David Horsey on Editorial Cartooning for Today’s Hedge Fund Newspapers (eulogy)

Political cartoonists took up their pens to offend the powerful and defend the downtrodden as soon as the first publishers began hand-cranking newspapers through their printing presses in the 18th century. Benjamin Franklin created his own political art to fire up the American Revolution. So did Paul Revere.

Now, two-and-a-half centuries later, with thousands of newspapers having gone out of business and most of the rest struggling to survive, political cartoonists have become an endangered species. When newsroom jobs get trimmed, the cartoonist is often among the first to go, even though “those damned pictures” — as Tammany Hall’s Boss Tweed characterized the jugular art of Thomas Nast in the 1870s — are perennially popular with readers.

© The Seattle Times/David Horsey

David Horsey at The Seattle Times writes “In Praise of a Dying Breed.”

According to numbers provided by two of my friends at the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, there were just over 100 full-time editorial cartooning jobs at U.S. newspapers in 2008, down from as many as 150 full- and part-time positions in 1997. Today, a mere 20 or so are paid newspaper employees. A few more are contractors (count me as one of them) creating work for one particular newspaper. All of the rest are scrambling to pay the bills through freelance or syndication or have left the profession.

7 thoughts on “David Horsey on Editorial Cartooning for Today’s Hedge Fund Newspapers (eulogy)

  1. I subscribe to GoComics, but I rarely look at it. There are some editorial cartoonists there, but the portion of my contribution that dribbles down to them must be minuscule. I would happily contribute to a site that only supported good editorial cartoonists, or indeed to individual sites, if someone could advise me how to go about that. Sorry to be so dumb about this, but it’s not something I worried much about before.

  2. This is a solid, and sadly perennial, roundup of the deliberate destruction of an industry by corporate greedheads (full disclosure, I was one of the two people mentioned in the piece who contributed cartoonist counts) — but Horsey missed the most recent hedge-fund beheading: Steve Breen took a buyout within days of the announcement that Alden Global had seized the San Diego Union-Tribune and was preparing to drain it of all of its bodily fluids. Breen was also a multi-pulitzer winner, and it made no difference.

  3. I still got the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the point in 2008 that they fired both Stuart Carlson and Gary Markstein (I’m sorry; offered them a buy-out), ending a proud editorial position dating back to 1929 (at least with Ross A. Lewis and Bill Sanders. This predated by eight years the paper being purchased by Gannett, so the cost-cutting must have been apparent even then, sacrificing local subject matter for syndicated national issues (but, oddly, never using Carlson’s or Markstein’s now syndicated work). I was a student in the art department around the time that both Carlson and Joe Heller (formerly of the Green Bay Press-Gazette till 2013) attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and may have crossed paths with either or both (I have memories of phone calls from Heller which may or may not have been him, as I never wrote his last name down) This propinquity provided a personal connection for me which made Carlson’s death last year at a relatively young age hit pretty hard, especially since I considered him to be my favorite of all time (which. considering his Journal predecessors. is saying a lot.

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