The Evaporating Editorial Cartoonist

Trostle, J. P.
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p8
This article discusses the continued decline of available jobs for cartoonists in the U.S. Frequent reorganizations are not unusual in the news industry but, unlike reporters, photographers and editors, editorial cartoon jobs are increasingly left unfilled or are eliminated entirely after a cartoonist leaves a paper. Media consolidation, newspapers folding, tightening budgets--all have contributed to the erosion of viable outlets. Bottom-line mentality and a concern for slipping circulation can drive publishers and editors to fear controversy of any sort. many editors would rather not risk irritating readers to begin with and quickly fold when uproar somehow manages to land on their desk. Far worse, at least to some cartoonists, is the editor who insists on watering down the commentary in order to be equal and balanced, altering content to such a degree the point of the cartoon is lost. Given the job market, it is the rare cartoonist indeed who resigns on principle. More often they are pushed out. One bright spot over the years has been family-owned papers that, whatever their circulation, often had a local cartoonist on staff as a matter of civic pride. Yet even among independent papers with a long tradition of editorial cartooning, the squeeze is on. Whether or not they can find a full-time job, most cartoonists still continue to draw. I he majority of people getting published today have cobbled together a career of sorts, freelancing, doing cartoons on the side, or working for a newspaper or magazine in other capacities with the opportunity to get in an occasional cartoon. Even if they have been cut loose by a paper, many scrape by with freelance work while continuing to provide material for their syndicate. A few have never worked for a newspaper, instead building up a full-time job through syndication.


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