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Cartoonists are revolting
December 12, 2005 10:01 AM   Subscribe

100 Cartoons to celebrate Black Ink Monday "Over the last 20 years, the number of cartoonists on the staff of daily newspapers nationwide has been cut in half." Today, the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists protests "newspapers everywhere who have lost sight of the value of having a staff editorial cartoonist."
posted by mediareport (41 comments total)

 
The AAEC site seems to have gotten swamped between the time I started writing and the time I posted. Some sharp cartoons, though.
posted by mediareport at 10:05 AM on December 12, 2005


Black Ink Monday, a non-violent protest by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC)...

I'd love to see the alternative, a mob of irate cartoonists converging on the newspaper offices...
posted by luftmensch at 10:06 AM on December 12, 2005


What's the point of an editorial cartoonist for every paper, when nearly every paper in the country is owned by one of three publishing conglomerates. More efficient and cost-effective to have one cartoonist/opinion per conglomerate.
posted by Rothko at 10:14 AM on December 12, 2005


And, channelling the bean counters, ladies and germs, Rothko!

*wild applause*
posted by mediareport at 10:18 AM on December 12, 2005


The argument brought up by some of these cartoons is that a staff cartoonist can bring up local issues. It's true that it would be redundant to have five hundred cartoons being drawn about National Event X every day, when most would essentially be the same, but the idea here is that we'd be getting rid of the local watchdog effect.
posted by luftmensch at 10:21 AM on December 12, 2005


p.s. you want cartoon 29.
posted by mediareport at 10:21 AM on December 12, 2005


Rothko, maybe they could address local issues that an out of town cartoonist wouldn't care about?
posted by octothorpe at 10:22 AM on December 12, 2005


the idea here is that we'd be getting rid of the local watchdog effect.

If the cartoonist is the local watchdog, instead of the paper itself, we've got much bigger problems with our democracy than cartoonists going unemployed, IMHO.
posted by Rothko at 10:26 AM on December 12, 2005


Fuck corporate daily newspapers.

That said, I'm going to find the one bright spot in this: Hundreds of talented, intelligent, well-informed and angry cartoonists are out of jobs. If there are some savvy editors out there, we could be seeing a new golden age for underground and alternative comics.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:28 AM on December 12, 2005


Which is to say that paper readership is down for lots of reasons, and cartoons ain't really one of 'em. If papers addressed their role as a watchdog over corporate and government abuses, people wouldn't go elsewhere for their news.
posted by Rothko at 10:29 AM on December 12, 2005


If papers addressed their role as a watchdog over corporate and government abuses

Rothko, is that what the bulk of newspaper readers really want? I thought they wanted more pictures of Jennifer Anniston and cute animals.
posted by ibmcginty at 10:31 AM on December 12, 2005


It's always seemed to me that the cartoonist's role is to step out into the contested space and get people's attention. Images can inflame, incite and are simply much harder to ignore than articles. Unless I'm seriously wrong in my (admittedly limited) understanding of editorial cartooning history, it's always been that way, at least ideally.
posted by luftmensch at 10:32 AM on December 12, 2005


Editorial cartoons are never funny or interesting or clever or thought provoking. It's always a donkey stomping on uncle sam holding a pig that says "US TREASURY" on it. OR OR... a tornado labelled "IRAQ" picking up a house labelled "SYRIA". Shit man, I could do this job!
posted by nomad at 10:41 AM on December 12, 2005


After looking at a few of the cartoons, my gut reaction is that most of these guys suck. They don't draw well and they aren't funny. It looks like they spend more time on their signatures than the image its next to. If these guys had a better grip on their medium, I'd feel sorry for the loss but if this is the state of current political cartooning, the battles already lost.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:42 AM on December 12, 2005


I thought they wanted more pictures of Jennifer Anniston and cute animals.

You're right. Nevermind.
posted by Rothko at 10:43 AM on December 12, 2005


Thanks for posting this, mediareport. I was just about to. Some great cartoons in here - but it looks like a trend that there's no reversing.
posted by soyjoy at 10:43 AM on December 12, 2005


What's the point of an editorial cartoonist for every paper, when nearly every paper in the country is owned by one of three publishing conglomerates.

Ummm, maybe local issues?
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:45 AM on December 12, 2005


Editorial cartoons are never funny or interesting or clever or thought provoking.

