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Rall picks another fight, this one with Newsweek

After writing a plucky letter to Time Magazine for their selection of Top 10 editorial cartoons for 2008, AAEC President Ted Rall has written a letter to the editor of Newsweek regarding their cartoon selections.

It reads:

To the Editor:

There’s a saying among political cartoonists: “I thought my cartoon was good. But then it appeared in Newsweek.”

Once again, your annual “The Year in Cartoons” collection of editorial cartoons highlights your magazine’s long-running war on political humor. Its title also violates truth-in-advertising laws. Your selection is incredibly narrow, focusing only editorial cartoons without a political point of view drawn by about a half dozen working editorial cartoonists. “The Year of the Blandest Cartoons By Six Guys” would be more like it.

Newsweek’s readers deserve to know that there are hundreds of editorial cartoonists in the United States. They have as many drawing styles and political viewpoints as you can imagine. The vast majority of them are hard-hitting, highly opinionated and viciously partisan. They are pit bulls (mostly without lipstick, though there are amazing women cartoonists too), not the teacup poodles exhibited in your misleadingly-titled round-up.

In a universe of inspired and inspiring political cartoons, you managed to find the absolute bottom of the barrel. Are you afraid of actual opinions? Or do you just have bad taste? Either way, you ignored all the good stuffâ??including by the cartoonists whose work you included, all of whom have far more important, riskier and funnier work in their 2008 portfolio that you chose to pass up. A computer-generated randomizer would have picked smarter cartoons.

Ted Rall
President, American Association of American Editorial Cartoonists

I’m not a fan of Ted’s approach to these magazines. Throwing verbal molotov cocktail bomb letters doesn’t elevate the association of which he leads and generally makes the cartoonists appear as ingrates – however legitimate the complaint might be. At least this time Ted acknowledged that cartoonist whose work has been selected by Newsweek create “good stuff”.

Community Comments

#1 David Cohen
January/5/2009
@ 7:51 am

What do we have to lose?
If the president of the professional association of which I am a proud member doesn’t stand up for us and our abilities to poke, prod, and infuriate, then who will?
Thank you, Ted, for being pro-active and for saying what many of us would like to say (and DO say, to anyone who will listen!)

#2 Jason Nocera
January/5/2009
@ 8:05 am

Well, in Ted’s letter to Time, he did say. “Heck, even among the artists you selected, they all did much better work than the pieces you picked.” – that’s almost like saying they do “good stuff” – in a backhanded type of way…

#3 Wiley Miller
January/5/2009
@ 9:48 am

“Iâ??m not a fan of Tedâ??s approach to these magazines. Throwing verbal molotov cocktail bomb letters doesnâ??t elevate the association of which he leads and generally makes the cartoonists appear as ingrates – however legitimate the complaint might be.”

As opposed to what? I’d really be interested to hear what alternative there is to getting the attention of editors that hasn’t been tried over the past 30 years.

Sometimes you have to use a 2×4 to get the mule’s attention. It’s not a matter of wanting to use it. It’s just the last resort. Let’s face it, what do we have to lose?

#4 Tom Wood
January/5/2009
@ 10:09 am

Nick Denton, the mogul master of Gawker media, made this comment for publishing success in 2009:

1. Get out of categories such as politics to which advertisers are averse. That’s easier for us to say since we spun off Wonkette earlier this year. And outfits such as the Huffington Post and most big-city newspapersâ??defined by their political coverageâ??will have difficulty redefining themselves. But media groups cannot afford in the current environment to fund their most noble missions; they should leave that to public-spirited non-profits such as Pro Publica.

http://nickdenton.org/5083616/a-2009-plan-for-internet-media

If that mindset is widespread, then ‘hard-hitting’ is NOT what publishers want.

#5 Ed Hall
January/5/2009
@ 10:18 am

Atta boy Ted. As Wiley said – what do we have to lose at this point? If the cartoonists who don’t like these letters are concerned about their heavy-handedness, they should take a second to consider the alternatives. What good does it do us to let our editors and publishers think that political cartoons are “funny,” “light,” and beyond controversy? I’m also glad that you put something in there about all of the wonderful women cartoonists. Seems they “forgot” them too.

#6 Steve Greenberg
January/5/2009
@ 10:31 am

I agree with Ted’s letters in content, but feel (a) they should be a little politer and (b) be signed “Ted Rall, nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist,” since the AAEC board never had a chance to sign off on them as an organization.

That said, Time and Newsweek devalue the field, running simply topical gags and giving rise to the notion by newspaper editors that this — and not hard-hitting commentary — is what editorial cartooning is about. Plus running a top ten compilation that’s 70 percent Luckovich (or any one person’s work) is ridiculous.

#7 J Read
January/5/2009
@ 10:58 am

Alan, you said, “At least this time Ted acknowledged that cartoonists whose work has been selected by Newsweek create ‘good stuff.'”
But, in his similar letter to Time, Ted wrote: “Heck, even among the artists you selected, they all did much better work than the pieces you picked.”

#8 Wiley Miller
January/5/2009
@ 11:10 am

“I agree with Tedâ??s letters in content, but feel (a) they should be a little politer and (b) be signed â??Ted Rall, nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist,â? since the AAEC board never had a chance to sign off on them as an organization.”

