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RBJ cartoon brings protests and apology 

It’s not unusual for a publication’s editorial cartoons to offend some of its readers. But the cartoon in the October 19 edition of the Rochester Business Journal went well beyond political commentary, resulting in complaints from readers and an online protest signed by nearly 150 businesses.

The cartoon, by syndicated cartoonist Rick McKee, had the text “A Field Guide to Liberals: Helping You Identify How They Identify” and included a stunningly offensive insult aimed at transgender people.
click to enlarge Georgia-based Rick McKee’s syndicated cartoons are distributed to hundreds of US newspapers, including, above, the Rochester Business Journal.
  • Georgia-based Rick McKee’s syndicated cartoons are distributed to hundreds of US newspapers, including, above, the Rochester Business Journal.

Following its publication, RBJ editor Ben Jacobs issued a lengthy apology. The cartoon, he wrote, “should never have been published. We take full responsibility and apologize for our mistake. It does not reflect the views of this publication or its staff.”

The RBJ is adopting new procedures to ensure that something similar doesn’t happen again, Jacobs wrote. It’s also talking with local organizations, including the Out Alliance, “to seek their input on how we can better educate our staff to understand different viewpoints and to provide more opportunities for diverse voices in our publication,” Jacobs wrote.

In an interview late last week, Jacobs added that RBJ has stopped publishing editorial cartoons. “We’ve thought about cartoons for a while,” he said. “They’re political in nature, and we’re not a political newspaper.”

Cartoonist McKee’s home newspaper is the Augusta, Georgia, Chronicle, which, like the RBJ, is owned by the Rochester-based national media company Gatehouse. McKee's work often attacks liberals, but he has also skewered Donald Trump.

While the RBJ has run cartoons by artists affiliated with newspapers owned by other companies, they’ve often been from Gatehouse papers, Jacobs said. RBJ operates separately from Gatehouse, however, and the parent company hasn't been involved in RBJ’s selection of cartoons, he said.

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