Letter From An Editor, And My Reply

So I got this in the mail today:
Hi Clay,
My general manager does not want to run any political cartoons that criticize President Trump, since we have so many readers who voted for him and support him.
Can you please send us middle-of-the-road cartoons that we could use?
If you have any on hand, we could use one today.
I replied with this:
I sent a cartoon yesterday on Le Pen’s victory in France. I suppose you guys can’t use that one. I also sent one a couple days ago on Bill O’Reilly. I guess you can’t use that one either.
The thing is, sir, I’m a political cartoonist. I’m pretty good too. What you’re looking for is a cartoonist who truly sucks at his job just about as much as your general manager does.
I hate to lose clients but I don’t work like this so my recommendation is, since you probably can’t get rid of your general manager, is to find another cartoon service.
Donald Trump is president of the United States. That’s political. I’m a political cartoonist. I don’t avoid subjects. Anyone who believes you shouldn’t publish what your readers don’t want to hear should not be in the news business. Tell your general manager he’s a jackass and a disgrace to our profession. It’s not from the lack of my cartoons, but because of him, that your readers and community have lost a good newspaper. Hopefully in the future The (redacting the name) will have a general manager who won’t run editors out of the building, like he did with Mr. Stevens, who signed up to use my cartoons.
Thank you. I hope you have a great day and best wishes for your future.
Clay Jones
Political cartoonist
I’m a political cartoonist. I often hear from editors who receive my pitches who state my cartoons are too controversial, or too left-wing, or they can’t do anything on Donald Trump. Often times I lose a client because of what I choose to draw cartoons about. I’ve been in this business for over 25 years so I’m not naive and I know every news outlets’ first order of business is to make money. I usually respond with “I understand” and a thank you. I’m in a business too so I’m not out to argue and debate with editors or to burn bridges.
But sometimes you gotta burn one down.
I picked up this client about a month ago. They used several of my cartoons and the editor loved them. Then I received an email from the editor that he was resigning effective immediately and that he couldn’t suffer under the leadership of their general manager anymore, or watch what he was doing to the newspaper he loved. Now I see why.
As I said, I’m diplomatic the majority of the time. When a client tells me I’m covering Donald Trump too much, I listen to them. They could be correct. I should cover topics in addition to the president. But I’m not going to ignore him.
So usually it’s thank you and you’re welcome. I appreciate the opportunity and sometimes I don’t respond at all, depending on the level of crazy. I am good with that when I get the unusual. What I’m not good with is when the unusual becomes the usual.
It has become the usual to hear from editors afraid to cover Donald Trump and those who buy his fertilizer hook, line, and sinker, and swear the guy is the new messiah. I’m not talking about editors who agree on his tax policies. I’m talking about the “lock her up” editors. All that Russian stuff is fake news, don’t you know? There are editors out there like that. I know this. I hear from them.
Sure, newspapers need to make money. But they’re still newspapers. It’s a business of honesty and delivering facts. Yeah, they’ll run an ad selling you a crappy mattress but the one thing journalists do not do is remain silent. I will not be silenced.
I am not an activist and I will not take to the streets wearing a pussy hat even if I’m drawing cartoons supporting them. But sometimes the resistance extends to those who cover the news. I will resist those who tell me I can’t and I shouldn’t. Newspapers aren’t to refrain from publishing information their readers don’t want to hear. We’re not to be afraid of our readers, no matter how much some of them want us to be.
Newspapers, either in a major city or a small town, are not in the business of appeasing a cult of personality, whether through action or inaction. Right now, this is becoming the state of the industry more and more. For then, it’s “if you don’t agree with the administration then at least shut up.” I don’t do shutting up. I don’t shut up well.
I did hear back from the editor to my admittedly unprofessional letter. He was very nice and understood. He understands. I referred him to a colleague. While I need to find a new client, and many more after that, I’m not going to do it by drawing safe cartoons, which would be a much smarter business model. But cartoonists don’t always make the best people.
I’m a political cartoonist and no matter how difficult these people try to make it for me to do what I do, I’m going to keep doing it.
I’m Clay Jones. I draw political cartoons. You’ll be hearing from me. A lot.

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  1. Keep em coming Clay! You say what you mean & mean what you say! Nothing is normal at present, and woe be tide those who try to normalise it, the truth always stands up for itself. This is NOT the time to be quiet , NOT the time to shut up. WE are the majority NOT the minority. You have the God given gifts of narrative into art form! KEEP EM COMING!!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I agree….keep them coming! It is the reader that will make the judgement, but for a publisher to make that call for the readership is censorship and a way to save their own hides if readership drops. Keep drawing and getting your voice out there!!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. In journalism there’s supposed to be what we call the “wall between church and state.” This means you can read a news story and know that it wasn’t written because somebody wrote a check, or bought a lot of advertising. When I was reporting the occasional breach from the ad department used to piss me off. I never spent much time or talent on “sponsored” stories. I never wrote one for the main news pages. For the automotive sections we had to produce — mainly a vehicle for ads from dealers and repair shops — I recycled the same stories year after year, just updating vehicle names or model years. I could knock out a whole section of this shit in about two hours and still have time to grab a legitimate feature on the way home.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Try sending them this:

    “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

    ― Theodore Roosevelt

    According to Snopes, that is a true quotation. And TR was GOP.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You go, Clay!!! Political cartoons should not bend to the whim of some conservative editor who’s afraid to rock the boat of a portion of his readership. His ENTIRE readership should have equal consideration. And, your job is your job, and I, for one, think you do it very well!! ‘Course, as with the majority of clear-headed, intelligent people, I am NOT a Trumpster! Never was. Never will be!


  6. Great quote, rhea3!

    And kudos to you, Clay. An excellent response to the editor who may have been forced to make the request. His situation may be such that, unlike Mr. Stevens, he needs to keep that job. And I don’t feel your response was unprofessional at all; you stated facts and stood up for American ideals, which is something sorely lacking in many of the elected officials and their supporters despite their belief that they are “true Murikans.”


  7. I have to wonder what the editor has to say about U.C. Berkley not wanting Ann Coulter to speak on the day she originally was contracted to.

    There’s a right of free speech, and then there is a RESPONSIBILITY to free speech.


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