Deputy lifestyle editor resigns after cartoon controversy

by Beacon Staff • March 22, 2006

Miriam Clithero, deputy lifestyle editor of The Berkeley Beacon, resigned from her position last Thursday, over concerns that the paper was unwilling to apologize for printing a cartoon which depicted the prophet Mohammed with a bomb as his turban.,Editor's Note: Editor in Chief Cyra Master did not see this piece prior to publication.

Miriam Clithero, deputy lifestyle editor of The Berkeley Beacon, resigned from her position last Thursday, over concerns that the paper was unwilling to apologize for printing a cartoon which depicted the prophet Mohammed with a bomb as his turban.

"[Beacon management] didn't think of how it would feel to be a minority and have your religion kicked in the face," said Clithero, a junior print journalism major.

The cartoon, which has drawn protest from Muslims across the world since its original publication in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, ran with an opinion article written by assistant opinion editor Patrick Boyle in a Feb. 16 issue of The Beacon.

The Society of Professional Journalists sponsored a Feb. 28 public forum to discuss The Beacon's motives for publishing the cartoon, as well as the implications of that decision. Clithero said she was upset by the way The Beacon handled the forum.

"I was very disturbed that no one, even in the audience, [responded to the fact] that Helal [Homaidan] said that the second time he felt like a minority was in this instance," Clithero said.

Forum panelist Helal Homaidan is the president of the Islamic Community at Emerson.

"I think it's good that Miriam spoke up," said Homaidan, a junior film major. "You're not a journalist-you're a human being first."

Clithero said in the interest of humanity, The Beacon should have acknowledged those it offended.

"I don't see anything wrong with apologizing for hurting someone," she said.

Cyra Master, The Beacon's editor in chief, said she was disappointed to lose Clithero.

"We're really sad to see Miriam go," said Master, a senior print journalism major. "She's been a wonderful member of our staff and contributed to the paper. She feels strongly about her decision, and I feel strongly about mine."

Although she understands Clithero's desire to apologize to those that were hurt, Master said she thinks the paper made the right choice in printing the cartoon without apology.

"It's not something we're going to apologize for, because we really felt that it was the best thing to do, and it was important to do," Master said. "I think the dialogue around campus shows that."

Clithero, whose opinion about the issue was printed in last week's Beacon and whose open letter of resignation appears in this issue, said she understands management's position.

"I do think it's commendable that they printed those things and are not afraid of criticism," Clithero said. "At least they are willing to hear what I have to say. That's awesome."

However, for Clithero, The Beacon's decision not to apologize mattered more than its right to publish the cartoons.

"I think there were a lot of problems unveiled in this," said Clithero. "I couldn't personally work for a paper that was going to be so inflexible."

Samantha Kacho, a sophomore broadcast journalism major, said she thought the situation was a difficult one and that she could understand both side's perspectives.

"[Publishing the cartoon] was a really risky move; it is first amendment rights," Kacho said. "If you look at it constitutionally, they have the right. If you look at it ethically, yes, you are going to hurt people."