The New York Times is probably the best newspaper in the United States, if not the entire world, but they have never respected editorial cartoons or cartoonists. While they have reprinted syndicated cartoons (I know this because they’ve reprinted mine), they have never employed a staff cartoonist, and for this, they are quite proud.
However, their international edition has made use of them for years, using syndicated cartoons and hiring cartoonist Patrick Chappatte. Now, after running a cartoon a month and a half ago that drew condemnation for antiSemitism, the Times has decided to stop running political cartoons entirely.
The Times would never ditch opinion columns over one offending columnist, which proves their disrespect for cartoons.
This news gained widespread attention after Chappatte, who did NOT draw the offending cartoon, published a blog post about the Times’ decision. Previously, the Times dropped using syndicated cartoons after the controversy and scolded the editor who approved it. Now, all cartoons have to go from every edition.
Chappatte points out that this isn’t just a slight upon making funny pictures, but a serious danger for all of journalism. He writes, “I’m afraid this is not just about cartoons, but about journalism and opinion in general. We are in a world where moralistic mobs gather on social media and rise like a storm, falling upon newsrooms in an overwhelming blow. This requires immediate counter-measures by publishers, leaving no room for ponderation or meaningful discussions.”
Joining those moralistic mobs on social media to condemn the “antiSemitic” cartoon were conservative cartoonists, who leap at any opportunity to attack the “failing” and “fake news” New York Times. In regards to the Times ending all political cartoons, they’re silent.
Ann Telnaes, one of two Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonists employed by The Washington Post, called the Times “feeble” in a Twitter post. She also wrote, “Every online newspaper ought to have a link to its editorial cartoonists’ work on the homepage. In a sea of words, readers gravitate toward an editorial cartoon.”
My friend Ann is absolutely correct and her suggestion makes the most sense for online news outlets, which means none of them are doing it.
While I was in Raleigh two weeks ago, hanging out with several political cartoonists celebrating the life of one of our own, news came in that Gatehouse, a corporation that eats newspapers, was laying off three cartoonists in their chain. There are fewer online papers with cartoonists to highlight on their homepage. These are homepages that are less interesting.
Even more mind-boggling for me is the that not one online news publication, like The Daily Beast, Buzzfeed, Vice News, Slate, Salon, Vox, etc, are employing a staff cartoonist, or even hiring a freelancer.
Readers do gravitate toward editorial cartoons. Why aren’t news outlets utilizing a feature that would draw in more readers, repeat readers, reader comments, and audience engagement? If nothing else, they should employ one just for the opportunity to win a Pulitzer Prize.
While not respecting cartoonists, news outlets do respect Pulitzers. In fact, The New York Times actually won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for…wait for it…EDITORIAL CARTOONS. The award was given to the Times for the work of two freelancers who created a graphic series for the newspaper. The Times has no use for cartoons except to pick up prestigious journalism awards from their work. Since the Times refuses to use cartoons, does this mean they’ll refuse to enter their graphics into the Pulitzer’s cartoon category?
Newspapers have been laying off cartoonists for at least two decades. There were over 150 cartoonists employed when I got into the business in 1990. Today, there’s probably less than 30. You have a better chance of becoming an NFL quarterback than of becoming an employed political cartoonist in an American newspaper.
Today, cartoonists are having to create new outlets for their work and revenue. Many are using Patreon to help generate income from reader support. I have the link below asking readers to help out if they’re willing and able. I and many others are creating new outlets for our work.
Cartoonist Matt Bors created The Nib, a daily online publication that focuses on political cartoons and graphic journalism. Rob Rogers, who was fired after 30 years at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for refusing to stop drawing cartoons critical of Donald Trump, is one of the brains behind Counterpoint, another online publication for political cartoons. My own endeavors to survive without a position at a daily newspaper was to create this blog, this syndicate, and gain, by accident, a new outlet for cartoons, CNN‘s weekly opinion newsletter.
The New York Times does great journalism which may be more important today than ever before. Likewise, it’s more important today than ever before to offer the best commentary, not just on Trump and threats he poses, but on all current events. The Times has abandoned one of the best forms of commentary.
What can we do? You can email the Times at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do have a subscription and decide to cancel, tell them you’re going to subscribe to The Post because they employ TWO political cartoonists.
Lastly, tweet this cartoon AT The Times. If their notifications keep annoying them over a cartoon, maybe it’ll show them how much of an impact a cartoon can have.
And maybe then they’ll start to respect political cartoons.
Watch Me Draw.