Blog Newsletter Syndicate

Troubled Cartoonist Stew –And YOU!

I wear three hats, as a cartoonist and as the leader of a “syndicate” that resells a package of editorial cartoons and columns to over 800 newspapers in the USA –my third hat is running our big Web site. I love editorial cartoons. I do what I love. But, love can be painful …

Our troubled editorial cartooning profession has been losing employee positions in roughly the same proportion as all newsroom jobs lost over the past couple of decades. Journalism has become a freelance profession, and so has editorial cartooning. Three of our CagleCartoonists recently lost their jobs, Patrick Chappatte with The International New York Times, Nate Beeler with The Columbus Dispatch and Rick McKee with The Augusta Chronicle. Bad news for editorial cartoonists seems to be coming in at a faster clip.

Conservative editors don’t like the liberal cartoons; angry readers demand retribution from newspapers and cartoonists who offend them; timid newspapers fear losing readers who are easily offended; all are just spice in our complex stew, which started brewing when newspapers lost their the bulk of their advertising revenue to the internet, and began a slow decline in circulation.

Online clients haven’t replaced print clients for us. As print declines, online publications don’t hire cartoonists and have not developed a culture of paying for content, and few of them purchase syndicated cartoons.  We have some great online clients, like and, but they are the exceptions.
There are now between 1,300 and 1,400 daily, paid circulation newspapers in the USA. Thirty years ago there were over 1,800 dailies and over 130 employee editorial cartoonists –only a very small percentage of newspapers ever hired staff cartoonists. The vast majority of American newspaper readers have seen editorial cartoons through syndication. The number of syndicated editorial cartoonists hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years.

In recent years as newspapers continue to struggle, rates for syndicated cartoons have declined, but cut-rate deals for packages of syndicated cartoons have driven rates close to zero. Larger syndicates “bundle” editorial cartoons with their comics, essentially including the editorial cartoons for free. Editorial cartoons are thrown into packages with puzzles and advice columns, in cheap weekly, college and specialty offerings.  Editorial cartoons are sometimes sold in group deals for “pennies per paper.”

In general, 20% of the cartoonists get 80% of the reprints, so the majority of editorial cartoonists have always struggled in a difficult profession and have never earned a lot. The same percentage still applies to slices of today’s smaller pie.

American editorial cartoonists are mostly liberal, and most American newspapers are rural and suburban papers serving conservative readers, so there is a supply and demand disparity. Liberal cartoons don’t get reprinted as much, because there is an over-supply of liberal cartoons. That said, conservative cartoons expressing strong opinions also don’t get reprinted much. The cartoons that are increasingly the most reprinted are the funny cartoons that express little or no opinion at all.

One of our clients, The China Daily, is owned by the Communist government in China; they asked me, “Daryl, how many of your cartoons express no opinion? Those are the cartoons we want.” The Chinese aren’t much different from American editors in this regard –except that they are more blunt.

When Trump was elected we were flooded with calls from unhappy editors complaining that, “all the cartoons I like have stopped!” The problem was that cartoonists stopped drawing the Hillary and Obama bashing cartoons that conservative editors preferred. We put up a selection of “Trump Friendly Cartoons” near the top of our site that helps conservative editors find the cartoons they like in a sea of liberal cartoons they dislike; this helped to stop the hemorrhaging of conservative subscribers.

Cartoonists don’t draw for their clients, we draw whatever we want. We’re macho like that. Clients be damned. Sometimes that attitude comes back to bite us. Everything seems to be biting us these days.

We’ve also seen a continuing trickle of newspapers drop their entire editorial pages, including the editorial cartoon. I’m told that editorial pages make readers angry and don’t bring in income. And, of-course, newspapers are going out of business.

Cartoon by Robert Rousso!

I’m often asked about whether Trump and our polarized political environment are behind the decline of editorial cartoons. There is plenty that is wrong in our troubled profession, but it isn’t as simple as editors rejecting the Trump-bashing cartoons. This stew was brewing long before Trump.

Editorial cartoons are an important part of journalism. Don’t let editorial cartoons disappear!

Here at CagleCartoons we syndicate a package of great cartoonists to more than half of America’s daily, paid-circulation newspapers; we’re an important source of income to our struggling cartoonists. Our Web site is free and runs no advertising –the site is entirely supported by contributions from our readers. We need your support. is an important resource for editorial cartoonists around the world and is used in Social Studies classrooms throughout America. Help us survive!

Please visit and make a contribution to support our art form and to keep our site online and free, with no advertising!

–Daryl Cagle

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 Columns Syndicate

Kill the Messenger

The Daily Illini college newspaper at the University of Illinois cancelled their subscription to the 50+ cartoonists in our syndication package this week in response to protests against the Rick McKee cartoon below, that they chose to reprint. Read their statement apologizing for publishing the cartoon. The Daily Illini student editor who chose to publish Rick McKee’s cartoon was suspended. USA Today did a story about the cartoon controversy.

In their apology, the Daily Illini editors write:

The person who selected the cartoon is currently on suspension due to regrets on the oversight. This choice was made out of carelessness, not out of malice. This student has learned an important lesson about carelessness.

We unfortunately cannot go back and erase it from yesterday’s paper, yet we hope this serves as a wake-up call in our decisions as an editorial staff. We apologize again, and hope that we can earn back the trust and confidence of our readers with each issue of The Daily Illini from here on.

We have reached out to the directors of the Native American House, La Casa Cultura Latina, Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center and the Asian American Cultural Center and invited them to come in and talk with the staff about mindfully reporting on issues pertinent to underrepresented communities.

