Editor: How the watermelon toothpaste cartoon got into the Boston Herald


“It’s my job as an editor to see around corners, to look at all the possible meanings and nuances of words and of images,” writes Boston Herald editorial page editor Rachelle Cohen. “It’s my job and two weeks ago I failed at it miserably” when the above cartoon got into the paper.

The artist who drew it – “a decent and honorable and utterly guileless man who gets an image lodged in his brain” – saw a tube of watermelon toothpaste that his kids left on a bathroom counter before he went to work. Cohen and cartoonist Jerry Holbert didn’t see a problem with the sketch, but why didn’t someone else at the paper raise an eyebrow?

On the night in question — the night the cartoon appeared on a page proof, the proof was not left in the proper bin. No senior news editor ever saw it.

And every evening the publisher gets a copy of the editorials sent to his email — not the images — only the words.

So there you have it. The remarkably simple way in which bad stuff can happen.

Longtime Boston media critic Dan Kennedy says “kudos to Cohen for a straightforward, no-excuses apology, and to the Herald’s management for coming to grips with a serious lapse in a serious manner.”

* How a hurtful cartoon made it into the Boston Herald (bostonherald.com)
* Herald editorial page editor issues a heartfelt apology (wgbhnews.org)
* October 1: Yes, this ran in today’s Boston Herald (jimromenesko.com)