Opinion: Beware digital challenges to the paper of record

January 30, 2013 in Comment, General, News

Scarfe cartoon of Netanyahu @ procartoonists

Gerald Scarfe cartoon of Benjamin Netanyahu @ procartoonists.org

The Sunday Times has removed the Gerald Scarfe cartoon from all of its digital editions following the controversy about its print publication.

The retrospective removal of the cartoon reported by Press Gazette this morning challenges a traditional role fulfilled by printed journalism as a paper of record. The removal of the image changes the paper of record, post publication.

We believe that such “digital cleansing” is harmful to the expression of opinion in publishing, in either print or pixel form. If the cartoon was good enough to see the light of day in ink on Sunday 27 January, 2013, then it should exist in the enduring pixelated editions too.

To be clear, we do not think this act of removal is “censorship” – that would have prevented Scarfe’s opinion cartoon being published at all. And the owners and editors of the newspaper also have a right to do as they will with the content they purchase from contracted contributors.

But when retrospective editing of “controversial” published items becomes acceptable practice inside digital newsrooms then we start to worry about access to provocative drawn opinions, and probably also written ones.

Are we right? If you have things to say about this, please do so in the comments below.

  • The Scarfe cartoon was certainly a provocative image, but that is to be expected from a political cartoonist. One of our members, Martin Rowson, helpfully explains why such cartoonists do what they do here.

4 responses to Opinion: Beware digital challenges to the paper of record

  1. It also helps to see what all the fuss is about. Removal will quite possible mean people who haven’t had a chance to see the cartoon will think it was far worse than it was. Then again, quite a number of people who did see it thought that anyway. 

  2. Agreed. The best option would have been to let the subsequent apologies stand beside the cartoon itself. The image is out there so why deny its providence and thereby allow others to read yet more into it, out of context?
    The whole incident had been woefully mismanaged in my view. Most of all the comments from Murdoch himself. Are we really supposed to believe that he’s ALWAYS disliked Scarfe, that his work NEVER chimed with the Sunday Times’ editorial voice? That he’s somehow the only News International contributor spared the micromanagement rod. This ludicrous over-statement is made yet more pathetic as the extent to which Israelis themselves are rejecting Netenyahu is revealed.

  3. The source has been removed. But not before it has been spawned a trillion-fold across cyberspace. Murdoch knows this, and his apology is nothing more than a cynical public relations gesture to appease pro-Zionists who happen to buy his newspapers.

  4. Well put, Terry. Its all tied up in the “global elite” can of worms Martin mentioned.

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