Cartoonist and frequent combatant on Ethics Alarms Barry Deutsch did not disappoint—I was counting on a strong reply from him—in commenting on my post about political cartoonists. And I think he has me convinced. I think what I should have suggested, rather than advocating sending newspaper political cartoonists to the trash bin of history (soon to be followed by newspapers themselves), is that editors exercise some discretion over when an editorial cartoon, even by a respected cartoonist, just doesn’t meet editorial standards.
Here is Barry’s persuasive and educational Comment of the Day on the post Time To Retire Editorial Cartoons—With Gratitude:
“Oh, how could I possibly resist this thread?
“1) At his best, Tom Toles is a wonderful cartoonist, elegant and with an incredibly distinctive style. But he hasn’t been at his best for years. The particular cartoon you’re talking about — which can be seen here, if anyone’s curious — is an embarrassment.
“The problem with that Toles cartoon isn’t that it takes a side, or that it paints with a broad brush; many good cartoons do both those things. The problem is, it’s painfully stupid.
“2) There are good political cartoonists doing interesting work, but they’re mostly not found in mainstream newspapers.
“3) Even the best political cartoonists tend to produce more mediocre than great cartoons.
“4) It’s a very, very rare reader who can recognize the artistic merit of a political cartoon that they strongly disagree with politically.
“5) The economic base has fallen out from under political cartooning; every year, fewer and fewer newspapers support a staff cartoonist, and those that remain are seeing their incomes and outlets shrinking. And no one’s yet found a business model for political cartooning to thrive on the web.
“As a result, the most talented new cartoonists usually aren’t going into political cartooning, because they want to be able to eat and pay rent.
“6) Some of the most interesting political cartoonists have gone so far away from traditional political cartooning that no one even recognizes what they’re doing as political cartooning. See, for instance, Joe Sacco, who does journalism in comics form; his second book on Palestine, “Footnotes In Gaza,” is one of the best books about life in Gaza anyone’s done, in prose or comics.