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US Cartoonist Ted Rall Versus the LA Times

John Curtis

A cartoon in support of Ted Rall by South African cartoonist John Curtis (@digitaljungle)

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) is calling for an independent investigation of an audiotape that’s at the heart of a conflict between US cartoonist Ted Rall (who has done a comic for us in the past) and the LA Times.

In short, the conflict is this: Ted, a freelance writer and cartoonist for the LA Times, wrote a blog in May describing a ‘rough’ encounter with an officer the LAPD in 2001. One month after publication, the LAPD provided an audiotape of the incident which they claimed contradicted Ted’s account. Based on the tape, the LA Times decided to fire Ted as well as publicly call him out on the supposed factual inconsistencies.

But that wasn’t the end of it. In response to the allegations, Ted has had the audiotape (the quality of which was rather bad) enhanced by professionals. The enhanced version backs up his story, he says.

This is a really short recap of the story. This article at A New Domain has some of the most recent developments, and at the bottom you'll find links to various articles that go into the case in detail.

It’s difficult to accurately gauge the story following it from the other side of the pond, but what does strike us as odd is the reluctance of the LA times to respond in detail to the enhanced audiotape and what it contains. When you call a journalist and cartoonist a liar (as they have basically done), you should be willing to investigate when new evidence presents itself. Because at the moment, Ted’s claim that it was the influence of the LAPD that got him fired (he’s done a lot of cartoons that were highly critical of the police) seems plausible.

In any case, an impartial and independent investigation does seem to be in order. We will continue to follow the story (from afar) with interest.


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John Curtis (@digitaljungle)

As good and evenhanded an account of this story as I have read, regardless of how far it has been observed from.

The Internet has enjoined us cartoonists globally just as it has every other community, and we all share a common interest in this story's outcome. For far too long, and far too often, editorial cartoonists have been dismissed from their positions without due process.

We, and the broader journalistic profession, should stand together at every instance to insist on fair treatment and a transparent process and accountability, and - when it is due - proper restitution. (@africartoons) will be watching this case with interest, as its characteristics are all too familiar to us and our cartoonists here in Africa.

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