Endangered Species: Kartoonus Amerikanus

Columnist Jim Hightower admits to some jealousy:

As a tyke, I never dreamed of growing up to be a political activist/ commentator, but here I am, and it’s worked out pretty well for me. I’ve been lucky enough to have a voice in public matters and eke out a modest living running my mouth as an independent populist agitator. Still, I have to confess to the sin of Job Envy. Not in the sense of being resentful, but regretful about my own inability to lift the trade of journalistic commentary to the heights attained by a small, feisty collection of unique public opinionators: Political cartoonists.

And to some sadness:

As in the natural world, however, even the most beneficial creatures can be driven to extinction. And–yikes!–right before our own eyes, the invaluable species of kar-t??n-us a-mer-i-kan-us is fast disappearing from view. There is nothing natural about this; it’s not the result of a declining talent pool, and it’s certainly not due to any lack of rich political fodder. Rather, the cartoonists’ media habitat is being destroyed.

Around the start of the 20th century, some 2,000 newspapers featured their own, full-time staff cartoonists to attract readers/subscribers. (The Lowdown’s own Brian Duffy notes that his one-time mainstay, the Des Moines Register, even ran its cartoonists’ art on the front page.) In just the last decade, though, there’s been a wholesale dumping of these artistic journalists, with even Pulitzer Prize winners unceremoniously dumped. Now, in the entire USA, only a couple dozen cartoonists are paid newspaper staffers.

What happened? Monopolization and Wall Street greed, that’s what.

© Brian Duffy

Jim Hightower, in his Hightower Lowdown newsletter essay, grieves at what is happening to a vital part of keeping the political leaders of a democracy on pins and needles, and has suggestions on helping the heroes of the art.

Fans of political cartoons can rejoice at the existence of three websites, curated by cartoonists themselves, that offer cornucopias of cartoons from established and emerging artists. Feast on what the corporate powers are taking from our newsfeeds!

The Nib, a comic site edited by Matt Bors, delivers a selection of cartoons to your email inbox every morning. The daily ‘toons are free but if you sign up as a member (for as little as $4/month), you’ll be helping those cartoonists and editors actually make a living–plus you’ll get more cool stuff. TheNib.com

Our friend, former Lowdown ‘toonmeister Matt Wuerker, edits Politico’s weekly “Cartoon Carousel.” Politico.com/tag/Cartoon-Carousel

Check out the offerings of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. EditorialCartoonists.com.

I would add Nick Anderson’s Counterpoint to the above websites.


to Jen Sorenson and the AAEC for sharing the article.