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Apr-01-2012 21:40printcomments

Response to Editorial: 'RTDNA Chairman Defends Racist Cartoon'

RTDNA Chairman objects to several points in Tim King's Political Perspective published this weekend.

Salem-News.com

(AUSTIN, TX) - The Chairman of the RTDNA (Radio Television Digital News Association), Kevin Benz, sent this response to our article, RTDNA Chairman Defends Racist Cartoon; we are glad to carry it. While I offer sharp criticism, clarity is of vital importance to any story or issue such as this, as is public dialog.
- Tim King, Salem-News.com

Thank you for your impassioned refute to my commentary of last week. It is exactly this kind of discourse that encourages greater thought and helps enlighten our citizens, and it is exactly that kind of discourse Ms. Eisner was trying to stimulate with her editorial cartoon.

I would like to make one point right from the start — I am not defending racism and if that's what you gleaned from my writing, I have failed you Racism is a blight on our society and with the deep emotional, knee-jerk reactions it encourages, it also drags us into rabbit holes of discourse from which there is no escape.

That is why I wrote the article in the first place. That cartoon was not defending racism, it was trying to point out, satirically (and clearly failed), the overly simplistic coverage revolving around race portrayed by some of the mainstream media.

No, I was not defending racism. I am defending the First Amendment, just as you have (admittedly, far more nobly than I), as a member of the military serving overseas.

The point of my commentary is this, as stated later in the article in a paragraph you chose not to quote:

    "The calls for censure [against Ms. Eisner] are an attack on free speech, no different than those of tyrants and dictators who shut down the Internet when things don’t please them. And it’s our job as journalists and citizens, to defend Eisner’s right to draw and The Daily Texan’s right to publish, even when it may be disagreeable, even offensive.

    There is simply no way to present cogent media criticism or present unpopular perspectives in a traditional news story, which is exactly why we need editorial commentary, opinion, letters to the editor and editorial cartooning.

    Yes, we may choose to disagree with the opinion, we may even be offended, but the point is, good editorial opinion makes us react and think, and that is never a bad thing.

    Occasionally we should be reminded of Voltaire’s poignant message: 'I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.'"

When speech is stifled and censored — even speech we find offensive, our constitution and our rights to free speech are compromised. Eisner's cartoon led to a national discussion about race and the media and reporting truth. I believe that public discussion is worthwhile and important.

Read the RTDNA article by Benz

In your editorial you state, "Time does not invent more facts for examination." No, time does not "invent" facts, but it does reveal them. If not for time, and the re-examination it allows, we would have never discovered the hundreds of people wrongly convicted of crimes in this country. We would never discover the true reasons behind difficult decisions in government. We would never unveil corruption or fraud. Truth is gleaned in time and rarely if ever is the truth revealed immediately. In fact, in an "always on" and connected world, the search for truth can be compromised by provocative speech published online by those with an agenda.

The facts of this case may be abundantly clear to you, but making the assumption that we already know everything we need to know is dangerous. Maybe all of your assumptions are correct, I prefer to allow our American justice system do its job rather than forming a posse and hanging someone from the nearest gallows before being given a chance to defend themselves before a jury of their peers.

I'd also like to clarify a point. The fact I attended the University of Texas does not ethically preclude me from writing about the University anymore than having served in the military precludes you from writing about the war in Afghanistan. I do not serve in any capacity with the University or The Daily Texan.

Finally, I would like to weigh in on your understanding of RTDNA. RTDNA defends journalism and works tirelessly to improve it, period. We have no interest in defending profit, in fact we have written ethical guidelines about avoiding business and advertising conflicts for journalists (http://www.rtdna.org/pages/best-practices/ethics.php).

We certainly understand that mainstream journalism is a business, as is the Salem News. But our job is to defend the First Amendment rights to free speech and a free press. We believe those rights form the core of our Democratic republic and are worth defending — even when that speech is unpopular or even abhorrent.

Kevin Benz, Chairman, RTDNA

cc: Mike Cavender, Executive Director, RTDNA

Final note from Tim King: I served in the Marines during peacetime and I have covered both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as a reporter and photographer. Therefore I did not serve my country overseas in the traditional sense. I am glad Kevin Benz sent this response, again I can't stress the importance of clarity.





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Anonymous April 1, 2012 10:16 pm (Pacific time)

Your time in Iraq and Afghanistan should not be underrated, nor should your time in the military be.  Everyone who has been over at these locations knows the documenting of war is of high import. You are and will forever be a reporter who did what few did. Zimmerman is a child killer, a murdering interloper, until criminals like this man are no longer allowed to intrude on our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness... especially for kids, we have work to do.

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