. Not one to leave the public uninformed, Brown decided to self-publish the strip, saying on Twitter: “MX wouldn’t print it, so see new cartoon here: http://fb.me/YlKVT4Mo “
After that, some people on Twitter, including former Xpress Managing Editor Jon Elliston, wondered why Xpress chose not to publish the cartoon.
For everyone’s edification, here’s what Xpress opted not to put in print:
I, for one, had a hand in the decision. I felt that the cartoon unfairly depicted issues around Native American rights to land that was, in many instances, unlawfully taken from them. Brown’s cartoon compared the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian members’ ginseng gathering from the national park to kids stealing copper wire from public utility poles.
I tweeted Elliston, asking him for his views, which he offered (in this case, via six tweets). They are assembled in the next paragraph.
Elliston: “Yes, I think I would have published Brent’s cartoon. It’s timely, topical, kind of funny and very well drawn. I’ve been following the debate over granting Native Americans an exemption to harvest in protected parklands. The ‘toon gets at a very real tension in the debate that should be fair game for editorial cartooning. Of course, I don’t know what the reservations were. I’ll add that I think Xpress’ humor features are better [without] sacred cows. And I don’t understand the standard here; if local people like Chad Nesbitt and Mumpower can be skewered on a regular basis … then why would one group be singled out for an exemption from cartoon critiques?”
These are interesting times, with Brown able to self-publish and with virtually everyone able to do so themselves as well, via the Internet.
I’m comfortable with my position of not wanting to publish the cartoon in Xpress. I would probably feel differently if Xpress had reported on the issues the cartoon raises. Such reporting would have acknowledged that there is a debate here, and would have informed readers of the details of the different perspectives. In that context, then Brown’s perspective would be one of several; he’d join the conversation.
I wonder what others think. If you’d like to join in, the comment thread is open below.