I agree with Margaret Sullivan’s judgement that the Times should have printed the cover, but for slightly different reasons:
Clearly news value doesn’t always trump, nor should we always kowtow to the offended. We have to look at the actual cartoon and see if it’s offensive. But this was not one of the cartoons intended to offend: it depicted the prophet in a conciliatory tone. Some muslims will find his depiction in-and-of-itself offensive, but there are many other things that appear routinely in the Times which offend the sensibility of many extreme interpretations of faith, not just some muslims. The job of the news should be to clarify where there is rumor, confusion, misinterpretation: printing the cartoon and helping guide readers toward a more accurate reading of its meaning seems in line with journalism’s purpose, and avoiding this gives off the impression that there is some truth to those who view the cover as incendiary.