Public Editor: NY Times Should Publish Charlie Hebdo Cover

Charlie Hebdo 1/14
Charlie Hebdo/Liberation

The New York Times public editor says the paper should have published the new cover of Charlie Hebdo because of its obvious news value.

Margaret Sullivan’s latest piece is a follow up to one written last week in which she framed the decision made by editor Dean Baquet not to publish the cartoons as a close call. Today Sullivan argues that the Times has missed the mark and done readers a “disservice” by not showing them the image at the center of public debate worldwide:

Here’s my take: The new cover image of Charlie Hebdo is an important part of a story that has gripped the world’s attention over the past week.

The cartoon itself, while it may disturb the sensibilities of a small percentage of Times readers, is neither shocking nor gratuitously offensive. And it has, undoubtedly, significant news value.

With Charlie Hebdo’s expanded press run of millions of copies for this post-attack edition, and a great deal of global coverage, the image is being seen, judged and commented on all over the world. Times readers should not have had to go elsewhere to find it.

Breitbart News noted yesterday that the Times had published two separate pieces about the new Charlie Hebdo cover. Both pieces described the cartoon and linked to another site that had published the image. While useful for online readers, that was, as Sullivan notes today, “of little help to the print readers.”

In one of the pieces published yesterday, the author alluded to rumors circulating on Twitter that the new cover included a hidden “depiction of the male anatomy.” This was presented as a complicating factor in the decision about whether or not to publish the cartoon. Sullivan made no mention of this controversy in her follow up piece.

Editor Dean Baquet had previously told Sullivan his decision was based on not avoiding unnecessary offense to the Times’ Muslim readers. In today’s piece, Sullivan says she heard from many readers who “have doubted” that this standard is applied fairly across the board by the NY Times. Sullivan also notes that concern for Times staffers serving abroad played a role in Baquet’s decision not to publish the cartoons, citing the firebombing of German newspaper which had published the cartoons.


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