News Newsletter Syndicate

Annual State of the State of Cartooning Address

This excellent address comes from my cartoonist buddy, David Fitzsimmons of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. –Daryl

During the second World War, British cartoonist David Low was despised by Hitler because he relentlessly refuted the lies broadcast by the Nazi propaganda machine with every stark cartoon. We’re a long way from the age in which internationally applauded cartoonists such as Sir David Low were knighted for their heroic defense of liberty.

When I opened my annual trade journal, The American Association of Editorial Cartoonists Notebook, the bell tolled for my profession, page by page, cartoonist by cartoonist. This year our annual AAEC convention will convene in Ottawa, Ontario, with our Canadian colleagues because our numbers are so small we could meet in an abandoned Fotomat kiosk.

Political cartoonist Bruce Plante called me from Oklahoma when his paper, the Tulsa World, had just been acquired by Lee Enterprises. Needing reassurance I told him, “Lee values cartoonists.” When we began our careers four decades ago there were hundreds of us. Today there are 25 newspaper editorial cartoonists left drawing truth to power in the United States.

A lot of giants have been kicked to the curb. After winning the Pulitzer, Mike Keefe was laid off from the Denver Post. Pulitzer winner Steve Benson was laid off last year from the Arizona Republic. The Houston Chronicle, Knoxville News Sentinel and Indianapolis Star summarily jettisoned their beloved veteran cartoonists Nick Anderson, Charlie Daniel and Gary Varvel.

Most troubling, Rob Rogers, the popular political cartoonist of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was fired by a pro-Trump editor who replaced him with Steve Kelley, a cartoonist who once informed me the most oppressed group in America was white men. Rob relies on syndication and Patreon online subscription patrons to get by.

Scott Stantis has a pseudo-freelance arrangement with his Chicago Tribune. Pat Bagley’s Salt Lake Tribune miraculously survives because it’s owned by a nonprofit corporation. Jack Ohman’s Sacramento Bee is part of the McClatchy chain, which just filed for bankruptcy. My friend and Tucson resident, Chris Britt, formerly of the Illinois State Journal-Register and News Tribune of Tacoma, transitioned to creating children’s books to supplement his syndication earnings.

Syndication is no longer reliable career insurance. Luckily, I’m syndicated to over 700 sites worldwide by Cagle Cartoons. In my AAEC Notebook, Daryl Cagle notes that newspaper chains are consolidating their editorial staffs into one central staff that generates cookie-cutter editorials for the entire chain, adding, “Newspapers are shutting down editorial page staffs faster than they are dropping editorial pages.”

When I was a kid I didn’t listen when the Master Sergeant sarcastically encouraged me to consider a backup plan.

“Doing what?”

“Carving gargoyles. See all the cathedrals in the want ads — hiring stone masons? Your odds of finding work are just as bright, Sunshine.”

I’m glad I didn’t listen. I got lucky. I drew in the last century during the Golden Age of Print and my luck continued through this century’s turbulent transition to digital. These days when young cartoonists ask me for career advice I tell them, “Learn to carve gargoyles.”

It’s impossible for cartoonists to keep up with today’s relentless whirlwind of news. By the time we’ve inked, scanned and uploaded our cartoons our subject’s been eclipsed by 12 new scandals. By the time we upload our hand-rendered cartoon it’s been preceded online by a multitude of memes and YouTube rants; not to mention overshadowed by the comic observers of late night TV. We can see why the producer of “This American Life,” Ira Glass, derided editorial cartooning as “a 17th century medium.”

Ironically, practitioners of our dissed and slowly dying 17th century art form are still sufficiently feared by tyrants to get killed, imprisoned or banished in this darkening century. To the benefit of tyrannies too many regions have become news deserts.

Too many citizens are now completely dependent on the internet for their news, a treacherous cyberswamp teeming with toxic lies and divisive disinformation. The radical right’s war to sow mistrust of the critical mainstream media, which began in the ’70s, along with the rise of Limbaugh, and the billionaire-funded right-wing propaganda mills like Fox, coupled with algorithm-driven cybermanipulation, have all been effective at rendering our citizenry ill-informed and factionalized — two outcomes fatal to democratic republics.

Undaunted by these challenges this “fake news peddler” and “obscene excuse for a mudslinging hack” is proud to be in the honorable company of those persistent resisters labeled the “Enemy of the People” by fascist despots.

Legend has it that David Low had designs for an underground shelter behind his modest London home into which he had placed supplies, a drawing board and a printing press. If his beloved nation were to fall to Nazi occupation, Low had plans to smuggle his family out of the country while he would remain behind, in hiding, churning out anti-fascist cartoons and spreading sedition until his home land was free.

My kind of cartoonist.