Since you agree with Ted’s letters, then why do you feel they should be “a little politer” and not signed as president of the AAEC?

#9 Alan Gardner
January/5/2009
@ 1:21 pm

Itâ??s just the last resort. Letâ??s face it, what do we have to lose?

Respect. Maybe not with Newsweek/Time, but with other editors, papers, organizations that see this type of response.

Iâ??d really be interested to hear what alternative there is to getting the attention of editors that hasnâ??t been tried over the past 30 years.

Dunno. Light oneself on fire in front of their offices?

After 30 years and the behavior doesn’t change you can either accept it and move on to battles you can win, or continue to bang you head against the wall.

I’m putting my money on the wall.

#10 Clay Jones
January/5/2009
@ 1:32 pm

When a cartoonist receives an angry letter, does that make he/she change their opinion and how they do their job?

#11 Ed Hall
January/5/2009
@ 1:42 pm

“When a cartoonist receives an angry letter, does that make he/she change their opinion and how they do their job?”

Yes, I think sometimes it does – especially (I would think) when it means them keeping their job. I wouldn’t change my opinion or my way of creating cartoons – recent events bear that out. But some will, and have. Believe me, doing a cartoon that enrages the populace these days is the quickest way to get your hands cut off. But that sure as hell doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep doing them. When satire goes away as a means of shining a bright light on corruption, what tools are left? This is what scares me. That, and clowns.

#12 Mike Lester
January/5/2009
@ 1:51 pm

Angry is what editorial cartoonists do and since when did one journalist communicating w/ another ever require geniality?

This is about economics, fear and a lack of access to a market.

That the market decides it wants certain content and not yours (mine) is harsh. It can be either defeating or motivating. It can also be the cruel engine behind innovation.

#13 Ted Rall
January/5/2009
@ 1:54 pm

I didn’t pick a fight with Newsweek. Newsweek has been waging a high-intensity war against quality editorial cartooning for years. I’m not even responding. I’m merely pointing out that we’ve noticed.

Furthermore, the AAEC Board did see the Newsweek letter before I sent it in.

As Wiley said, the idea is to try to get people to pay attention. Polite, moderate complaints uttered over beers in the hospitality suite at the AAEC’s annual conventions aren’t very good at that.

#14 Milt Priggee
January/5/2009
@ 2:04 pm

Even if you get THE editors attention……it won’t change anything.

Editorial cartoon criteria is not and never will be in any editor’s DNA.

These magazine’s top ten lists is just further proof that editorial cartooning is dead because….

The business model for ‘editorializing’ no longer exists.

#15 Tom Wood
January/5/2009
@ 2:41 pm

The One business model for â??editorializingâ?? no longer exists.

If the HTML markup worked, fixed that for you. ;-)

#16 Wiley Miller
January/5/2009
@ 4:48 pm

Itâ??s just the last resort. Letâ??s face it, what do we have to lose?

Respect. Maybe not with Newsweek/Time, but with other editors, papers, organizations that see this type of response.

I’m old enough to remember the civil rights fight in the 60’s (and please let’s not get all upset about the analogy), where the most common refrain by White people was “what do they want?”. The same question was asked later in the Women’s Rights Movement as well as the Gay Rights Movement. The answer to those questions was the same as what we are seeking… respect. But there wasn’t a universal consensus on how to achieve that goal. Many within each of those groups didn’t like the in-your-face method, somehow thinking that if you just smile and keep your place, the way they had been doing it for decades, that the man will give you respect.

Well, when you’re in the subservient position like cartoonists, who have never raised their voice in protest and accepted their lot, you will never get respect from editors and publishers. Respect is something you need to demand, not sit around and hope for.

Editors and publishers have no respect for us or our art form simply because we’ve all too willingly played the role of the silly court jester for too long. Many in our business, not coincidentally the one’s who benefit the most from the status quo, argue against such “radical” actions out of fear that they’ll just kill us all off. Our profession has done virtually nothing over the years out of fear of “rocking the boat”. I hate to be the one to break this news to those still in fear, but the boat sank a long time ago. So if you don’t like Ted’s long-overdue approach, then offer a viable alternative.

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

#17 Donna Barstow
January/6/2009
@ 1:40 am

Again, I found this by following Daryl Cagle’s link in Facebook. He said he’s amused by it. Daryl, I love your honest opinions, wish you would join in here!

I can’t see the cartoons because of the unfriendly flash Newsweek is using, so I won’t judge that. But I can easily judge editors, and I do, lots of times. If I, who work with them, can’t tell them the truth, who will? I mean, who has more experience with cartoons, me or them?

Time & Newsweek know they should listen to Ted, and I am sure they take what he says very seriously, because he is asking them to stand up as editors, and not as advertiser-flunkies.

Interesting what Nick Denton said, Tom, even though I don’t read any Gawker. But aren’t Newsweek and Time SUPPOSED to be defined by their political coverage?

Hi, Steve! But I do think Ted is polite. He didn’t single out any editor or any cartoonist, and didn’t cuss. He gave a strong opinion. That’s what opinions are supposed to be.

#18 Dave Stephens
January/6/2009
@ 2:48 am

Hear! Hear!
HUZZAH!
Well done, Ted.

