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Censorship in journalism: is there a place for it?

Many stories and graphics come across an editor’s desk that have a huge question mark stamped across their subject matter. And it’s at the discretion of that editor whether or not to run them.
Of course, by picking and choosing for reasons other than timeliness or importance, one stands a very good chance of demonstrating that dreaded word most journalists despise: censorship.
After all, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are very near and dear to our hearts and are what our profession is all about.
But what about when something is in total and irrefutable bad taste? When running that story or cartoon doesn’t benefit or inform or even make one laugh with satirical humor? When, in fact, the piece offends a large group of people with its uncalled-for stereotyping and possible, racist comments?
That was the dilemma at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette recently when a controversial cartoon ran in The Vermilion, the school paper.
The link for this story (katc.com) was sent to me by a classmate who went to visit her brother, a freshman at the school, over spring break.
The part of the comic strip causing the contention was a reference to grape soda and fried chicken directed to a black man shopping for a TV.
After watching the video and reading the accompanying story, I was stunned by the editor’s response when asked why he ran the cartoon. After the obvious reason of not wanting to censor his artists and writers, or some gibberish about stifling their creative freedom, editor-in-chief Nick Fontenot added, “And being that he was black I thought hey, he’s (artist) not going to do something that’s offensive to his own race; this is going to be OK.”
Really, Nick? You didn’t think that black students at your own school, or any black person who read that cartoon, might find such an analogy a bit hard to swallow, all because a black person was the one to pen it?
When the NFL postponed the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles due to a blizzard back in 2010 and white Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania made the comment, “If this was China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? ... People would have been marching down to the stadium; they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down,” and he called America a nation of wusses, do you think that just because the imbecile who said it was white, the Caucasians who heard his comments weren’t offended by the remarks?
There are racist people among their own race. And that’s just what Allegra Lumpkin, a black student at UL, said, when commenting on the cartoon.
Many students were upset about it.
The paper has promised to print the artist’s side, the side of another member of the paper’s staff who opposes it and any other comments made about the cartoon in upcoming editions.
The moral of this story: having a modicum of intellect where stereotyping is involved isn’t called censorship; it’s called plain good taste.

Angela Rogalski is a print journalism senior who lives in Abbeville. Follow her on Twitter @abbeangel.