Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Who's Sorry Now?

Last Friday the New York Post ran an unsigned editorial with a bizarrely conditional apology for the racist cartoon which ran in Wednesday's print edition and appeared on the Post's web site. The universal condemnation heaped upon the paper made the editorial board cede that the cartoon was interpreted by many as a "thinly veiled expression of racism." The editorial goes on:

"This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.

However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past - and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.

To them, no apology is due."

Um... ok, but does this mean you're sorry, or not really, or just kind of sorry? In today's Post, Rupert Murdoch apologized a little more clearly. From the editorial:

"As the Chairman of the New York Post, I am ultimately responsible for what is printed in its pages. The buck stops with me.

Last week, we made a mistake. We ran a cartoon that offended many people. Today I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted."

It's helpful to put this newer, clearer apology into context with Murdoch's business interests. According to a New York Times piece published yesterday, Murdoch's personal love of newspapers is putting a significant drag on News Corporation's balance sheet. The company recently took a $3 billion dollar write-down on its newspaper unit, and its stock price is down by two-thirds in the last year, much more sharply than the media conglomerates that do not have a sizable newspaper division. Murdoch paid $5 billion for the Wall St. Journal, and it generated about $100 million in income last year. Oops. One can't help but wonder if his apology was motivated more by red ink than actual contrition - he can't afford to lose any more subscribers to or advertisers in any of his papers.

For his part, Sean Delonas, the picture's author, was unfazed. In a telephone interview with CNN, he said that the controversy caused by the cartoon was "absolutely friggin' ridiculous."