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NY Times Trashes Cartoonists

Yesterday we learned that the NY Times terminated the contracts with their two cartoonists who have been regular contributors to the NY Times International edition, Swiss Cagle Cartoonist Patrick Chappatte and Heng Kim Song from Singapore.

The offending Antonio Antunes cartoon that lost a job for Patrick Chappatte, crushed a syndicate and lost a top venue for all editorial cartooning.

This is another over-the-top reaction to the stupid decision of a Times editor to run an anti-Semitic cartoon. Here’s a quote I gave to the Washington Post:

By choosing not to print editorial cartoons in the future, the Times can be sure that their editors will never again make a poor cartoon choice. Editors at the Times have also made poor choices of words in the past. I would suggest that the Times should also choose not to print words in the future –just to be on the safe side. –Daryl Cagle

Patrick learned that he lost the gig in an online announcement from the Times, which later expanded on the subject with a self-serving statement from their editorial page editor, James Bennett, bragging that the Times won a Pulitzer Prize in the editorial cartooning category – though he fails to mention that the prize was for a non-fiction piece where a writer wrote a script that was illustrated by a cartoonist –not what I would call a prize for an editorial cartoonist.

Patrick gave me permission to re-post this announcement from his blog:

Patrick posted this Charlie Hebdo cartoon with his announcement.



The end of political cartoons at The New York Times

All my professional life, I have been driven by the conviction that the unique freedom of political cartooning entails a great sense of responsibility.

In 20-plus years of delivering a twice-weekly cartoon for the International Herald Tribune first, and then The New York Times, and after receiving three OPC awards in that category, I thought the case for political cartoons had been made (in a newspaper that was notoriously reluctant to the form in past history.) But something happened. In April 2019, a Netanyahu caricature from syndication reprinted in the international editions triggered widespread outrage, a Times apology and the termination of syndicated cartoons. Last week, my employers told me they’ll be ending in-house political cartoons as well by July. I’m putting down my pen, with a sigh: that’s a lot of years of work undone by a single cartoon – not even mine – that should never have run in the best newspaper of the world.

I’m afraid this is not just about cartoons, but about journalism and opinion in general. We are in a world where moralistic mobs gather on social media and rise like a storm, falling upon newsrooms in an overwhelming blow. This requires immediate counter-measures by publishers, leaving no room for ponderation or meaningful discussions. Twitter is a place for furor, not debate. The most outraged voices tend to define the conversation, and the angry crowd follows in.

Over the last years, with the Cartooning for Peace Foundation we established with French cartoonist Plantu and the late Kofi Annan – a great defender of cartoons – or on the board of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, I have consistently warned about the dangers of those sudden (and often organized) backlashes that carry everything in their path. If cartoons are a prime target it’s because of their nature and exposure: they are an encapsulated opinion, a visual shortcut with an unmatched capacity to touch the mind. That’s their strength, and their vulnerability. They might also be a revealor of something deeper. More than often, the real target, behind the cartoon, is the media that published it.

“Political cartoons were born with democracy.

And they are challenged when freedom is.“

In 1995, at twenty-something, I moved to New York with a crazy dream: I would convince the New York Times to have political cartoons. An art director told me: “We never had political cartoons and we will never have any.“ But I was stubborn. For years, I did illustrations for NYT Opinion and the Book Review, then I persuaded the Paris-based International Herald Tribune (a NYT-Washington Post joint venture) to hire an in-house editorial cartoonist. By 2013, when the NYT had fully incorporated the IHT, there I was: featured on the NYT website, on its social media and in its international print editions. In 2018, we started translating my cartoons on the NYT Chinese and Spanish websites. The U.S. paper edition remained the last frontier. Gone out the door, I had come back through the window. And proven that art director wrong: The New York Times did have in-house political cartoons. For a while in history, they dared.

