Protestors Call On News-Gazette To Add Women To Editorial Board After Controversial Cartoon
Upwards of 100 people gathered for a rally outside of the News-Gazette building Monday afternoon after the paper published a controversial editorial cartoon last week that rally organizers say mocked the "#MeToo" movement.
The syndicated cartoon titled, “Teen Angst in the Era of #Me Too,” ran Sept. 25 in the Champaign paper’s opinion pages. The drawing shows two teenagers in a car, with a thought bubble over the boy’s head expressing worry that he shouldn’t make an advance toward the girl because it could come back to haunt him in 30 years. A thought bubble written above the girl’s head says, “Doesn’t he like me?… What’s wrong with boys these days?”
State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, said after the rally, which took place on the sidewalk in front of the News-Gazette’s office in downtown Champaign, that the cartoon sent the wrong message to young men about harassment.
“What about the impact on women?” Ammons said. “What about the message to boys that sends that ‘well, it’s okay to do these things, but don’t have any baggage later that may come back to bite you.’”
The Champaign County Democrats recently decided not to participate in a debate co-sponsored by the News-Gazette over the paper's decision to run the cartoon. Speaking at the rally, Ammons and Democratic County Board candidates, including Tanisha King-Taylor and Mike Ingram, called on the News-Gazette to add women to its all-male editorial board, which they said could have prevented the publication of the cartoon.
“More female representation in the editorial boardroom would have helped somebody realize that this was going to be one of the most insensitive things that the News-Gazette can run,” Ammons said.
Monday’s rally coincided with the recent release of a report by the Anti-Harassment Equality & Access Panel, which Ammons is part of, along with State Comptroller Susana Mendoza and state Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake. The report was compiled after months of interviews with women in politics, and outlines recommendations for party leaders and campaigns to adopt to prevent a culture that allows sexual harassment to take place.
News-Gazette CEO John Reed wrote in a column last week that the paper displayed an “unintentional lack of sensitivity” in publishing the cartoon. He wrote that it sparked a dialogue within the company. The paper also published a letter written by the cartoon’s artist, Robert Ariail, on Sept. 27. In the letter, Ariail writes that he intended the cartoon to be a “a commentary on modern life and the chilling effects surrounding the #MeToo movement and more specifically, the Kavanaugh hearings.” He added that the cartoon was misinterpreted, and that for that reason he “failed in communicating” his idea.