Editorial Page Editors and Cartoonists: A Difficult Alliance

Zakarian, John
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p16
This article explains the relationship of editorial page editors with cartoonists. Working with a talented cartoonist is much more complicated than giving a simple yes or no answer to his daily offering. Schools teach copyediting and writing, but none instruct would-be editors on editing cartoons. It is not just fixing syntax and correcting spelling in taglines and balloons. In cartoons, the editor deals with ideas expressed starkly, brutally through an art form for the masses. The opinion is expressed in caricatures, relies on satire, and indulges in exaggeration. A cartoonist's world is black and white, while an editor's universe is imbued with shades of gray. The best cartoonists are an independent-minded breed. Rebellious is a better description. They are far more likely to question and even denounce their bosses for censoring their masterpieces. An editor does not really edit a cartoon, he or she works with its creator in shaping images and messages. What this means is that if an editor is the type of person who abhors volcanic eruptions from a cartoonist over the editing of his or her work, do not hire one. Instead, rely on syndicated cartoonists over whom editors have far more effective control through the process of choosing one from many purchased inexpensively. But syndicated cartoonists do not give newspapers the local flavor that they must have in fully engaging audiences. They never connect directly with their readers as a good local cartoonist does.


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