Fight, fight, fight against the fading of the light. Let them know that feeble ‘toons and pale criticisms are the weakest of art, popular amongst editors frightened of weakening sales… Strong opinions are like strong coffee – it’ll wake you from your slumber and hey – you might actually REACT!

I’m just saying…

#19 Clay Bennett
January/6/2009
@ 10:01 am

Abrasive combativeness may be a quality that makes for a good editorial cartoonist, but it’s not a quality that makes for a good AAEC President.

Ted needs to remember that he now speaks for an organization that represents all editorial cartoonists- even the ‘teacup poodles’ he castigates in his latest missive to Newsweek.

Regardless of the cartoons in this collection, at least Newsweek published a collection of editorial cartoons. That, in and of itself, demonstrates an appreciation for our craft. Criticizing the magazine for the cartoons they included only serves to alienate a publication that devotes space to our colleagues in every single issue.

Ted’s letter does nothing to promote editorial cartooning… unless you think making us appear petty and jealous promotes us.

#20 Dan Collins
January/6/2009
@ 10:08 am

Way to go Ted! You could probably guess I am not a fan of milquetoast cartoons of any stripe but that is unfortunately the standard of the world we live in today. Only the ‘fixed’ dogs get to live in the big house. Can’t have them peeing on the rugs. The media used to have balls back in the 70’s. Now they have corporate considerations.

Don’t let up Ted! You are doing your job!

#21 Wiley Miller
January/6/2009
@ 11:02 am

“Ted needs to remember that he now speaks for an organization that represents all editorial cartoonists- even the â??teacup poodlesâ?? he castigates in his latest missive to Newsweek.”

Ok… this will be the third time I’ve asked this question.
So you suggest he should have instead done… what?
The AAEC has already tried doing nothing for some 50 years, somehow hoping things will just get better on their own.

It’s one thing to criticize Ted’s approach on this. It’s quite another to offer nothing as an alternative. If you can’t provide the latter, then don’t bother with the former.

#22 Clay Bennett
January/6/2009
@ 12:00 pm

“So you suggest he should have instead doneâ?¦ what?”

As AAEC President- he should have done nothing.

If Ted wants to get into this pissing match on his own, that’s up to him. Picking this fight on behalf of the AAEC, however, gets urine on us all.

#23 Wiley Miller
January/6/2009
@ 12:04 pm

“As AAEC President- he should have done nothing.”

Yes, doing nothing by this professional organization has been working so well for the profession.

#24 Dan Collins
January/6/2009
@ 12:15 pm

If indeed Newsweek is alienated by Ted’s letter then that pretty much proves his point. They are erring on the politically safest side and not really provoking thought on the part of their readers. They are offering a narrow, selective view of the real world, while paying only 6 different cartoonists a wage. I don’t read NW but I suspect that they are still the same ones they have always used. There ARE more of us out there.

#25 Clay Bennett
January/6/2009
@ 12:33 pm

“Yes, doing nothing by this professional organization has been working so well for the profession.”

Maybe we’re not winning this battle, but at least we’ve tried. Not all of us choose to promote cartooning by resigning our professional organizations in disgust.

#26 Mike Lester
January/6/2009
@ 12:37 pm

“while paying only 6 different cartoonists a wage.”

I’d be curious to know if you can back that up. None of my biz but if they were paid at all, I’d be willing to bet it was a “minimum wage”.

That NW or any pub uses ed.cart. is a nod that at least the job still exists and the capitalist in me says that their selection of specimens is theirs to make. End of story. However, that this is trotted out as what we do is disappointing. Sometimes you don’t get to decide how others define you.

#27 Wiley Miller
January/6/2009
@ 12:46 pm

“Maybe weâ??re not winning this battle, but at least weâ??ve tried.”

Tried what? When?

And why did you feel the need to resort to a snide personal attack, Clay? This only shows you have nothing to offer as an alternative and are trying to deflect attention away from the issue. Resorting to such childish tactics is beneath your status as a former president of the organization. Ironic, isn’t it, that you stoop to such a low level of discourse while accusing Ted of doing the same?

#28 Clay Bennett
January/6/2009
@ 1:14 pm

I was just comparing battle plans, David.

– Ted’s plan is to attack.

– Mine is more defensive in nature.

– Yours is to desert the troops and then criticize the battle from afar.

How is that either childish or personal?

#29 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
January/6/2009
@ 2:27 pm

Time, Newsweek, and the other Ivory Tower publications ( that are in as much fiscal trouble as their newspaper cousins ); DO NOT CARE what professional cartoonists, or other real journalists think.
Their arrogance is palpable. The cowed and frightened editors will only promote the kind of tapioca that will not get the negative attention of their corporate masters: the publishers.

While I fully concur with TR’s message; it can be discounted by the powers as a ranting of one.
Perhaps the drafting of a comprehensive petition, signed and endorsed by many in the field, would be appropriate?

#30 Wiley Miller
January/6/2009
@ 2:42 pm

What “battle plans” are you talking about, Clay?
I just happen to agree with what Ted has done and asked those who don’t like it to give us an alternative. So far, none has been forthcoming.

And I have no idea what you mean about “deserting the troops”. I haven’t worked as an editorial cartoonist since 1992. Does that mean I abdicate my First Amendment rights in support of those who are losing their jobs?

