Columnist resigns after ‘offensive’ emails to readers

Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton has resigned from the paper, after being told that he would be suspended temporarily for responding to Herald readers with “inappropriate” and “offensive” language.

After a column he wrote on July 26 that criticised Israeli conduct in Gaza, and its accompanying cartoon, led to a swell of negative reader feedback, Mr Carlton responded to readers in emails and on social media in a way that Herald editor Darren Goodsir called “completely unacceptable”.

In an article published today on the Sydney Morning Herald’s website announcing the resignation, Fairfax Media’s director of business media Sean Aylmer said that after being told on Tuesday night that he would be suspended for four to six weeks, Mr Carlton made the decision to resign.

Mike Carlton. Photo: Random House Australia

Mike Carlton. Photo: Random House Australia

This came shortly after a statement by Mr Goodsir, which apologised on behalf of the Herald for any offence caused to its readers in emails from Mr Carlton.

Mr Aylmer told the Herald that the column in question did not influence the choice to suspend Mr Carlton, but that the decision was specifically to do with his inappropriate responses to at least seven or eight emails from readers.

“It’s not what he wrote in his column, and that’s still online,” said Mr Aylmer.

“Being a broad church, you’re allowed to write what you want; he’s a commentator. But you can’t treat readers that way.

“It’s the fact that people made the effort to write to him, put their viewpoint across, and he uses expletives to get rid of them. It’s just not appropriate for anyone who works at the Herald to do that.”

In an editorial on Monday, the Herald apologised for a cartoon that was published alongside Mr Carlton’s July 26 column, which showed, as described in the editorial, “an elderly man, with a large nose, sitting alone, with a remote control device in his hand, overseeing explosions in Gaza.”

“The armchair in which he was sitting was emblazoned with the Star of David, and the man was wearing a kippah, a religious skullcap.

The Herald said that the cartoon was appropriated from news photographs of Israelis in Sderot observing the shelling of Gaza. The editorial went on to state: “The Herald deeply regretted the upset the image had caused, but felt – not least because the cartoonist lacked any intent and that actual photographs influenced the setting and physical depiction of the character in the cartoon – that no racial vilification had occurred.”

“However, this newspaper accepts that this position was too simplistic and ignored the use of religious symbols.

“The Herald now appreciates that, in using the Star of David and the kippah in the cartoon, the newspaper invoked an inappropriate element of religion, rather than nationhood, and made a serious error of judgment.

“It was wrong to publish the cartoon in its original form. We apologise unreservedly for this lapse, and the anguish and distress that has been caused.”

Mr Carlton confirmed his resignation from the Herald in a tweet sent out this morning.

For more news from The Newspaper Works, click here.

Leave a comment