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Matt Wuerker fires back: Memes don’t deserve Pulitzers

Last week I linked to an article on Slate.com by Farhad Manjoo who argued that the Pulitzer Prize should be opened up to other graphical commentary – such as memes, infographics, etc. mostly because he felt single panel editorial cartoons are, “an increasingly timeworn form. Even the best ones traffic in blunt, one-dimensional jokes, rarely exhibiting nuance, irony, or subtext.”

He singled out Matt Wuerker’s work:

Wuerker is neither subversive nor an extremist. He seems to target Republicans more often than he does Democrats, but he mainly favors a clichéd, pox-on-both-your-houses approach. This excruciatingly punny panel, published during last summer?s budget crisis, illustrates Wuerker?s overriding argument: Washington is broken! (Who knew?)

Matt fires back with a post (and colorful cartoons) on the Columbia Journalism Review entitled, “A picture is worth a thousand memes”

Don?t get me wrong. I like infographics, am a big fan of pie charts and graphs, and really love seeing the memes and macros spreading out there online. But a pie chart or other infographic has never provoked a riot or resulted in a fatwa on its author. Just this year, the Syrian regime went after Ali Ferzat, a Syrian cartoonist, whose drawings mocked President Bashar al-Assad. They were so infuriated by his cartoons they broke his hands trying to shut him up. Cartoons have a special way of getting under the skin.

Great response from Matt.

Popularity of Listicles Through History
Popularity of Listicles Through History by Matt Wuerker

Community Comments

#1 David Willis
April/24/2012
@ 9:19 am

So the editorial cartoon compares All Political Cartoons Ever Across All Time versus one singled-out tiny fraction of what his opponent is in favor of, because I guess these things are equal?

Kinda think it proves Manjoo’s point.

#2 Norm Feuti
April/24/2012
@ 10:05 am

I think it’s a dumb argument either way. There’s plenty of good and bad work on both sides.

I will say I’m a little tired of all the self-proclaimed “outsiders” whining when the very establishment they constantly rail against doesn’t shower them with awards.

They should all have their rebel cards taken away.

#3 Rich Diesslin
April/24/2012
@ 11:33 am

Well said Norm.

#4 John Cole
April/24/2012
@ 3:54 pm

As a Facebook friend remarked, if you experience poignancy in your listicles lasting longer than 36 hours, seek medical attention.

#5 steve artley
April/25/2012
@ 5:32 am

I just returned from Roanoke where the Virginia Press Association gave out awards. I’m pleased to have netted 1st place for an editorial cartoon. But, the award was not in the “Editorial Cartooning” category. There is no longer a category for Editorial Cartooning. There’s one for “Editorial Writing,” but not one for editorial cartooning. That category was removed a few years back and tossed into the category of “Illustrations.” It’s grouped with art that is, “used to enhance the appearance of a page and/or the readability of news or feature content.”

So, the editorial cartoon is an “enhancement to a page,” now, according to the VPA.

A new category has been added to the awards, however. It’s a completely separate category all to itself. “Informational Graphics.”

It appears Mr. Manjoo’s vision has come to pass, at least for the Virginia Press Association.

#6 Mike Lester
April/25/2012
@ 10:59 am

Random thoughts:
-nice that Matt responded but after winning an award for hard hitting opinion he seemed to go easy.
-Bumpo Manjoo was nobody until Wuerker legitimized him.
-and he drew him a cartoon.
-here’s a list of past Pul. winners:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulitzer_Prize_for_Editorial_Cartooning

-the only conservative on list is Ramirez in ’94, ’08.
-if a conservative cartoonist enters -and I’ll prove that logic dictates he save his money, he must self edit his own cartoons. The liberal cartoonist has his full compliment of 250/yr. to chose from since he’s already preaching to the converted. Not his fault, he didn’t make the rules it’s just the state of what used to be called ‘journalism’. Most of the con. cartoonists I know would love to win the Pulitz. but they don’t play 3-card monty either.

More proof? Say no more:

Here’s -not just a judge but the CHAIR of the Ed. Cartooning jury:
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-january-12-2012/civil-disservice

#7 Alan Gardner
April/26/2012
@ 2:50 pm

I have to correct the list of conservatives. Ramirez isn’t the only one. I’d also add to the list:

Steve Breen (’98, ’09)
Steve Benson (’93 – his politics were still conservative when he won)
Jeff MacNelly (’72, ’78, ’85)
Dick Locher (’83)

Once we get into the 70’s I lose recognition of names and their politics.

Granted, adding 4 names probably doesn’t dismiss your larger argument.

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