Yes, your attempt to misdirect attention away from the actual issue with such a snide and inaccurate characterization of me is rather childish. So how about sticking to the issue, ok?

#31 Donna Barstow
January/6/2009
@ 3:10 pm

I’m more offended by #20 and #22 than Ted’s letter, but I’m sure that’s just me…and I’m a dog lover.

Mike, I’m a capitalist, too, and yes, an editorial team does get to pick and choose what they publish, and the cream should rise to the top. Should. Again, I can’t see these cartoons, but no one here seems to disagree with Ted’s pronouncement of how mild they are. And he is really pointing out an editorial leaning which ensures that only a certain type of cartoon, a non-offensive type, will be valued and promoted by Newsweek.

Someone with great experience as an editor or as a cartoonist has an obligation to point out ways a publication can improve.

Also, note that there is no threat in his letter, or talk of action on cartoonists part. And this is why I believe in unions!

#32 David Cohen
January/6/2009
@ 3:19 pm

I’m going to have to agree with Wiley here.
While Ted’s letter might be viewed as a fit of childish pique, it at least shows that the child is awake, and thinking, and trying to do something about an uncomfortable situation it finds itself in.
If a “responsible” adult can come up with another, more measured approach, let’s hear it. No-one should be abandoning ANY approach at this stage of the game.
Again, what do we have to lose?
It can’t get too much worse!

#33 Alan Gardner
January/6/2009
@ 4:17 pm

Three thoughts as I monitor this discussion:

1. Who is the AAEC/Ted to dictate which or what kinds of cartoons that a publisher include in their selection? With 1000+ newspapers in the U.S. is it the AAEC’s job to dictate only hard hitting ones are published? Isn’t that a form of censorship – something that every cartoonist ought to be fighting against?

2. Has anyone in the AAEC ever sat down with editors at Newsweek to ask them their criteria was for selecting what they run. Does NW gravitate to the funny ones (as opposed to the hard hitting) because to them it’s like the funny pages – a reprieve from the grim news that will follow in later pages/sections? I don’t know, but I’d assume if you want a plan of action that might lead somewhere – it would start with opening a dialog – you know, 2-way, not the acidic letters to the editor.

3. I think Wiley’s reaction demonstrates that when one feels attacked, the reaction isn’t, “Someone disagrees with me, I ought to listen to them and change my mind.” The reaction Wiley demonstrated is defiance. Why should we expect NW to react any different?

#34 Alan Gardner
January/6/2009
@ 4:28 pm

Wiley here’s my “plan of action” is two prong.

First open dialog with NW. Thank them for including cartoons in their publication. Develop a relationship of mutual respect and understanding. If they open up a discussion on selection, I’m in a better relationship that might have influence.

Second – stop trying to change them. It’s their publication, let them print whatever in the he– they want. Work on first part.

This isn’t suffrage or equal rights. Their selection of cartoons isn’t taking money/rights/livelihood from anyone.

#35 Donna Barstow
January/6/2009
@ 4:38 pm

Alan, my personal take on your points:

1. That’s the problem, isn’t it, the AAEC or any cartoonist can’t dictate anything, because cartoonists have NO power without numbers. Which is exactly why I believe in group action. But any cartoonist has every right to make suggestions.

2. I am assuming that at some point Ted has talked to editors at most big publications before this. If not, that’s a great idea, especially if the whole board, or a bunch of cartoonists did this. Assuming Newsweek wouldn’t mind explaining to freelancers how their minds work…

3. I don’t understand this point. But big publications are defensive anyhow, no matter what!

#36 Wiley Miller
January/6/2009
@ 5:11 pm

“The reaction Wiley demonstrated is defiance. ”

No. The reaction I demonstrated was asking for a viable alternative to your aversion to Ted’s approach. Such a question isn’t “defiance”, it’s asking for clarification of your thoughts. And when pressed, not just to you, but to others who had the same reaction, there was nothing. Only now, a day later, have you come up with your alternative. Thank you. I think your point is well reasoned.

I don’t like that we’re forced into such a response, either. But as I keep trying to point out, we’ve tried all others before, which was mostly sitting around, playing the nice, docile cartoonist role and hoping for the best. Clearly, that hasn’t worked and is never going to work. So Ted went in the opposite direction in an effort to get editors’ attention. If it works, then, hopefully, we can slide to the reasoned middle, which you have proposed, Alan. But I think the key is to get their attention in the first place. Editors have done a bang up job of ignoring cartoonists up to this point.

Finally, my posing the question to those who disagreed with Ted’s approach was not intended to be confrontational or combative. Sorry if you took it that way, but when offering an opinion on something like this, I believe that offering an alternative is in order, and that’s all I asked for.

#37 Dan Collins
January/6/2009
@ 5:12 pm

I have no idea, Mike if they are paid or how much. I am assuming that they pay an artist for his work if only a reprint fee. If not then I think we have another beef with those people.

#38 Ted Rall
January/6/2009
@ 5:14 pm

When I assumed the presidency of the AAEC in September, I immediately contacted the offending editors at Time, Newsweek and the New York Times. Suffice it to say, they were not interested in my, or the AAEC’s input. Furthermore, numerous previous AAEC presidents have had similar experiences attempting to “educate” them.

Alan, I am flattered that you think I have the power to “dictate” what the editors of Time, Newsweek or any other publication publishes. Would only that it were so!