See more cartoons by Dave Fitzsimmons.

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Blog Newsletter Syndicate

Gatehouse Guts our Guys

Editorial cartoonists losing their staff jobs has become old news as staff cutbacks at newspaper chains continue, but yesterday was an especially bad day. The Gatehouse chain laid off three staff cartoonists, Nate Beeler of The Columbus Dispatch, Rick McKee of The Augusta Chronicle and Mark Streeter of The Savannah Morning News. They have been regular contributors to our site for close to fifteen years. Gatehouse’s fourth cartoonist, Dave Granlund, was not laid off, apparently because he works under a freelance contract and was not an employee. Beeler and McKee are part of our newspaper syndicate and are among our most popular cartoonists.

Gatehouse is America’s largest newspaper chain in terms of number of newspapers. (Gannett is the largest newspaper chain in term of number of readers.) The three cartoonists who were laid off were part of Gatehouse’s “More Content Now” shared services, distributing their work in internal syndication to all of the Gatehouse newspapers, so their loss will be felt by a large number of newspapers. Even though the value of the creative contribution of the three cartoonists’ work was multiplied across all the newspapers in the Gatehouse chain, making them much more valuable than the other employees laid off in this round of cuts, this cost-cutting move by Gatehouse doesn’t come as a surprise.

Rick tells me he hopes to continue drawing cartoons for the approximately 850 newspapers that subscribe to our syndicate, and I hope the same will be true for Nate. My sincere condolences go out to all three, and I am confident that they will continue to have successful cartooning careers as their work turns in new directions.

Here are the most recent cartoons by Rick McKee of The Augusta Chronicle, Nate Beeler of The Columbus Dispatch and Mark Streeter of The Savannah Morning News.


Blog Syndicate

The Divide Between Editors, Cartoonists and Readers

Here’s a column I wrote for “The Masthead,” the journal for the ASNE (American Society of News Editors) editorial page editors group.

It is easy to match the topics of editorial cartoons and columns. We deliver our columns with suggested editorial cartoons, and editors can do an easy keyword search of our database of over 200,000 cartoons and illustrations.

What editorial cartoonists want to draw, what editors want to see from cartoonists, and what readers want in cartoons are very different. We have good statistics on which cartoons editors download. Editors prefer cartoons, drawn in a traditional style, which do not express a strong opinion that some readers might disagree with.

Editors prefer cartoons that are funny over cartoons that make readers think or cry.

Editors prefer cartoons that do not deviate from the topics that the pundits are talking about on TV.

American editors prefer cartoons by American cartoonists. International editors prefer cartoons that are not drawn by American cartoonists.

More than half of America’s daily, paid circulation newspapers subscribe to our service for editorial page editors. Our package includes about sixty top cartoonists from around the world and a dozen great columnists. To see how it works, visit We’re cheap and easy and we’re happy to give a generous free trial subscription to any editors who would like to give us a try. We’re the best!

We get statistics on what online readers prefer from the traffic patterns to our site. Unlike editors, readers are open to many topics, including those that are not today’s TV pundit topics. Readers prefer strong opinions in cartoons. Like American editors, our mostly American audience on shows little interest in issues from around the world and they prefer cartoons by American cartoonists.

Editors and readers prefer cartoons about celebrities in the news. The most popular section ever on was Janet Jackson’s boob at the Super Bowl with a whopping sixty million page views. Like most editorial cartoonists, I’m not interested in celebrities, but my most popular cartoons are celebrity obituary cartoons.

Cartoonists prefer cartoons that express strong opinions; we’re frustrated that editors don’t reprint these cartoons much. Most newspaper jobs for editorial cartoonists are gone now; we’re freelancers who are underpaid and struggling. We’re motivated by the joy of being a part of the public debate. We would like for editors to see us as graphic columnists rather than as bomb-throwers or clowns.

We would like for editors to see us as graphic columnists rather than as bomb-throwers or clowns.

Most of America’s 1,400 daily, paid circulation newspapers are small, rural or suburban newspapers with conservative readers, so most editors prefer conservative cartoons to liberal cartoons. The vast majority of editorial cartoonists are liberal and the most frequent complaint we get from editors is that there are not enough conservative cartoons (even though we have many more conservative cartoons than competing packages). We feature a “Trump-Friendly” section on the front page of to point out these cartoons to editors who overlook them. Sometimes dealing with editors is like coaxing kids to eat their broccoli.

Because editors prefer such a narrow range of styles and topics, editorial cartoonists (who are not a diverse group themselves) often come up with cartoons that are similar. Sometimes a dozen cartoonists will draw the same, obvious gag; we call these matching cartoons “Yahtzees.” Columnists do the same thing, often making matching arguments about the issue of the day, but matching cartoons are more obvious than words. Sometimes editors complain that they don’t need to subscribe to more cartoons because the cartoons they see are “all the same,” but editors shun cartoons that are not similar.

