NY Press Kills Cartoons; Staff Walks Out

The editorial staff of the alternative weekly New York Press walked out today, en masse, after the paper’s publishers backed down from printing the Danish cartoons that have become the center of a global free-speech fight.

Editor-in-Chief Harry Siegel emails, on behalf of the editorial staff:

New York Press, like so many other publications, has suborned its own professed principles. For all the talk of freedom of speech, only the New York Sun locally and two other papers nationally have mustered the
minimal courage needed to print simple and not especially offensive editorial cartoons that have been used as a pretext for great and greatly menacing violence directed against journalists, cartoonists, humanitarian aid workers, diplomats and others who represent the basic values and obligations of Western civilization. Having been ordered at the 11th hour to pull the now-infamous Danish cartoons from an issue dedicated to them, the editorial group—consisting of myself, managing editor Tim Marchman, arts editorJonathan Leaf and one-man city hall bureau Azi Paybarah, chose instead to resign our positions.

We have no desire to be free speech martyrs, but it would have been nakedly hypocritical to avoid the same cartoons we’d criticized others for not running, cartoons that however absurdly have inspired arson, kidnapping and murder and forced cartoonists in at least two continents to go into hiding. Editors have already been forced to leave papers in Jordan and France for having run these cartoons. We have no illusions about the power of the Press (NY Press, we mean), but even on the far margins of the world-historical stage, we are not willing to side with the enemies of the values we hold dear, a free press not least among them.

This was not an easy decision. I’ve been reading the Press since 1988 and have dreamed of running it for nearly as long. The paper’s editorial staff has worked impossibly hard hours and has come quite a ways in only a few months towards restoring the paper’s tarnished editorial reputation and credibility. I’m proud of the work we’ve
done, and wish we’d had time to finish the job. I wish the Press all the best, and hope that under new ownership and leadership it can again be an invaluable read for all good Gothamites.