No more Pulitzers for cartooning, give it to memes

Farhad Manjoo, writing on, isn’t impressed with the Pulitzer Prize going to editorial cartooning and argues that the award should go to really good political infographics.

The backwardness of political cartoons is especially evident when you compare them to the bounty of new forms of graphical political commentary on the Web. My Facebook and Twitter feeds brim with a wide variety of political art?biting infographics, hilarious image macros, irresistible Tumblrs (e.g., Kim Jong-il Looking at Things), clever Web comics, and even poignant listicles. I don?t think I?ve ever seen a traditional political cartoon appear on my various social-media channels. Aside from the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy, it?s hard to remember the last time a single-panel cartoon entered the political zeitgeist.

Yup. Next year the Pulitzer should go to series of lolcats with snappy political zingers.

14 thoughts on “No more Pulitzers for cartooning, give it to memes

  1. Frankly, I think he’s got a point. His comparison of Wuerker’s 1% cartoon and the Mother Jones infographic was telling.

    Is the infographic “art?” Not by most definitions. But are Pulitzers about “art” or something else? Do they reward journalists for their prose, or for reporting on something critically important, shining light into dark, scary places.

    The pepper-spraying cop COULD have been expertly rendered by a cartoonist, rather than Photoshopped, but would the message have been as powerful? Is it about the time spent (30 minutes in Photoshop vs a full day of penciling and inking) or about the message?

    Don’t get me wrong — I love a good political cartoon. But Farhad Manjoo may be on to something really important here.

  2. Howard Tayler: Perhaps he does have a point. Perhaps those particular images he cited do make the points better than Wuerker’s cartoons. That’s no reason to put down the entirety of political cartooning as outdated and irrelevant, which he does. Perhaps infographics should be considered for Pulitzers, and perhaps photoshopped images should. That’s no reason to say that political cartoons don’t deserve them.

  3. It’s funny to see a tech/internet writer making judgments about an entire subcategory of art simply because none of it appears in his own personal social sphere.

    re: the comments above, let’s not devalue infographics. Good design (often incorporating illustration or cartooning) can make for a great infographic. Visualizing information in a clear and understandable way is a real skill & I respect it when I see it.

  4. The editorial cartoon is all original art work the infographic is not. One exist purely because of the labor of the cartoonist, the other can’t exist unless it uses the works of other people.

    Infographics can be wonderful but for the above reason alone they shouldn’t be in the same catagory as editorial cartoons.

  5. A couple of points:

    Infographics report, editorial cartoons comment.

    The Pulitzer is for cartoons done as part of a body of work, done on deadline, 365 days a year. Not one good cartoon.

    A question: “Interactive visualizations” – what are they?

    As an aside, the constitutional convention setting is used widely by cartoonists – as seen
    here –
    here –
    and here –

    The above three cartoonists are all winners of the Pulitzer. In the interest of full disclosure, I have the pleasure of working with them, Matt Wuerker and five other winners of the Pulitzer, including Berkeley Breathed who is mentioned in the original post. But – I am not speaking on their behalf. While I don’t know if the above cartoons were submitted as part of a Pulitzer entry, I am fairly certain that each of the cartoonists view the convention image as fairly standard “shorthand” – think Titanic, painting oneself in a corner.

    Please note: This was also posted on Slate.

  6. IMHO, there are some good points here, but I think he’s putting too much value on format over content. A great editorial cartoon – any great cartoon – is great because of content. Format can only help bring out the content and it can do that best if it’s the right format for that content. If the content is not good, i.e., lacks the “nuance, irony, or subtext” he mentions, most likely no format is going to save it.

  7. Well I read the article and clicked on the links. How does a bunch of photos of Romney fit into this argument? I don’t dislike Romney because he’s rich or because his hair is always perfect; I dislike him because he constantly reminds people with every utterance that he is completely out of touch.

    My point being, showing photos of Romney begs the question of the intent of the person posting. This isn’t a political statement, it’s one person massaging his or her own prejudices. So to speak.

    The Slate article seems to miss the point entirely, not surprising that he’s never heard of Matt Weurker. It’s not a statement about the state of political cartoons, it’s a statement about the writer’s small sphere of awareness.

  8. Back when I partnered with Slate there was a time when editorial cartoons accounted for close to half of their traffic.

    I’m told that Slate’s Uclick cartoons which replaced my site perform well and their editorial cartoon newsletter is one of their top newsletters – they certainly promote the cartoons a lot on their front page. And Wueker is a regular Slate contributor, on Slate’s Uclick pages.

    This guy should talk to another underpaid freelance writer in the next cubicle, to see what’s going on under his own Slate roof.

  9. What is the value of exclusion? Did I miss newspaper’s demise? Cannot some web millionare establish a prestigious award for webby crap instead of coopting that of journalism? The logical extension of prizes to online newspaper content and then to non newspaper related news sources still relate to Mr Pulitzer’s original concept, but it seems to me that memes, like radio, tv and graphiti are of a distinctly different order.

  10. Some of the comments here are more incisive than his article. I think the Pulitzers should stop giving awards to editorials, columns and reporting and give them instead to Facebook postings, comments on blogs and Tweets. (Of course, if you’re not a hip an’ happenin’ guy like me, you’ll probably disagree.)

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