As this weekend has passed, I have gotten increasingly involved in the Sheaf cartoon debate, and I have little doubt that I will continue to do so during the course of this week. Jeremy at Wayward Reporter has done a great job of stating his case, and there is some great discussion occurring at Dave Hutton's blog, as well as the blogs of Rochelle Knox and Mark Watson (the creator of the Capitalist Pig figure, but not of this comic), who gives a very interesting take on the issue. (As an aside, I have decided to use the title "In deep Sheaf" to identify the issue at Life of Turner. "Sheafgate" just did not cut it for me.) Of course, to call it one issue is simplification at best, and so I am attempting to disseminate the different issues at play in this entire situation for your ease:
1. The use of offensive religious imagery: The comic is primarily offensive to Christians, but is also offensive to Jews. The question is whether this depiction of Christ depicts "hate literature" or violates either or both of the Sheaf's publishing policy and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.
2. Journalistic integrity: Not everyone is offended because of the imagery used, but because the publication of this comic directly violates the policy stated by the Sheaf just a week earlier regarding their decision not to publish the Mohammed cartoons. A double-standard has been displayed, and the argument is for the paper to decide either to publish both or neither.
3. Freedom of speech: Though the staff at the Sheaf do not defend the publishing of the comic, some comments have already been defending the paper's right to publish these cartoons because of free speech. This ties in with the issue of religion, as the question is whether the commentary in this cartoon is valid enough to warrant its publication.
4. Christian and Muslim reactions: Much is and will be made in way of comparing the reaction of the two religions, both seriously and jokingly. Some people have questioned whether there would have been this kind of reaction if the Sheaf had published the Mohammed cartoons, and rightfully so. Are Christians just using this as an opportunity to advance their own conservative agenda, or is this an honest reaction?
5. The structure of the Sheaf: What was previously an issue of primarily internal concern will now be opened to a far wider base of people who will (and should) rightfully question whether there are the proper structures in place at the Sheaf to have prevented this from happening, and if those structures do not exist what structures should be instituted now.
6. The state of the student press: This issue will cause campuses across the country to question their student press, and the role of the student press will come under great scrutiny. If it is to be an alternative source of information, can and/or should it bow to pressure from any particular group (such as Christians), or should it stand by its decisions and damn the consequences?
7. The response of external media: In light of the charged climate, how will other local (and likely beyond local) media sources portray the story? There have already been varied responses across the blogosphere, from outright condemnation to defense of the Sheaf, and it will be interesting to see how different media sources (ie. CanWest vs. BellGlobe Media vs. CBC) treat this issue.
8. The public reputation of the U of S: The U of S has been damaged through this, which seems to be the primary reason university president Peter MacKinnon issued his e-mail, and it will be interesting to see how the institution responds over the next week.
9. The response from the Sheaf: The onus is now on the Sheaf to respond in a way that is appropriate and satisfactory, and it will be interesting to see how they choose to respond. How they respond will greatly affect the rest of the treatment of this issue from all sides.
10. The response of advertisers: Some people are promising to contact each advertiser and to communicate their displeasure with the Sheaf, and it will be interesting to monitor which advertisers choose to take action, and what action they will take.
11. The future of the Sheaf: With an Annual General Meeting scheduled soon, hiring for next year about to commence, and changes to the Sheaf's policy certain to be suggested by both insiders and outsiders, the future of the Sheaf is in question. There will be a future, but the quality of that future could be challenged and determined in the next few weeks. It will have to be different, but just what changes will take place remain to be seen.