Many editors ask, “Why don’t you have more pro-Trump cartoons?” Editorial cartooning is a negative art form. Cartoons in favor of anything are lousy cartoons. Even conservative cartoonists don’t draw pro-Trump cartoons. After the presidential election, cartoonists stopped drawing cartoons criticizing president Obama and Hillary Clinton, a change that disturbed many conservative editors who perceived a sudden shift to the left.

Another top complaint from editors is, “Why don’t you post more cartoons about holidays, and post them earlier?” We put topical keywords on the front page of to help editors find the funny, inoffensive holiday cartoons that they might overlook. Most holiday cartoons don’t go stale. We have a great selection in our archive of over 200,000 key worded cartoons; many editors miss these because they only look at cartoons that are new.

What I would like to see from editorial page editors is more interest in diversity of cartoon content – in style, topic and point of view. I’d like to see editors choose great cartoons over funny cartoons. I’d like for editors to show more tolerance for foreign cartoonists and topics.

All that said, editors are our customers and most of them are great editorial cartoon fans. We love our editors. That’s why we want them to eat their broccoli.


Daryl Cagle is an editorial cartoonist and the owner of Cagle Cartoons, Inc. E-mail Daryl at [email protected]. For more information, visit For a free trial subscription e-mail [email protected].

Blog Columns Syndicate

How to Fight ISIS? With Cartoons

Pundits like to complain that there are few voices from the Islamic world that condemn terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists. I run a small business that distributes editorial cartoons from around the world. With every major attack, including the recent attacks in Paris, I see a chorus of cartoons from Arab countries condemning the terror. The pundits must not be looking at the cartoons.

Cartoon by Steve Sack.

Editorial cartoonists are typically the most influential voices in newspapers throughout the Middle East, reflecting the views of their readers. Newspapers remain important in everyday life in the Middle East. Editorial cartoons grace the front pages throughout the Middle East. Arabic language cartoonists are typically anti-American and anti-Semitic, but on issues of terrorism they are largely voices of reason.

I often hear politicians complain about how the war with Islamic extremists is a battle for hearts and minds and we need to step up our role in an information war that we are losing. Editorial cartoons could be a weapon on the
front lines of that battle. By now Americans should see how powerful cartoons can be; clearly the terrorists see this, as cartoonists are among their primary targets. It is difficult for Americans to comprehend that editorial cartoons are important and effective in the Middle East because we view cartoons as trivial jokes, leading us to miss many opportunities.

Until recently, the US State Department had programs that brought American cartoonists on speaking tours to the Middle East to meet their colleagues, and had reciprocal programs to bring Arabic language editorial cartoonists to America. The programs sought to spread common values to countries where persecuted and influential cartoonists typically are barred from drawing their own presidents. These effective State Department speaking programs for editorial cartoonists were dropped at the time of the “sequester” budget cuts. USAID supported journalism education initiatives in the Middle East ignore and exclude cartoonists.

As international respect for America has plummeted, respect for many of our institutions still runs high. American cartoonists are respected around the world, like American jazz musicians and basketball players. Middle Eastern cartoonists are eager to have their work appreciated by American readers and by the star American cartoonists who they respect and emulate. The Arab cartoonists push back against the press restrictions imposed by their regimes and envy America’s press freedoms.

Every act of terror brings new recruits to the Islamic extremists in ISIS; they seek glory, selling an image of bravery, striking back against the arrogant infidels in the West. Brandishing a gun demands a kind of respect. Fighting for religious values, no matter how twisted, demands a kind of respect. ISIS craves respect; what they can’t bear is ridicule. Islamic extremists who are widely seen as the butts of jokes won’t find many eager converts.

Cartoon by Milt Priggee.

Cartoonists are masters of disrespect and are a continuing threat to the Islamic extremists. It is no surprise that editorial cartoonists are prime targets for terror. Along with other web sites around the world, my own editorial cartoon Web site,, is suffering hacker attacks that appear to originate with terrorists and despotic regimes who fear cartoons. Terrorists and despots have a weakness in common; they can’t take a joke.

America needs to wake up, deploy and support the world’s best soldiers in the modern information war, American cartoonists.

This weekend President Obama claimed that he is already doing most of the things that his political opponents demand in the war with ISIS; he called on his critics to contribute new and constructive ideas on what should be done. My recommendation is inexpensive and powerful: bring back and greatly expand the State Department’s shuttered editorial cartoon programs around the world.


What Political Cartoonists Do

Pat Bagley, cartoonist extraordinaire for the Salt Lake Tribune, came up with this funny look at political cartoonists…