Editor-in-chief Steven Norton explains Thursday's editorial cartoon

Thursday morning, I awoke to emails and tweets from angry readers reacting to today’s editorial cartoon featuring Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Fellow students took to Twitter and Facebook, threatening to uproot newspaper boxes and generally questioning The Daily Tar Heel’s motives for running the cartoon in the first place.

I stand by it, despite the fact that many people — including my editorial board — believe that this nationally syndicated cartoon should not have run in the DTH.

I believe it raises legitimate points concerning the Martin case by calling attention to the absurdity of the situation: Zimmerman’s defense, the police response (or lack thereof) and Florida’s so-called stand your ground law.

And as editor-in-chief, I take final responsibility for the content of this newspaper, including what appears on the opinion page.

Like any controversial piece, it’s understandable that the cartoon rubbed many people in many different ways and elicited a variety of responses. Some saw the cartoon as an attempt on behalf of the artist to show the complete senselessness of the tragedy. Others, understandably, saw it as an insensitive statement that went too far with a sensitive topic, and therefore hindered its ability to communicate its message.

I do worry that this cartoon’s means distract from its ends: to mourn and admonish a tragedy that is, at once, the Martin family’s and the nation’s.

I regret the frustrations this cartoon provoked, though I see the cartoon as a condemnation of this awful tragedy. At its essence, by pairing the visual of Martin’s dead body with a speech bubble trivializing his killer’s motives to the high fructose content of a pack of Skittles, the artist used the cartoon to highlight a tragedy that never needed to happen.

Ultimately, any responses are warranted and welcomed, just as they are for any content on the editorial page or any before it. As you reflect on the subject of this cartoon or are prompted to seek it out for the first time, I encourage you to voice your thoughts. My sincere hope is that those who saw the cartoon, whether or not they are familiar with the issue it portrayed, took something from it.

The more voices out there that speak up to truly promote understanding of this complex issue and ones similar to it, regardless which side they’re on, the better. I won’t be editor much longer, but the lessons and insight I’ve gained from readers this year are innumerable and I hope they continue.

Feel free to call or email me with your thoughts, or write a letter to the editor. I’m usually in the office every evening after 5 p.m. Please stop by if you want to talk. I want to hear and learn from you.

Thanks for reading!

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