We recognize that a statement can not recognize the hurt that this cartoon may have caused and we apologize for the perpetration of this disgusting stereotype.

Our cartoon package includes cartoonists with a range of views from conservative to liberal, and it isn’t unusual that we get complaints from editors about cartoons they disagree with. Often the complaints come with threats to unsubscribe if we don’t remove content that the editor doesn’t like. Sometimes we get demands that we “fire” the cartoonists that editors or readers disagree with.

With a wide range of content, we have something new that everyone can disagree with, every day.  Since editors receive about a dozen cartoons a day to choose from they can easily choose cartoons that meet their preconceived world views and they always have cartoon choices available that will not challenge their readers. It is usually the conservative editors who complain about liberal cartoons that offend them. In the case of the Daily Illini, the complaints, and the subscription cancellation come from the liberal side of the spectrum – which fits the conservative narrative about “politically correct” colleges stifling conservative ideas. Our experience is that the liberal editors are usually the ones who print left vs. right columns and cartoons, while the conservative editors prefer to reassure their conservative readers by only reinforcing the views their readers already hold.

As a liberal cartoonist who runs a business that includes conservative cartoonists and columnists, it is fascinating to see the change in attitudes among editors and readers as both ends of the spectrum become less tolerant and seek to punish those who hold opposing views who offend them.

Rick McKee’s response made me smile:

“I think it’s a sad day for journalism whenever a newspaper feels it has to apologize for something they knowingly published. But I don’t blame the students. They’re just kids and they’re learning. I blame the politically correct atmosphere they find themselves in that exists on most U.S. college campuses. Our institutions of higher learning are supposed to be safe spaces where differing viewpoints are tolerated, but that no longer seems to be the case. There’s nothing racist about the cartoon and the notion that people should come into this country legally is an opinion that is widely held by many Americans. I’d also like to add that if you hated this cartoon — or if you loved it — my new book is filled with much of the same and can be pre-ordered at a discount right now at !”

Want to comment to the Daily Illini? Email them at [email protected]. You can make a comment for us here or on our Facebook page at

We’ve gotten some interesting comments, here is a sampling …

Rich Moyer Of course, having him just stand around out-waiting his visa is a boring illustration.
Jim Engel I think every political cartoonist should apologize every day.
Aaron Hill Makes me wonder if they published it on purpose to stir up controversy to get out of settling their bill…!
(the Daily Illini is five months behind on their payments for our cartoon package)
Gary McCoy If you look up “gutless-wonder” in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of the Daily Illini.
Wise The editor probably supported Woodrow Wilson.
Jim Phillips Isn’t that like blaming the grocery store because you didn’t like the new cereal you bought? After you ate the whole box.

Joe Gandelman, who runs The Moderate Voice site wrote a long and interesting response to my column about the Daily Illini dropping over the Rick McKee Illegal Immigrant Trick or Treater cartoon. Here it is:

I have to add to this. I started The Moderate Voice in December 2003 and it became a group blog by 2004. I’ve written for The Week online and for nearly five years did a syndicated column for Cagle Cartoons. Not a WEEK goes by when I don’t get some emails or facebook messages from someone trying to ban an opposing view or taking great exception to a post or a comment. I know that some will now sic The False Equivilancy Police on me, but the fact is left, center, right are now almost all the same when it comes trying to remove a viewpoint or limit it, in so many areas.

No, this isn’t just talking about the decade plus of TMV but about Facebook, response to my columns and emails on my pieces I did for The Week. Rage and outrage are prime components of our politics on so many fronts now. Just as there’s a 24/7 news cycle and social media is instantaneous, so is the tendency now to slip into outrage mode ASAP.. Once upon a time there was a delay as people pondered the meaning of things but reaction (rage, outrage, demands, threats not to read again) is now instantaneous.

In the case of Cagle Cartoons, I have a large number of columns and cartoons I can choose from. Many do NOT reflect my view and I run some of them. If I really don’t like one, I can pass on it. And that’s no big deal (some people prefer fish to meat). But so many cartoons are offered from all around the world. Cancelling a service because an editor chose to run a cartoon out of a huge number is puzzling. But not surprising (these days).

I’m sure this cartoon will spark some spirited discussion here at TMV. I need to add that over the years TMV has lost people who were modest donors of the center right and center left due to my refusing to ban someone from the site or remove a post they didn’t like.

I saw this cartoon, but didn’t run it because I had many others I wanted to run and hadn’t gotten to even putting them up, And for another reason: I’m someone who had someone who was here illegally as his Little Brother in Wichita , Kansas, years ago and who has covered immigrants at the border in my old job on the San Diego Union covering the border, Reagan’s immigration reform and Tijuana so it wasn’t one I CHOSE to put up. I make my choices VERY quickly about what I’ll put up or pass on because I read so many posts, syndicated materials and cartoons. So this was no biggie. I merely chose another one — a process I do EACH time I choose cartoons to put up.. I’ve run many cartoonists by the cartoonist who did the one above over the years. And I’ve run many others by other cartoonists, who I’ve also many times chosen not to run in favor of using another cartoon by another cartoonist. I’m not obligated to use or not use a cartoon but in the end it’s my decision what I put on the site.

I need to add that I run some other syndicated materials. I CHOOSE what I put up. And if readers were upset over one of the syndicated pieces I CHOOSE to put up from a service, I could let it stand or remove it. But I wouldn’t cancel using the entire syndicate when it had been MY choice to use it or not use it.

I’ll leave the rest to readers in comments.