Florida Editorial Cartoon Defames Firefighters

Pensacola News Journal screws up big time.

Earlier, the Pensacola News Journal ran a editorial cartoon depicting white firefighters hosing down a black couple holding a child. The accompanying caption clearly emphasizes what the drawing captures.

The International Association of Fire Fighters, and local firefighters, has called on the Pensacola News Journal to apologize for disparaging firefighters, but Richard Schneider, excutive director for the Pensacola Regional Newa has refused, saying that the cartoon fits the editorial pages's misson. Cartoonist Andy Marlette defended his artwork by using it in a poor attempt to reason what the readers of the Pensacola News Journal will have to fear as massive layoffs loom for Alabama journalists. His view is that without journalists, attacks on your civil liberties may go unnoticed and unreported in the 21st century.

It is sad and confusing to try and reason such a thought. We live in a time when your fire will show up online on YouTube, and then STATter911 or The Fire Critic, long before you are back in quarters. We have seen how social media is used in real-time events from Iran during election protests to our own country's Occupy Wall Street protests. Mr. Marlette's notion that once journalists are given the sack, hordes of evil doers will rush in to rape and pilage is absurd. While it is difficult that anyone should lose their job, this economy has hit nearly everyone, especially firefighters. Instead of his terribly offensive drawing, Mr. Marlette should have simply gone with a sketch of a burning building with no one around – and then the caption "Who reports on those fires and who puts them out when journalists and firefighters are laid off?"

That would have been more fitting, more respectable.

Charles Moore is the photograher who captured the photo above, as well as many more, while documenting the Civil Rights movement. It is claimed that Moore's photo helped in the passage of the Civil Right's Act. Had Mr. Marlette thought to spur the change that would keep he and his coworkers employed, perhaps a drawing of a reporter being served in a soup kitchen while looking at a blank newspaper would have made a greater impression.

Lend your support to the firefighters in the Jacksonville area by following the information provided by the IAFF, "Fire fighters are planning to submit a letter to the editor and are also asking friends, family and other supporters to call, write or post on the Pensacola News Journal's Facebook page how wrong it is to pull fire fighters into the demise of the print media. Local 707 President Hoffman also denounced the editorial on NewsRadio 1620. You can even email your letters to the editor to managing editor ggraybiel@pnj.com." Remember, if you do choose to respond, you represent firefighters eveywhere. Respond in kind, with fact and respect.

This is not just a career firefighter issue, this is an "every firefighter" issue. It's true that racism still exists. Fight it; don't hide it and don't let it define your department.



Bill Carey is the daily news and blog manager for Elsevier Public Safety (FireRescue Magazine/Firefighter Nation, JEMS and LawOfficer sites.) Bill also manages the FireEMSBlogs.com network and is a former volunteer lieutenant with the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department in Prince George's County, Maryland.

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