Along with The Economist, featuring the excellent Kal, The New York Times was one of the last venues for international political cartooning – for a U.S. newspaper aiming to have a meaningful impact worldwide, it made sense. Cartoons can jump over borders. Who will show the emperor Erdogan that he has no clothes, when Turkish cartoonists can’t do it ? – one of them, our friend Musa Kart, is now in jail. Cartoonists from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Russia were forced into exile. Over the last years, some of the very best cartoonists in the U.S., like Nick Anderson and Rob Rogers, lost their positions because their publishers found their work too critical of Trump. Maybe we should start worrying. And pushing back. Political cartoons were born with democracy. And they are challenged when freedom is.

“The power of images has never been so big.“

Curiously, I remain positive. This is the era of images. In a world of short attention span, their power has never been so big. Out there is a whole world of possibilities, not only in editorial cartooning, still or animated, but also in new fields like on-stage illustrated presentations and long-form comics reportage – of which I have been a proponent for the last 25 years. (I’m happy, by the way, to have opened the door for the genre at the NYT with the “Inside Death Row“ series in 2016. The following year, another series about Syrian refugees by Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan got the NYT a Pulitzer prize.) It’s also a time where the media need to renew themselves and reach out to new audiences. And stop being afraid of the angry mob. In the insane world we live in, the art of the visual commentary is needed more than ever. And so is humor.

Patrick Chappatte
June 10, 2019

Blog Syndicate

The New York Times, a Student Contest and Editorial Cartoons

The New York Times, which doesn’t have an editorial cartoonist and dropped their weekly round-up of syndicated editorial cartoons years ago, recently announced a contest for budding, young, student editorial cartoonists, who may grow up to not be published in the New York Times.

NYtimesClipThis story is so tone deaf and ironic that I had to write a bit about it. A judge of the contest is my cartoonist buddy, Patrick Chappatte, pictured at right, who draws for the New York Times owned “International New York Times” which was formerly the “International Herald Tribune.” Patrick lives and works from his home in Switzerland.

The Times runs a lot of illustrations on their editorial pages, and these may look like editorial cartoons to readers, but illustrations are done to the specifications of the client, and are usually depicting the ideas of the writer of the columns that the art accompanies. Editorial cartoonists are like visual columnists, we draw our own ideas, something that clearly makes editors at the New York Times feel uncomfortable.

There are two famous, unattributed quotes from NY Times editors:

1) We would never hire an editorial cartoonist because we would never give so much power to one man.

2) We would never hire an editorial cartoonist because you can’t edit and editorial cartoonist like you can a writer.

Most of the syndicated cartoonists submitted their work to the Times back when they did a weekly “round-up.” The Times would pick perhaps three cartoons, and paid $50.00 each, but only if the cartoonist noticed that they ran his cartoon, and sent them an invoice. When I asked them about this system, they told me that they expect everyone to read the Times, so, of-course, everyone would notice if a cartoon was used.

Suppose I placed a standing order with McDonalds; I would instruct McDonalds to deliver a hamburger to me every day at lunch time. I may or may not choose to eat the hamburger, and if I choose to eat it I’ll pay for it, but only if someone from McDonalds sees me eating it and asks me to pay. Cartoonists went along with a plan that McDonalds would never countenance.

Sometime after dropping their round-up, editors at the Times had second thoughts. They had conducted surveys where readers responded that they missed seeing editorial cartoons in the Times, so the Times decided to bring the round-up back, but this time, without paying the pesky $50.00 fee to the cartoonists. They sent emails to the top cartoonists, inviting them to submit again, for the privilege and exposure that having a cartoon in the Times would bring them.

To their credit, my colleagues revolted, with most of them responding in emails to the Times that they would not submit cartoons for no payment and the Times dropped the idea.

And that’s where we are with traditional editorial cartoons in the New York Times – America’s newspaper of record; they could have any of the best editorial cartoonists jump at the opportunity to work for them, but, alas, we’re not worth $50.00.

The biggest circulation newspaper in America, The Wall Street Journal, doesn’t have an editorial cartoonist either. At least USA Today still pays $50.00 for a cartoon.