Editorial Cartoons: The Impact and Issues of an Evolving Craft

December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p4
This article shares the observations of cartoonists, editorial page editors and observers of cartooning about how the long-time role that cartoons have played in journalism and democracy is being affected by the preference of newspapers to publish readily available work of syndicated cartoonists instead of hiring a full-time editorial cartoonist. Matt Davies, staff cartoonist for The Journal News, contended that there is an inherent shortsightedness to this buy-a-cartoon model that many newspapers are turning to. There is, he argued, value in having a good and consistent cartoonist's voice in the paper, and this value was well understood by earlier generations of newspaper editors and publishers. J.P. Trostle, cartoonist and author of Attack of the Political Cartoonists, explained that the reason editorial cartoonists' jobs are not being filled is the controversy that strong editorial cartoons can inspire in readers and the fear editors and publishers have of this, especially in times of decreasing circulation. John Zakarian, retired editorial page editor of The Hartford Courant, said what he has learned in this 24 years 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 they have far more effective control through the process of choosing one from many purchased inexpensively. What is lost, however, in doing this is the local flavor that they must have in fully engaging audiences.


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