#39 Matt Bors
January/6/2009
@ 5:18 pm

To me, the issue is picking good cartoons over “hard-hitting” or mainstream, or gag, or whatever. Newsweek and Time don’t just print gag cartoons–they print BAD gag cartoons most of the time. Everyone bitches about it. I’m sure Rall’s tone won’t change their attitude, but they are probably hopeless.

Time and NW choose the kind of predictable cartoons that are usually done almost identically by other artists that week. In other words, they often pick Yahtzee cartoons (as Cagle might call them).

So whatever their tastes are–be they funny cartoons, hard-hitting cartoons, alt cartoons…I just wished they’d pick them better. Everyone’s tastes are different, but I feel like they don’t have a grasp of editorial cartoons or humor in general.

#40 Mike Peterson
January/6/2009
@ 5:46 pm

“Time and NW choose the kind of predictable cartoons that are usually done almost identically by other artists that week.”

But read the rest of the magazine — are you seeing a lot of edgy insight on the other pages? We’re talking TIME and Newsweek. As I believe I noted in the conversation about TIME’s choices, long ago when I was reasonably hip, we used to read that magazine and roll on the floor, or at least roll our eyes. TIME was pushing the Electric Prunes B minor Mass as an instant classic, just about the same time they were trashing “The Graduate.” They didn’t reflect our taste, our time, our culture.

TIME Magazine was, it may shock you to know, neither the East Village Other nor the Berkeley Barb. It was just some commercial crap you saw in the supermarket.

It was influential commercial crap, and for that reason, it would be nice if they knew more about editorial cartoons. But, yes, they pick the nice middle-of-the-road mom-dad-bud-and-sis cartoons. Why is that a surprise??

#41 Milt Priggee
January/6/2009
@ 6:14 pm

“… but I feel like they donâ??t have a grasp of editorial cartoons or humor in general.”

BINGO-!

And they don’t have the grasp because…..it’s NOT in their DNA.

They’ll never understand graphic-opinion-editorializing.

Editors/writers were raised, trained and ingrained to produce the compete opposite. Their mantra is to be non-objective, non-offensive, err on the side of safe, blandness and be wordy as possible.
So, it doesn’t matter what kind of letters or dialogue anybody initiates with these publications.

We can’t control what they print- SO…. IF we’re going to spend any time promoting ‘editorial cartooning’ it should be with projects that we do have control over.

This is a new media world where if we allow somebody else to redefine our own art, it’s our own fault.

#42 RS Davis
January/6/2009
@ 7:14 pm

Isn’t the whole problem the definition of ‘good’?
If Newsweak (spelled correctly) wants to bleat out insipid, banal ‘toons and bless them as the year’s best, well that’s fine with me.
They picked what was ‘good’ to them, and they get the results they earn. How far has their readership fallen in the last 20 years?

#43 RS Davis
January/6/2009
@ 7:18 pm

My point is, don’t annoint NW as the final word on what is actually ‘good’ by complaining about what they publish. Don’t give them that much power.
Frankly, they’ll probably disappear long before cartooning will. I think people who appreciate great ed. ‘toons know where to look to get them – the beauty of the alternative media in action.
Write salty letters if you want, but it’s a bit like yelling at the radio when a station plays a song you hate. It can’t hear you and you’re wasting air.
Just change the station.

#44 jeff pendleton
January/6/2009
@ 8:52 pm

ted rall is the reason i dont join the organization. he is a flame thrower for the mere sake of being a flame thrower. i cant believe he is in a leadership position.

#45 Dan Collins
January/6/2009
@ 11:11 pm

Well that pretty much runs the gamut of opinion.

#46 Abell Smith
January/7/2009
@ 3:37 am

Newsweek and Time are supposed to be two of the standard-bearers for print journalism. When they put out lists of less-than-stellar representatives as the “best” that this “profession” has to offer, they’re further contributing to the marginalization of the art form… and opening themselves up to criticism.

Sort of like how Rolling Stone would if they put Britney Spears “comeback” record on their list of Top Rock Albums of the year… which would be especially egregious if there were only like 15 people left in the country who could actually make a living as a rock musician.

#47 Mike Peterson
January/7/2009
@ 5:50 am

I didn’t get the sarcasm until the last graf, Abell.

Actually, I was already thinking of the time Rolling Stone compiled the best albums of all time and, after the editors had finished, publisher Jann Wenner stepped in and made the Sex Pistols album Number One.

I won about a dozen awards during about that many years in the newsroom, and only one of them was for something worth giving an award for. Another was a pretty good public service piece, but the sort of thing we should have been doing regularly. The other ten were average stories that happened to punch the right buttons with trend-obsessed judges. Yawn. Y’all make way too much out of this “best” stuff.

#48 Rick Stromoski
January/7/2009
@ 6:16 am

>>ted rall is the reason i dont join the organization. he is a flame thrower for the mere sake of being a flame thrower. I cant believe he is in a leadership position.

I may not agree with everything Ted gets up on his soapbox about but to label him an indiscriminate flamethrower seems a tad harsh and innacurate. More often than not his darts are spot on and he at least offers alternatives to issues he feels strongly about.

