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Tue Jun 18, 2019, 07:36 AM

The Nation: Why the Paper of Record (NYT) Hates Cartoons


Cartoons are powerful—so much so that The New York Times is cracking down on them.

Gargantua, a satirical lithograph by Honoré Daumier, 1831.

Utopias are defined as much by what they exclude as by their promises of plenitude. Plato dreamed of an ideal republic free of pestilent poets. The editors of The New York Times, more mundanely but equally tellingly, aspire to a newspaper that employs no cartoonists. In the wake of a controversy over the international edition of the Times running a cartoon of Benjamin Netanyahu that was widely condemned as anti-Semitic, the newspaper severed its relationship with the syndicate that supplied the offending image and now has let go of the services of two in-house cartoonists, Patrick Chappatte and Heng Kim Song.

Speaking for many in his profession, Joel Pett, a Pulitzer Prize–winning editorial cartoonist for Kentucky’s Lexington Herald-Leader, decried the decision as “chickenshit and cowardly.” More politely, CNN’s Jake Tapper told The Daily Beast that this was “just one more nail in the coffin of what is a struggling art form, given how corporate America has taken over local newspapers and gutted the industry.”

It’s undeniable that editorial cartooning, even more than journalism as a whole, is in crisis. A 2012 report by the Herblock Foundation found that there were fewer than 40 editorial cartoonists with newspaper-staff jobs in America, a steep decline from more than 2,000 such positions in the beginning of the 20th century. The situation has gotten only more dire since that report, with the high-profile firing of Rob Rogers from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for penning anti-Trump cartoons. Newspaper editorial cartooning is well on the path to extinction, a dire end for a vital art that has been inextricable from modern political protest.

Times editorial-page editor James Bennet, also speaking to The Daily Beast, denies that the move was an outgrowth of the Netanyahu cartoon (although, inconsistently, he admits that canceling the subscription service sped up the decision to let go of Chappatte and Heng). Bennet maintains that he’s been thinking of axing cartoons from the paper for more than a year. If so, that makes Bennet and the Times look worse, since this was not an individual act of poltroonery but a more systematic aversion to visual satire. In recent years, other newspapers have fired cartoonists for economic reasons or because they did work that offended readers. But the Times (contra President Trump) isn’t failing economically. Nor did Chappatte and Heng do offensive work. They were fired simply because Times editors have an antipathy to editorial cartooning.


Regarding "extinction", I have to disagree. There seems to be new cartoonists online every day (as per illustrated in the number of Toons OP's right here on DU).

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Reply The Nation: Why the Paper of Record (NYT) Hates Cartoons (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Jun 18 OP
tblue37 Jun 18 #1
JHB Jun 18 #2
Dennis Donovan Jun 18 #3
Hortensis Jun 18 #4

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Jun 18, 2019, 07:41 AM

1. Yes, but the article is about *newspaper* editorial cartoonists. If course, newspapers in

general are not doing too well.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Jun 18, 2019, 08:00 AM

2. Speaking as one who post TOON threads 6 days a week, you're missing the point...

...with that last comment. I use publicly available links, which means I'm not paying them, at least not for what I post here.

Americans are used to cartoons being freebies in some other publication, not something that should be bought as their own product. We're accustomed to the price being built into the subscription or cover price for something else. When cartoons are cut, we're still paying that price, but the part of that which went to sustaining those cartoonists stops going to them.

That also puts cartoonists at a disadvantage when publications shed in-house cartoonists and cut or eliminate page space to running syndicated cartoons: How many people leap to add another expense: subscribing to cartoons for themselves?

Do you subscribe to cartoon sites? Do you support any cartoonists via Patreon, GoFundMe, or other chip-in site?

Anything'll go extinct if it can't feed itself.

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Response to JHB (Reply #2)

Tue Jun 18, 2019, 08:08 AM

3. sorry

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Jun 18, 2019, 08:31 AM

4. NYT's in-house editorial cartoonist, Chabbatte, on being pushed out:

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. Twitter is a place for furor, not debate. The most outraged voices tend to define the conversation, and the angry crowd follows in.

Over the last years, with the Cartooning for Peace Foundation we established with French cartoonist Plantu and the late Kofi Annan - a great defender of cartoons - or on the board of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, I have consistently warned about the dangers of those sudden (and often organized) backlashes that carry everything in their path. If cartoons are a prime target it’s because of their nature and exposure: they are an encapsulated opinion, a visual shortcut with an unmatched capacity to touch the mind. That’s their strength, and their vulnerability. They might also be a revealor of something deeper. More than often, the real target, behind the cartoon, is the media that published it.

“Political cartoons were born with democracy.
And they are challenged when freedom is.“

... Along with The Economist, featuring the excellent Kal, The New York Times was one of the last venues for international political cartooning - for a U.S. newspaper aiming to have a meaningful impact worldwide, it made sense. Cartoons can jump over borders. Who will show the emperor Erdogan that he has no clothes, when Turkish cartoonists can’t do it ? – one of them, our friend Musa Kart, is now in jail. Cartoonists from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Russia were forced into exile. Over the last years, some of the very best cartoonists in the U.S., like Nick Anderson and Rob Rogers, lost their positions because their publishers found their work too critical of Trump. Maybe we should start worrying. And pushing back. Political cartoons were born with democracy. And they are challenged when freedom is.

“The power of images
has never been so big.“

Curiously, I remain positive. This is the era of images. In a world of short attention span, their power has never been so big. ...

This suppression happened long with with universities, angry mobs destroying the careers of researchers whose results revealed unwelcome truths and threatening the universities themselves.

The biggest mobs are formed on the right to close down speech, but they also rise on the far left. Anyone who's searched for cartoons knows that by far most specifically attack and misportray Democrats and liberalism and that they are clearly created to deliver inflammatory deception straight to emotional centers, bypassing reason. There are so many of this sort that they're apparently a valuable and intensely used propaganda tool.

But not without some direction, the same mobs inflamed by those cartoons are achieving success in suppressing the kind of cartoons meant to portray truth in striking, powerful simplicity.

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