Auto industry cartoon should not have been published

On Tuesday, The Herald ran an editorial cartoon about the domestic auto industry.

Our newspaper pages and the airwaves have been filled with talk about United States automakers as Congress debates whether government, and taxpayers, should provide financial support to shore up the industry. At stake are several companies that have been keystones of the U.S. economy for close to a century, though it's not just about Detroit. Many in our own community will be affected by the outcome of the bailout legislation, from auto dealerships to a host of supporting businesses.

It is appropriate that solutions to the auto crisis be explored on newspapers' editorial pages. However, the cartoon the Herald ran yesterday, depicting domestic auto companies' logos on a turkey, was not appropriate, in my opinion. It took a serious subject -- where the livelihood of many good people is at stake, and possibly the economic stability of our nation -- and treated it flippantly. This topic deserved more thoughtful examination.

Few of the issues we address on the editorial page are clear-cut. Our editorial board meets to hash through topics of the day and come to consensus, or at least compromise, before stating The Herald's position in its written editorials. We have not had the same kind of scrutiny in place with regard to cartoons, although a cartoon's message can evoke quite different reactions from one person to another. That was evidenced yesterday. In the eyes of the person choosing the cartoon, it was simply putting a major topic in the news under the editorial microscope. To others, including myself, it should not have appeared in our paper.

Beginning today, we have a process in place to ensure cartoons are viewed by more than one person prior to publication. Will our cartoons still be thought-provoking and controversial? Absolutely. I'm sure we'll continue to hear from readers who will disagree with what we print. The role of the editorial page, in written word or illustration, is to challenge and spawn debate. But by having several pairs of eyes previewing cartoons, we'll be in a better position to determine what is appropriate caricature and humor, and what crosses a very fine line.