#49 Wiley Miller
January/7/2009
@ 8:01 am

What Rick said, I concur word for word. Obviously, Mr. Pendleton doesn’t know Ted. And what he’s basing such an opinion on is quite beyond me. To each his own, I suppose.

#50 Mike Lester
January/7/2009
@ 8:48 am

I used to think TRall was a propeller-headed doofus. Now I know he’s a propeller-headed doofus that cares deeply about advancing the artform.

He’s the Ann Coulter of editorial cartoons.

#51 JP Trostle
January/7/2009
@ 11:08 am

Please, Mr. pendleton, let’s get it right: Ted Rall is an indiscriminate *bomb* thrower — and we all knew that about him when we elected him president of our organization.

#52 Wiley Miller
January/7/2009
@ 12:05 pm

Not quite, JP… Ted is a DISCRIMINATE bomb-thrower.

#53 Steve Kelley
January/8/2009
@ 12:15 am

Ted incorrectly challenges Newsweek’s title as false advertising. It isn’t.

“The Year in Cartoons” suggests exactly what the magazine presented, major events of the 2008 depicted in cartoons.

What Ted betrays in his querulous letter
is a militant belief that his template of what a cartoon should be is somehow more legitimate than that of Newsweek’s editors. Again, it isn’t.

Letters such as this will likely yield precisely the opposite of Ted’s intent, and we may find ourselves without the few regular, national showcases for the work of our profession.

#54 Matt Bors
January/8/2009
@ 1:40 am

“Letters such as this will likely yield precisely the opposite of Tedâ??s intent, and we may find ourselves without the few regular, national showcases for the work of our profession.”

I think people are getting too worked up about what these letters will or won’t do. All “national showcases” will cease because of Ted’s angry letters? I doubt it. They’re editors–they’re used to receiving angry letters.

Truth is, nice letters and mean letters will probably yield the same result: Them continuing to print the same kinds of cartoons they have been.

And Steve, most of of us cartoonists already “find ourselves without the few regular, national showcases for the work of our profession.” Because they focus on such a limited aspect of what is out there.

#55 Ted Rall
January/8/2009
@ 8:08 am

“What Ted betrays in his querulous letter is a militant belief that his template of what a cartoon should be is somehow more legitimate than that of Newsweekâ??s editors.”

Well, yes. Just like a good editorial cartoon reflects the cartoonist’s militant belief that his template of what U.S. Foreign and domestic policy should be is somehow more legitimate than that of the United States’ leaders.

Are you saying that I’m not entitled to my opinion? Or that the overwhelming majority of editorial cartoonists who agree with me about Newsweek’s negative impact on the profession aren’t entitled to theirs?

Like Matt, I doubt that complaining about lame editors will lead to any venues being shut down. I certainly wouldn’t want to see that. That said, what would be so bad about it, besides a handful of cartoonists losing reprint fees?

It is unethical for Newsweek, Time and similar venues to present a narrow representation of American editorial cartooning in a way that suggests that it represents the entire field. The implication is that the cartoonists who aren’t included, many of whom have won awards and have many devoted readers, aren’t as good as what they print. And that just isn’t so.

#56 JP Trostle
January/8/2009
@ 11:13 am

Ted, I don’t think ‘unethical’ is the word you’re looking for — maybe ‘unenthnical’, given the all-white guys vanilla Newsweek selection?

Look, I’ve posted this here before (and advised Ted as well), but I believe the only response to these boneheads should be our best and biggest tool: Mockery.

Angry or nice letters to lame editors will have the same effect they have on us (i.e., put it on the pile), but if you start mercilessly making fun of them for thinking they’re cool or they have good taste or they know what the f**k they’re talking about, well, that might work.

To paraphrase Cat Stevens, the snide cut is the deepest… or something like that

#57 Wiley Miller
January/8/2009
@ 12:50 pm

“…but if you start mercilessly making fun of them for thinking theyâ??re cool or they have good taste or they know what the f**k theyâ??re talking about, well, that might work.”

Ok. How and where do we do that and get them to take notice?
We’ve been doing that for decades among ourselves.

#58 J Read
January/8/2009
@ 12:53 pm

Alan, this post has generated some of the most thought-provoking comments I’ve had the pleasure to read since becoming a regular visitor here. Despite the sometimes polar- opposite opinions expressed (or, maybe, because of that), it is a great pleasure to be able to “listen in” to the oftentimes free-wheeling, from-the-heart discourse of passionate creatives about their craft and things that matter to them. These sorts of “conversations” are what make The Daily Cartoonist such an essential forum for cartoonists and the people who appreciate them.

#59 Tom Wood
January/8/2009
@ 12:59 pm

JPT: â??â?¦but if you start mercilessly making fun of them for thinking theyâ??re cool or they have good taste or they know what the f**k theyâ??re talking about, well, that might work.â?

WM: “Ok. How and where do we do that and get them to take notice? Weâ??ve been doing that for decades among ourselves.”

Media Matters would certainly be a good place to ask if they would add a cartoon feature making fun of the MSM on a regular basis, that’s what they ‘do’.

http://mediamatters.org/

#60 Abell Smith
January/8/2009
@ 3:28 pm

“And Steve, most of of us cartoonists already â??find ourselves without the few regular, national showcases for the work of our profession.â? Because they focus on such a limited aspect of what is out there.”

Exactamundo.