And nomad always uses too much hyperbole.
posted by JeffK at 10:47 AM on December 12, 2005


Ummm, maybe local issues?

If your locality is NY/DC/LA, then maybe. Everywhere is a boring pile of hayseed shite.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:53 AM on December 12, 2005


This is too bad, unless it includes that guy from the NY Post, in which case I am all for it.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:03 AM on December 12, 2005


The "local issues" mantra is deceptive. It's not just that the content can be local, but the perspective is local even when the issue is national. Think of it this way:Why would any newspaper, much less a chain, need more than one opinion columnist who covers national issues?

Newspapers thrive, long-term, on plural perspectives. Unfortunately, now it seems only the short-term gain counts.
posted by soyjoy at 11:07 AM on December 12, 2005


I liked a lot of the cartoons, but couldn't get past 37 in that interface.
posted by OmieWise at 11:09 AM on December 12, 2005


Yeah, I got sent back to #1 somewhere around 40... very strange. Would have been nice to see a slideshow.
posted by prostyle at 11:12 AM on December 12, 2005


The Indianapolis paper actually still has a local hack cartoonist on staff and he rarely ventures into local themes. He seems stuck in that easy "liberals suck/GWB is God" mode.

Doubt that he'd join in the protest. He's definitely a free-market kind of shill.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:12 AM on December 12, 2005


I thought they wanted more pictures of Jennifer Anniston and cute animals.

You're right. Nevermind.

No seriously-- is there a reason to believe that people want their papers to be a "watchdog over corporate and government abuses"? I hope that you're right, but I just don't think that it's obviously true.

There was a story on NPR this norning of some local paper that saw its sales spike when it started covering tensions between cops and minorities, I think, so maybe you're right. But judging from the new(-ish) cute free papers they're handing out in subways, people mostly want fluff.
posted by ibmcginty at 11:14 AM on December 12, 2005


I think this cartoon might be making the point a bit strongly. I agree that most of the cartoons aren't terribly impressive, but if you read 100 editorial cartoons on any subject you're likely to see some (well, several) awful ones.

I agree with soyjoy that a plurality of voices is the important thing that is being lost here. Personally I mostly read my local paper for local perspectives and stories, for the world and national news, there are other places that cover it better.
posted by whir at 11:17 AM on December 12, 2005


Good post. I think having someone address local issues is important. Newspapers are still the best source of local news in most areas.
posted by caddis at 11:32 AM on December 12, 2005


If you're having trouble getting past 35 or so, use this url: http://editorialcartoonists.com/blackinkmonday.cfm?id=93. Just change the number at the end to 6, 11, 79 (love that "20% annual profits" line at bottom right) or whatever.
posted by mediareport at 11:35 AM on December 12, 2005


Maybe there's half as many because half of them weren't any damn good at what they did.

At least, that's how it worked in my town: we had a local cartoonist, and his stuff was gawdawful bad. Now we have a cartoonist who's also in other small weeklies around the province.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:37 AM on December 12, 2005



posted by spock at 12:56 PM on December 12, 2005


No newspaper needs a cartoonist on the staff.

The best cartoonists should be encouraged to pool together to create a batch of daily cartoons that all newspaper editors around the world can pick and choose from (for a fee, of course). If there's a market for local cartoons, there will be room for local cartoonists in the mix: one cool local cartoon might run in one city's dailies and weeklies and on local web sites. A crap cartoon might run in none because the cartoonist isn't on anyone's staff and isn't guaranteed a space even when he isn't interesting.
posted by pracowity at 1:03 PM on December 12, 2005


Lousy idea, pracowity. A set-up like this would mean that the cartoonists would just compete with each other to get the biggest possible slice of the pie, and anyone who wanted to stay in the running would just have to dumb down his or her stuff to meet the lowest common denominator.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:26 PM on December 12, 2005


My local paper had not one but two staff editorial cartoonists in a row that both went on to bigger papers, and in the case of one of them, national syndication and even an appearance on CNN.

After him, this guy bought the paper and laid off 100 out of 400 employees.

That said, I do think some of these cartoonists lack a sense of proportion about their overall importance to the newspaper.
posted by evilcolonel at 3:34 PM on December 12, 2005


Three problems with editorial cartoonists were first, they are like the editorial "sob sister" writer of the newspaper. Their job is to piss people off, and unless they generate hate mail, they get fired. This makes them very expendable.

