Yesterday, the National Cartoonists Society President Tom Richmond entered the fray over The New York Times’ invitation and submission policy for original editorial cartoons. No surprise that Tom takes a position against the spec work request.
The Times is arguably the most well-known and prestigious newspaper in the United States. It should be championing and supporting the work of the industry?s top professionals in all facets of journalism?reporters, columnists, feature writers, editorialists, and?yes . . . cartoonists. An initiative like this does the opposite. It contributes to the devaluation of the work of editorial cartoonists not just in the offer of extremely low pay and the submission of finished work without the expectation of ANY pay, but in the very nature of editorial cartoons as an individual voice of real opinion. Editorial cartoonists are visual columnists who have specific voices, and ?competitions? like this discourage that individuality while encouraging the pursuit and of whatever joke might give the jury the biggest chuckle of the week. To stage such a competition among an amateur public would be one thing, to ask a specific group of well-established and professional editorial cartoonists to do it is quite another. That is a slap in the face to their work and profession.
While I applaud your desire to once again feature individual editorial cartoons in the Times, I sincerely hope you will rethink this approach. It would behoove the Times to conduct a search among the countries best editorial cartoonists for one that has a voice that is in keeping with the editorial position of your newspaper, and then commission them to produce a weekly cartoon for which they are paid a living wage for exclusive rights. Such a change would support the profession of cartooning and journalism, and be in keeping with the reputation of the New York Times as one of the world?s leading newspapers.