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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/3/19

Political Cartooning Was Murdered: Here's the Autopsy

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From LA Progressive

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A century ago newspapers employed more than 2,000 full-time editorial cartoonists. Today there are fewer than 25. In the United States, political cartooning as we know it is dead. If you draw editorial cartoons for a living and you have any brains you're working in a different field or looking for an exit.

You can still find them online so political cartoons aren't yet extinct. But they are doomed. Most of my colleagues are older than me (I'm 55). As long as there are people, words and images will be combined to comment on current affairs. But the graphic commentators of tomorrow will be ad hoc amateurs rather than professionals. They won't have the income and thus the time to flesh out their creative visions into work that fulfills the medium's potential, much less evolves into a new genre.

With zero youngsters coming up in the ranks and many of the most interesting artists purged, our small numbers and lack of stylistic diversity has left us as critically endangered as the wild cheetah. The death spiral is well underway.

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June 2018: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fired Rob Rogers, a 25-year veteran, for drawing cartoons making fun of President Trump. (Rogers had always been a Democrat.)

January 2019: Steve Benson, the widely-syndicated winner of the Pulitzer Prize, was fired by the Arizona Republic after three decades of service.

May 2019: Gatehouse Media fired three cartoonists on the same day: Nate Beeler of the Columbus Dispatch, Rick McKee at the Augusta Chronicle and Mark Streeter at the Savannah Morning News.

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June 2019: In one of the strangest offings, the New York Times fired both of its cartoonists, Heng and Patrick Chappatte, in order to quell criticism over a syndicated cartoon -- one drawn by an entirely different cartoonist. The Syrian government thugs who smashed Ali Ferzat's hands with a hammer in 2011 were more reasonable than editorial page editor James Bennet; the goons only went after the actual cartoonist whose cartoons offended President Bashar Assad. Nor, by the way, did the Syrian dictator ban all cartoons. Political cartooning is now and forever banned from the 100%-censored Times.

And of course in 2015, the Los Angeles Times, whose parent company had recently been purchased by the Los Angeles Police Department pension fund, fired me as a favor to a prickly police chief because he was angry at my cartoons. In 2018 the same paper fired cartoonist David Horsey for the crime of accurately describing White House press flak Sarah Huckabee Sanders' looks as those of a "slightly chunky soccer mom." As at a Stalin-era show trial, they forced Horsey to apologize before giving him the boot.

Individual cartoonists are under fire around the world. Only in the United States, "land of the free," has the art form as a whole been targeted for systematic destruction by ruling elites and cultural gatekeepers. After decades of relentless, sweeping and never-reversed cutbacks there are now far more political cartoonists in Iran than in the United States. After terrorists murdered 12 people at Charlie Hebdo, a single publication in France, hundreds of U.S. newspapers ran editorials celebrating the power of cartoons; 99% of these hypocritical blowhards didn't employ a single cartoonist.

American editorial cartooning didn't just die. It was murdered.

Here's how it happened/it's happening:

Cartoonists were over-represented in mass layoffs. Publishers fired numerous journalists. But they always came first for the cartoonists.

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Scab syndication services undercut the market. A few discount syndication companies, one in particular, sold bulk packages of heavily discounted hackwork, undercutting professionally-drawn cartoons.

Publishers killed the farm system. The early 1990s marked the start of a vibrant new wave of "altie" political art by Generation Xers. Urban free weeklies carried our work but deep-pocketed dailies and magazines refused to hire us. Gifted young cartoonists realized they'd never be hired and abandoned the profession.

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Ted Rall, a political cartoonist, is the author of "The Anti-American Manifesto." He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1963, raised in Kettering, Ohio and graduated from Fairmont West High School in 1981. His first cartoons were published (more...)
 

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An uncle of mine was a successful cartoonist and Reuben award winner, who died not long ago. Shortly before his exit, he said to me that the timing of his career was a major stroke of luck, because the whole profession of editorial cartooning was ending before his eyes as he retired for all the reasons you outlined.

He was quirky, but I sure miss the guy.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2019 at 9:40:13 PM

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Ted Rall, I love you, but it doen't make any difference. I'm 90.

Submitted on Thursday, Jul 4, 2019 at 1:15:50 AM

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John Jonik

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Just about all the publications that used to use regular magazine cartoons have abandoned that, and just about all the activist (enviro, alternative, leftist, etc.) publications have gone away. Lucky that Op Ed News allows cartoon comments.


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Submitted on Thursday, Jul 4, 2019 at 4:09:43 AM

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John Jonik

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Before about ten years ago, there were plentiful non-corporate publications that used political cartoons: Anderson Valley Advertiser, Earth First Jrl., Public Citizen, Z Magazine, North Coast Express, Extra!, Eat The State, Dissent, Orlo, Central Oregon Green Pages, Dollars and Sense, Orion, Ninham Times, The Partisan, Wild Earth, Multi-National Monitor, Looking Out/Looking In, Wild Mountain Times, High Country News, Cross Current, Community Food News, DSA Chicago, Synthesis-Regeneration, Project Censored. and some others.

None were/are corporate media...but, gone at least as far as political cartoons are concerned. A picture must paint too many thousands of words for editors to handle. Or...what's the explanation?

Submitted on Friday, Jul 5, 2019 at 3:15:26 AM

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