#61 Wiley Miller
January/8/2009
@ 4:24 pm

Excellent suggestion, Tom. Thanks.

#62 Mike Peterson
January/8/2009
@ 6:27 pm

“Theyâ??re editorsâ??theyâ??re used to receiving angry letters.”

As an editor, and as someone who put in his time in the newsroom before achieving that exalted status, let me ‘splain.

I have advised aggrieved parties to act hurt, not angry. It is far more effective.

When you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, you really feel lousy and want to do something to make it up. But when it appears that you’ve simply rattled the cage of a wack-job, it is an occasion for humor. The really angry letters get read aloud, passed around, put up on the bulletin board.

But I shouldn’t have to say this. I read editorial cartoonists here all the time who say they haven’t really done their job unless they’ve really upset someone — that if car dealers and Realtors are cancelling their ads, that means the cartoonist hit home and the editors should be pleased to have to lay off reporters and cut back on resources.

Well, you are now the p*ssed off party. Are the editors cowards if they give in to your anger, or should they show some spine and simply guffaw and put your letter up on the bulletin board?

#63 Mike Peterson
January/8/2009
@ 6:28 pm

PS — Tom Wood is on the right track.

#64 Wiley Miller
January/9/2009
@ 8:03 am

“Are the editors cowards if they give in to your anger, or should they show some spine and simply guffaw and put your letter up on the bulletin board?”

Or, they could consider the source as coming from an expert in the field, honestly assess the complaint, determine its legitimacy, and reassess how they go about this aspect of their job. You know, the thing editors are supposed to do.

#65 Tom Wood
January/9/2009
@ 10:00 am

So, now the next step would be a business plan that works for sites like Media Matters. They don’t run advertising, so a cartoon is a hard cost. You’ll have to convince them that it adds value to the site, or appeal to their “higher nature”. Gather together a package of sample cartoons that demonstrate the concept, and show them that.

Then it gets messy. I don’t know how syndicates work, but since there are probably cartoonists that could contribute that are each represented by a different syndicate, the deal should be set up so all the syndicates can contribute, rather than an exclusive deal with just one. Boy, this seems like something the president of a professional association of editorial cartoonists might get involved with, if only there was somebody like that…

(I’m chasing an advertiser-supported business model, so this outlet isn’t for me.)

#66 JP Trostle
January/9/2009
@ 1:01 pm

“The really angry letters get read aloud, passed around, put up on the bulletin board. … But I shouldnâ??t have to say this.”

You shouldn’t, Mike, especially considering the AAEC now has an annual convention event where we read aloud our favorite hate mail — and that it gets the most laughs of any panel. We all know that stuff doesn’t stick to the wall.

“I have advised aggrieved parties to act hurt, not angry. It is far more effective. … ”

Ted and I were talking recently about what sort of letter *would* be effective and I asked him straight out if he had ever changed the way he writes and draws because of a letter. He replied “once” and gave me the details… turns out it involved a very hurt party whose reaction gave him serious pause to the way he approached things.

So maybe if anger and mockery fails …

#67 Clay Jones
January/9/2009
@ 1:03 pm

When everyone is receiving an angry letter from the AAEC, they’re going to stop listening to us as they’ll think “those whack jobs send everyone an angry letter”.
Future presidents will have a difficult time being heard as no one will remember who was president when all the angry letters came out.
Maybe we should just make a stock form letter of anger and insert the offending party’s name after each offense.

I’m looking forward to the angry letters to the Pulitzer board and others after the contest winners are announced. If we’re going to dictate what constitutes a good cartoon, then I guess we should have our prez educate those guys too.

#68 John Auchter
January/9/2009
@ 1:32 pm

“Or, they could consider the source as coming from an expert in the field, honestly assess the complaint, determine its legitimacy, and reassess how they go about this aspect of their job. You know, the thing editors are supposed to do.”

Well it took 64 postings, but at last we arrive at the heart of the matter. Well done, Mr. Miller.

#69 Jeff Darcy
January/9/2009
@ 5:35 pm

I’d love to come up with some of those “lame” cartoons by that two time pulitzer winner that Newsweek runs all the time.
Years ago I had the oppurtunity to talk with the then Pic. Editor at Newsweek when they were running my stuff about once a month.
He told me he and one other editor picked the cartoons from hundreds of submissions.
And that they started the year end cartoon issue after a reader poll showed there cartoon page was the most popular in the mag.

It was obviouse the two editors picking the toons liked a certain type of cartoon. So I never mailed them others that didn’t fit the mold.
I’m in the camp, that says we should be thanking these Mags for running cartoons, period.

#70 Ted Rall
January/10/2009
@ 12:25 pm

Even you accept the criteria that obviously govern the cartoon selection process at Time, Newsweek, NYTâ??single panel cartoons only, jokes over editorializing, only cross-hatchers need applyâ??it is unfathomable that these editors choose the cartoons they do.

Taking myself as an example, I’ve never been in USA Today. Not once. I’ve been in Newsweek once. (It was, naturally, a cartoon featuring a guy watching TV in his living room. It was awful.)

Now, I may not be the best cartoonist around. But I’ve been syndicated since 1991. Done more than 4000 cartoons since then. Won prizes, yada yada yada. Not one of my cartoons was single panel enough, funny enough, etc. to be in USA Today? Really?

