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.