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Mark Thornhill leaves paper after 18 years

After 18 years in the North County Times, Mark Thornhill has left the paper for other projects.

North County movers and shakers. Some of the local politicians I’ve caricatured on the Opinion page have been good sports and have even called me to request that I send them original artwork of themselves so they could frame and hang it in their offices or homes.

Other public figures, I’m sure, hated my guts and still do so. I wish to thank them all for helping make North County the great community it is.

I was always somewhat frustrated with editorial cartooning. A typical cartoon picks out a villain and, wham, hits him/her over the head with a sledgehammer, figuratively speaking. Cartoons are often blunt instruments.

There’s no room for detailed analysis. Sure, the visual impact of a hard-hitting cartoon can be effective, but many topics are served better by cool-headed dialogue.

Community Comments

#1 Lucas Turnbloom
@ 1:09 pm

Whether you agreed with Mark’s opinions or not, you have to admire his impressive career. He was a true asset to the “North County Times,” and to all of San Diego county; he will be missed. Best of luck, Mark!

#2 Jamie Smith
@ 7:09 pm

I think you missed this article by North County Times columnist Jim Trageser

Monday, November 12, 2007
Last modified Sunday, November 11, 2007 12:24 AM PST

Thornhill’s view will be missed

By: JIM TRAGESER – Staff Writer

If past letters to the editor and comments on our Web site are any guide, I’m sure there are those in the community cheering today’s announcement that Mark Thornhill is leaving his longtime job as editorial cartoonist at the North County Times.

Don’t count me among them.

Mark’s decision to move on to the next chapter of his professional life not only leaves a void in the pages of this paper, it leaves a void in the intellectual and political discourse in North County.

Truth be told, Mark’s world view, which springs from his biblically based Christian faith, is probably closer to that of the North County community at large than is mine or that of most of Mark’s critics. His defenders may not have been as vociferous as his critics, but clearly Mark spoke for an awfully broad swath of this community.

And yet, despite his resonance with the larger community, Mark often found himself swimming alone on a daily basis. To be an openly conservative Christian in the news business is to swim against the current a good chunk of the time.

But having his dissenting voice in our newsroom made us a better newspaper by consistently making us aware of the views and feelings of a demographic all too underrepresented in this and just about every newsroom: conservative believers.

Of course, Mark also took heat from those readers who disagreed with his cartoons, or who chose to find them offensive. He received by far the most hate mail of anyone who’s ever contributed to these pages. Much of it was vile, some profane.

It is a disturbing mark of current social conditions that people feel that disagreeing with someone’s point of view somehow grants permission to attack the dissenter’s very humanity.

And what was lost, I think, in the heated reaction to many of Mark’s admittedly pointed cartoons is the reality that he never chose what appeared on our pages. The editorial page editors, and sometimes the top editor and even publisher, made those calls.

In the early 1990s, when I was promoted to opinion pages editor of one of the Times’ predecessors, the Blade-Citizen, Mark was already here, providing graphics work and also contributing an opinion cartoon for each Sunday’s paper.

What was readily apparent upon seeing just a couple of Mark’s cartoons was that he had an immediately recognizable style, and a pretty unique voice among American editorial cartoonists.

The B-C’s editor, Rusty Harris (now a managing editor of the Times) and I convinced both Mark and our publisher, Tom Missett, that one cartoon a week was a waste of Mark’s talents.

Eventually, Mark was contributing between three and five a week, touching on issues both global and local.

And when we could talk him into entering his work in contests, he won a bunch of awards from fellow journalism professionals, too. Would have won more if he’d entered more.

But he didn’t choose what ran. His editors did.

As I told Mark when we made him our full-time editorial cartoonist some 12, 13 years ago: “If you don’t make me reject at least a handful of cartoons a year, you’re not pushing hard enough.”

Well, he met that challenge and most thrown his way. His mark on this community is indelible.

We were surely among a very small number of daily newspapers with a conservative evangelical Christian editorial cartoonist.

Maybe the only one.

Starting tomorrow, that will no longer be true.

Contact columnist Jim Trageser at (760) 631-6628 or

Comments On This Story

Note: Comments reflect the views of readers and not necessarily those of the North County Times or its staff.
What?? wrote on Nov 11, 2007 5:18 AM:

” “a conservative evangelical Christian editorial cartoonist.” You have got to be kidding!! I am a Christian and have to say that the cartoons Thornhill put out whenever it came to the Latino community was anything but Christian. He was offensive to me and an insult to humanity. I have been reading your newspaper for years and I have never seen not one cartoon of his that refects his Christianity. One thing is true though “It is a disturbing mark of current social conditions that people feel that disagreeing with someone’s point of view somehow grants permission to attack the dissenter’s very humanity.” This is a very true statement and Mark Thornhill on more than one occasion attacked the Latino community and praised the Minutemen group the very ones who epitomize the idea that anyone who disagrees with them “grants permission to attack the dissenter’s very humanity.” I wish him the best on his way out but also I am glad he is leaving. ”

The cartoons were amatuerish wrote on Nov 11, 2007 5:35 AM:

” Hardly subtle and rarely funny, they only highlighed the obvious. He was completely biased too, a serious defect in a cartoonist. ”

NCT Out of Touch wrote on Nov 11, 2007 7:14 AM:

” As I read this article, the NCTimes newsroom is populated by liberal non-believers, who are out of touch with the larger community. A rare moment of honestly in today’s journalistic environment. ”

