Martha Stewart or Genocide: The Cartoonists' Conundrum

Kelley, Steve
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p33
This article presents the author's comments on the role of humor in editorial cartoons. In the face of disappearing jobs, cartoonists are understandably looking for ways to improve what we produce. Still, second-guessing the work of our colleagues or the judgment of editors seems contrary to our nature. It is at least ironic that members of a group as doggedly independent as political cartoonists, who seethe at nothing as much as being told by an editor what to draw or not to draw, would labor so intently to impose constraints on one another. Certainly it is not productive. The thought that there is a right and a wrong way to approach what we do overlooks that there are infinite means by which to assail a blowhard politician or to deconstruct a boneheaded piece of legislation. If William Safire can share space on the page with Dave Barry, then why not Ted Rail and Mike Peters? Can we all not just get along? What separates us from reporters and editors is the range we are given to exceed propriety. That is the beauty of our job. We are handed a huge bag of implements--from scalpel to chain saw, Louisville Slugger to cream pie--and each of us gets to choose what is appropriate on any given day. Instead of pointing fingers at each other, maybe we should be thanking our lucky stars that we do not have to sit at the adult table with the rest of the journalists.


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