By some counts, the number of editorial cartoonists remaining on staff at news organizations in the country is down to 20 or 30 pen dippers.
But if you take a slightly closer look, you’ll notice the remaining cartoonists on staff overwhelmingly work for locally-owned newspapers: Pat Bagley at the Salt Lake Tribune, Steve Sack at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Clay Bennett at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, John Cole at the Scranton Times-Tribune. The Washington Post, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, employs two staff cartoonists: Tom Toles and Ann Telnaes.
While I might take exception to Rob Tornoe’s numbers on locally-owned versus chain-owned and who has the most staff cartoonists, I can’t argue that the cartoonists working for locally-owned newspapers do seem to have more freedom and opportunities for creativity.
Not surprisingly, it’s those locally-owned newspapers that seem to be outperforming their chain counterparts when it comes to innovating and engaging readers, a vital component to selling digital subscriptions as print advertising dollars continue to decline (a trend not helped by coronavirus closures).
Among those surviving cartoonists is Pulitzer Prize winner Matt Davies, who is the staff cartoonist at Newsday on Long Island, right at the epicenter of the nation’s coronavirus pandemic. While Davies is among the nation’s most talented editorial cartoonists, he has won over local readers by regularly drawing cartoon unique to life on Long Island, whether it’s complaining about traffic on the Long Island Expressway or opine on the area’s famous beaches.