HL wrote on Nov 11, 2007 7:50 AM:

” “We were surely among a very small number of daily newspapers with a conservative evangelical Christian editorial cartoonist.” Jim, you say that like it’s a good thing. Why would a conservative evangelical Christian support a policy of war and carnage in Iraq, the elimination of social programs for the needy, and a hard-line anti-immigration position(build a wall). In reality, Mr. Thornhill is a “conservative evangelical Republican.” ”

George wrote on Nov 11, 2007 11:31 AM:

” Before Steve Kelly left the Union Tribune, they published a book called “Steve Kelly’s Greatest Hits” and even scheduled a signing on the day of release. Mark Thornhill deserves nothing less! ”

Brian wrote on Nov 11, 2007 11:33 AM:

” … His cartoons were always uninspired and predictable. I will not miss his pony-tailed liberal ‘characters’ or any of his other simple cartoons. He was never edgy or controversial; always opting for the easy and obvious. I would have respected him a lot more if he made me angry. But he was the same the last day as he was the first, and that’s the worst you could be. He’s a very forgettable figure and I hope NCT brings in someone who inspires thought, regardless of whether I agree with what they’re saying or not ”

sick to my stomach wrote on Nov 11, 2007 11:48 AM:

” since when are Thornhill’s personal religious views of interest to anyone? You could have gone all day about the quality of his editorial cartoons but mentioned that fact…well, maybe that’s why he should be leaving. Ones personal religious views have no place in a general daily newspaper’s cartoons on the opinion page. If I want religion, I’ll read the claptrap on the Faith and Values pages. ”

Karl wrote on Nov 11, 2007 12:38 PM:

” The cartoons were amateurish, huh? name one cartoonist that is not biased. HL here’s the answer to “Why would a conservative evangelical Christian support a policy of war and carnage in Iraq”. Us conservatives do not support a “policy of war and carnage in Iraq”. What we do support is an end to your left winged hate based diatribes and truthfull dialog to end hostilty towards all humans. Do you really believe that all conservatives are hate filled monsters? ”

Adios! wrote on Nov 11, 2007 12:56 PM:

” Thank you Jim Trageser, for assuring us that the placement of Thornhill’s cartoons are really the decision of the top editors, and not his own. This simply proves that that they are as mean, nasty and intolerant as he is. Also, I don’t buy your suggestion that Thornhill’s bigoted cartoons are necessarily a result of his Christian evangelical conservativism. Most evangelicals I know would find cartoons depicting Lainos as cockroaches and mosquitoes as racist and abhorrent. The times, they are a’changin, and the NC Times edtitors should get a clue. ”

NCT when you report the truth wrote on Nov 11, 2007 3:41 PM:

” Brian–I hope the North County Times brings in the Justice Department and starts to do REAL REPORTING no Conflicts of Interest and let the chips fall … ”

Adios Erin wrote on Nov 11, 2007 3:44 PM:

” Why is the North County Times posting these mean spirited articles about a man who is deeply loved and respected by the community? Why are you censuring the blogs that puts a face to these nasty childish blogs? Myabe it is time for the NCT editors to pack up and go. ”

Karl wrote on Nov 11, 2007 4:47 PM:

” Adios! Huh?? What is your point? ”

I agree wrote on Nov 11, 2007 6:34 PM:

” Thorhill will be missed. Political cartoonist are supposed to make people think. Sometimes, people do not want to be challenged or think. ”

Not all is well in the NCT soul wrote on Nov 11, 2007 11:25 PM:

” When I read Jim Trageser commentary and scrolled down to the blogs, it took be back to Jr. High school years even though it was 35 plus years ago. I clearly remember the schoolyard bullies who picked their prey and unleashed the most vile human emotions and punches. When their prey was down they rejoiced and celebrated their victory. I also recall the poem, â??everything I learned, I learned in kindergarten.â? Yes bulling is a trait that starts in grade school and sadly it continues throughout our lives. I have deep respect for Mark Thornhill and looked forward to reading his cartoons every morning with my coffee. Now reading the North County Times will never be the same and I will not be reading this paper anymore. I am very sad that his critics actually rejoiced at his departure and the fact that the NCT editors did not support their employees leaves at awe. It troubles me when I think what type of person would put a human being though such experience? Also what type of person would take away a manâ??s livelihood and rejoice over the humiliation and despair? When I connect the bullies to close association with the North County Times editors I am repulse by the thought itself. You know what they say every soul has a price what was the North County Times price? What was your pay off? I hope it was a lot because Thornhill is worth more than all of the editors put together. Do you think that El Grupo, Rivas, Herrera, Jillings and Eden will be writing and editing the North county stories now? I am sure they willâ?¦. ”

Hypocrites wrote on Nov 12, 2007 8:36 AM:

” Okay, Adios!. Go back and read these comments, and tell me again. Which side of the discussion is “mean, nasty and intolerant?” ”

NCT Really Screwed Up! wrote on Nov 12, 2007 4:53 PM:

” Mark Thornhillâ??s AWARD from The San Diego Press Club 2007 Excellence in Journalism Awards All Winners November 7, 2007. ”

Add Your Comments or Letter to the Editor

#3 JR
@ 1:11 am

I find it interesting to read some of these string of replies under Jamie Smith’s comment. Personally I have never seen any of Thornhill’s comics, however, I took a class by him at Miracosta college and he was one of the best, most thorough and even thoughtful teachers I’ve ever had. Oh the conflicting dichotomy! Haha

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