Which got me to thinking about other cartoonists whose work NEVER appears in these venues: alties like Tom Tomorrow and Ruben Bolling. Neo-alties like Matt Bors. Old hands, with Pulitzer Prizes to their names, like Tom Toles and Signe Wilkinson and Ben Sargeant, rarely if ever see their work in those pages.

Of course, this cuts the other way, too. During the 1990s, I was one of the most frequently reprinted cartoonists in the NYT Week In Review. And I have to be fair–many of the times my work appeared there, it took the place of far better stuff that didn’t.

You could say that it all evens out, but that’s not the point. Round-ups that purport to present “The Best” in the profession ought to make more of an effort to be inclusive and representative and thoughtful.

#71 Wiley Miller
January/10/2009
@ 12:45 pm

Ok, I think something needs to be put into perspective here (so to speak). The problem isn’t Newsweek or their Perspectives page, in and of itself. That page is clearly geared for entertainment purposes, not editorializing. In that regard, the editor is going to select topical cartoons that entertain rather than take an editorial stance on any given issue.

The problem lies with the rest of the lazy media, who see this national forum of cartoons and project them as being the best the field has to offer. Through little fault of their own, Newsweek’s Perspective page as an undue influence on newspaper editors, which translates to the Pulitzer Board and others when it comes to the awards. When left to themselves, editors have absolutely no idea what a good editorial cartoon is. A few years ago, Professor Lucy Caswell (head of the Cartoon Research Library at Ohio State) sat on the board judging editorial cartoons and helped educate editors with her on what to look for. Those years had outstanding winners (like Clay Bennett, one of the best in the business who got passed over many times before his selection). Since her departure, we’ve seen a return their old ways, of selecting the guys who appeared in Newsweek the most often.

What I think Ted is asking for is nothing more than for editors to do what they’re SUPPOSED to do. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

#72 JP Trostle
January/11/2009
@ 11:07 am

My decade of dealing with the editorial board of The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA) continues to be a perfect encapsulation of all that’s wrong with ‘them damn editors’. Here’s one of my ‘favorite’ stories that both belies and confirms the above problem:

In this case, they had a table where they dumped out all the syndicated cartoons when they arrived by mail (ah, yes, remember that?). Whichever editor was pulling material for the next day’s paper could pick what they wanted, and I often came in to read what everyone was submitting.

What stunned me is that, time after time, the editors would run only the gags, the weak, the safe — while the best, hardest-hitting cartoons usually ended up pinned to the walls of their cubicles. These guys weren’t stupid; they KNEW what made a great editorial cartoon. They just didn’t want to deal with angry readers and angry letters as they got older, and so didn’t run the good stuff.

Ignorance is much easier to fight than complacency.

#73 Wiley Miller
January/11/2009
@ 11:33 am

“These guys weren?t stupid; they KNEW what made a great editorial cartoon. They just didn?t want to deal with angry readers and angry letters as they got older, and so didn?t run the good stuff.”

Anybody who has worked as a staff cartoonist has had that same experience. You are dead right here, JP.

How often have we seen editors go through the pile of cartoons that have arrived from the various syndicates in the daily mail, and every so often go around in the office with a particularly good, hard hitting cartoon and say, “Look at this one! Isn’t it great?”. Then when asked if they’re going to run it, they shoot back, laughing, “Are you kidding? No way!”. Then they go and tack in on to the bulletin board while they run some lame gag cartoon. Editors live in deathly fear of the phone ringing and having to deal with readers, which always made me wonder why they sought the job on the editorial page. The whole point of the editorial page is to get reader reaction! If they don’t want to deal with readers, then they should sit their lazy ass on the wire copy desk.

#74 Tom Wood
January/11/2009
@ 12:41 pm

Then the root problem to all this is – How to make controversy pay?

Ann Coulter figured it out.

So did Matt Drudge, Christopher Hitchens, and Rush Limbaugh, among others. The Daily Show, Colbert, South Park, and SNL do okay at it.

#75 Wiley Miller
January/11/2009
@ 3:04 pm

“Then the root problem to all this is – How to make controversy pay?”

Well, that’s the irony here. Controversy is what built the newspaper industry in the first place! They thrived on competition, where most cities had several newspapers. They did a marvelous job over the past 30 years of cutting their own throats by eliminating the competition, where we now have nothing but one newspaper towns and editors are petrified of anything that might “offend” a reader. Truly pathetic.

#76 anne hambrock
January/11/2009
@ 3:52 pm

At the root of this debate is the fact that most news media have ceased to have news as their main focus and instead provide us with info-tainment. I think it was Georgie Ann Geyer who recently did a column on what has happened to newspapers since they went public and are more accountable to shareholders than average citizens who want to be truly informed rather than merely entertained.

I have been reading both Time and Newsweek for years and they sure “ain’t what they used to be” from a news standpoint. I am hard put to find many good news publications in general so the lack of good outlet for truly hard hitting, informative editorial cartoons is hardly surprising.

While Ted is to be applauded for trying to make a point (whether you agree with his tactics or not) a whole lot of nothing is going to change unless the news powers that be change their editorial goals.

#77 P.S. Mueller
January/12/2009
@ 11:07 pm

I had a cartoon in Newsweek once and they cropped out my signature.

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