Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, associate professor of food studies in Falk College, was interviewed for the Syracuse.com story “Why aren’t NY farm workers in the Covid-19 vaccine line?” Minkoff-Zern, an expert on the intersections of food and social justice, comments on the…
Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw’s 2/13/01 statement on The Daily Orange, delivered before the University Senate:
I am troubled by the tone being set by certain sections of The Daily Orange, and I believe it is time that we, as a University, begin to think about the implications of what can be perceived as occasionally sexist and/or racist cartoons. This problem pre-dates the current editors. Frequently those cartoons were printed under a pseudonym, making it impossible to assign responsibility to the writer.
The Daily Orange has by tradition held itself separate and apart from the University. As such, it receives no funds from the institution and pays the full amount for the SU-owned house it occupies off campus. It also remains unsupervised by persons not on its editorial staff. The Daily Orange sees this as essential to the newspaper’s maintaining its First Amendment right of freedom of the press.
As an independent editorial voice, the newspaper has often helped to shed light on important issues of University life. The institution has been moved to change its policies and procedures in the past as a result.
However, freedom of the press is not, in my view, an excuse to offend whole groups of people by objectifying them. When a cartoon reduces women to their body parts or implies that African Americans are criminals it makes the group the “other,” separate from and different from the so-called mainstream. This is the root of all prejudice and bigotry.
Indeed, freedom of the press has never been a blank check. Rightly or wrongly, editors and journalists in the real world of newspapers and magazines have been fired for printing material that runs counter to community standards in the past and will no doubt be in the future.
I don’t mean to imply in any way that censorship of The Daily Orange is appropriate. Those who believe that a heavy hand is needed in this instance must think about the implications of such a position and the harm it could do to us as a place where truth can be sought without fear of reprisal.
Rather, I believe it is time to think about the responsibilities of a student newspaper, especially one with such a long and proud tradition as The Daily Orange. This vehicle is seen by many as the official voice of the SU student body. I challenge its editors and writers to devise a system of checks and balances that will bring it in line with sound journalistic practice.
I understand that The Daily Orange leadership has accepted responsibility for the current problem and is taking a series of positive steps. I commend their efforts. It is hoped these steps will deal not only with the kinds of problems presented by the recent controversy but also the structural problems that have led to this all-too-frequent occurrence.
We in the University community look forward to seeing the results of these efforts.