On Monday the Cayman Compass published on this page a political cartoon that has sparked an unexpected controversy.
Titled “Impossible,” the cartoon depicted a boy wearing a turned-backward baseball cap and smoking a cigarette, and many of our readers interpreted this image as being an unwarranted attack on all Caymanian youth.
That certainly was not the intention, but we do understand and appreciate that perception.
We viewed the image as a representation of a far-smaller subset of young Caymanians – those who exit our schools inadequately prepared educationally or attitudinally to secure gainful and productive employment in our community.
Having said that, we believe the negative reaction to this cartoon comes not so much from the subject matter – every country, not just Cayman, is struggling with these same youth issues – but from the appearance that we were stereotyping all of our young people in an exaggerated, unfair and negative way.
Again, if intent counts, that was not ours.
The editor of the Compass, David R. Legge, was asked by another media outlet if he thought the cartoon was funny.
That sounded like a “trick” (or a “trap”) question, but in any case it was the wrong question. Not every political cartoon needs to be funny. Some are poignant, some even solemn, but all, when executed skillfully, can add something of value to understanding a complex issue, almost at a glance. Great cartoonists have the ability to do this consistently, and we believe ours – George Nowak (aka “Barefoot Man”) – is among the best.
And yes, often times the best political cartoons are provocative – even offensive to some readers. Of course, our readers will recall a recent radical example of this. A Paris satirical newspaper called Charlie Hebdo published over an extended period multiple cartoons that lampooned the appearance of the Prophet Muhammad. On Jan. 11, 2015, terrorists raided their editorial offices, slaughtering 11 cartoonists, editors and others.
The next month, someone tried to shoot Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks and others on a panel with him in Copenhagen.
(Don’t get any ideas, dear readers.)
In the course of a year, the Compass publishes thousands of articles, hundreds of editorials, and well over 100 political cartoons – almost all produced under deadline conditions. No excuses here, but sometimes we’re more perfect than we are at others.
When we fall short, or are perceived to fall short, we are sensitive to our critics and always open to voices and opinions other than our own.
That being said, we are not in the business of talking down or being sycophantic to our audience. Our editorial tone is not one of condescension – it is the opposite.
We assume that our readers are intelligent, open-minded, involved and tolerant (all hallmarks of an educated mind). No subject is “ring-fenced” or off-limits in our pages. As readers (and no doubt politicians) are aware, we examine serious subjects seriously, taking unequivocal positions on such issues as the landfill, conservation, good governance, public schools, unemployment and other matters of importance.
As the community newspaper, the Compass, now in its 50th year, is integrally woven into the fabric of these islands. We are proud of the fact that more than 70 percent of our employees are Caymanian and as a company we are one of the largest contributors to, and supporters of, all things Caymanian. We annually allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars to local organizations in support of their worthwhile causes.
As journalists we strive to be fearless, never foolish, and certainly not offensive. All good editors and reporters must also be good listeners. In this case, we hear what you, many of our valued readers, are saying.