Are We Witnessing the Dusk of a Cartooning Era?

Davies, Matt
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p6
This article comments on the demise of the editorial cartoonist. This new interest in the fate of cartoonists is a bit unusual, not because they have not lamented the lack of jobs, but because people other than cartoonists now seem to be noticing the thinning ranks and wondering why it is happening and what it means. From the vantage point of cartoonists, the issue is not that people do not like editorial cartoons; it is just that they do not want to pay for them when they do not have to. Brilliant and pithy cartoons seem so simple and easy to produce that people approach cartoonists all the time with their ideas for a cartoon or two. In some ways, this dynamic is not unlike humankind's quest for flight. Every day, editorial cartoonists troll the news in search of social and political ironies, then create images that encapsulate those metaphorical words and pour them into a single picture. In fairness, editorial cartoonists can be quite disruptive to an editorial page editor's work. An editor with the intestinal fortitude to oversee a staff cartoonist will inevitably have to deal with angry readers, many of whom can be time-consuming. This is especially problematic in today's marketplace where newspapers are sometimes referred to as the product and readers are affectionately called customers. Into this corporate environment arrives the editorial cartoonist. Cartoonists are regarded as anathema to the culture that exists to provide a service. No matter how hard marketing specialists try, newspapers will never be only products. When newspapers report the news and provide a decent editorial page, they will--by their mission and definition--engender controversy and consequently, be purchased and read by people in their community. INSET: Cartoonists Reach Out to Educators.


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