The second problem is their medium. Regular cartoonists have been crossing over with controversial subjects, resulting in their dispersal in the newspapers. Doonesbury, heading to the editorial page; Dilbert, to the business page; and Tank McNamara to the sports page.

Third are the cartoon syndicates that have gotten way too greedy with their product, and in both directions. They both sign cartoons on with slavish contracts and have exhorbitant rates for the newspapers. Much like the music industry: they want all the profits and resent having to share.
posted by kablam at 3:49 PM on December 12, 2005


You mean those tired, unfunny political cartoons? Fire more of them, I say.
posted by cellphone at 4:25 PM on December 12, 2005


How sad. This story reminds me of the plight of the poor puppeteer in Being John Malkovich -- so talented, yet so unappreciated.
posted by meh at 5:51 PM on December 12, 2005


I've met Mike Ramirez on a couple of occasions via the cartoonist's organization to which I belong, so this is actually affecting at least one guy that I know. I think it's pretty disturbing. He's a sharp, smart, opinionated guy - and actually I don't usually agree with him as he skews pretty far to the right on some issues, but he's the kind of guy you want doing those cartoons. I wonder what the LA Times will run instead?

This may also eventually affect another guy whom I know much better, Steve Greenberg, who is a hell of a nice guy. I'd really hate to see him lose one of his primary sources of income.

This is all pretty alarming and depressing for anyone who is a cartoonist (like me), because it's just another wound in an already-bleeding industry and vocation.

If you remember your US History, you'll recall that an editorial cartoonist was largely responsible for toppling a corrupt city government... these guys do contribute to our culture and citizenship (some more than others, of course).

Systematic silencing of voices is not something we should allow.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:20 PM on December 12, 2005


Reading a hundred or so editorial cartoons at once makes me realise how spectacularly disposable cartoonists actually are. Yeah, these guys can draw, but dear god, do they ever get tired of forced visual metaphors with labels on them?
posted by Grimgrin at 6:25 PM on December 12, 2005


The best cartoonists should be encouraged to pool together to create a batch of daily cartoons that all newspaper editors around the world can pick and choose from (for a fee, of course). If there's a market for local cartoons, there will be room for local cartoonists in the mix: one cool local cartoon might run in one city's dailies and weeklies and on local web sites. A crap cartoon might run in none because the cartoonist isn't on anyone's staff and isn't guaranteed a space even when he isn't interesting.

You basically just described a syndicate, which has many of the problems kablam noted. The only other collectives like that right now that work well are online (ex. Dumbrella), which is one of the reasons younger cartoonists are starting to use the web as their home base and then try to reach out to print publications.

Granted, I'm biased as I'm a member of the AAEC, but this is a bad situation for local artists because they don't have a web following, they have a local following. Syndicates do not want to have risk-takers or even opinionated artists, and instead material that appeals to what they can sell most. That's what diminishes the quality of product. I lucked out when I started doing op-ed cartooning because I was in a college paper that let me do what I wanted; now I'm on the web and can do much more than a newspaper cartoonist can. My hope is to have a readership that pre-emptively makes one valuable to an editor and prevents these kind of evictions that the print guys are facing.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:56 PM on December 12, 2005


Sure some of these guys are seriously untalented and blowhard hacks, but in this new age of cost cutting the horoscope sections still haven't gotten the axe? Un-fucking-believable.
posted by skallas at 4:51 AM on December 13, 2005


> the horoscope sections still haven't gotten the axe?

Supposedly: "One out of three people in the US regularly reads their horoscope or has had a consultation with an astrologer. " I have no idea how true that is, but if people stop turning to the horoscopes, or if newspaper horoscopes start to cost too much, I'm sure papers will stop wasting space on them.

And it's got to be the exact same problem with cartoons (and everything else in the paper). Either they cost too much to make them worth the space they eat up or readers just don't give a rat's ass about them (or both).

Judging by the trend, if you're a US editorial cartoonist, you've got to become better or cheaper or both, and you've got to do it soon or, like most blacksmiths, you've got to retrain or retire. My bet is that there will be a handful of editorial cartoonists left in a few years working at the national level in the US, and that all US papers will pick and choose from them as needed.
posted by pracowity at 6:30 AM on December 13, 2005


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