Blog Newsletter Syndicate

Koterba Confused by Maps

This comes my brilliant buddy, Jeff Koterba who is the staff cartoonist for The Omaha World-Herald newspaper. Visit Jeff’s archive, visit Jeff’s Favorite Cartoons of the Decade, and read Jeff’s post about Cartooning with Tourette’s Syndrome and Jeff’s post “I Owe My Cartooning to the Moon.”

As a kid I loved the shapes of states and countries. Especially the really interesting ones like California, Texas, and Nebraska. In my grade school classroom we had a really big map of the United States, which reminds me of that joke by the comedian, Steven Wright: “At home I have a map of the United States. Actual size.”

So, okay, the map at school wasn’t quite that big, but it was large enough to constantly distract me from paying attention to my teacher. Mostly, I found myself focusing on the middle of the map, on the city in which I was born and raised —Omaha, Nebraska.

Like most kids, I believed that the world revolved around me. And to reinforce this idea I was at the center of all things, it didn’t help that Omaha was at the center of that map, smack dab in the middle of the country.

As an adult and as a cartoonist, I have remained fascinated with maps. And whenever the opportunity arises for me to include a map in one of my cartoons, I’ll certainly draw one in.

But in adulthood, something would shift from how I viewed maps in childhood. This shift began when I first traveled to Russia one cold and snowy January and found myself feeling disoriented. I felt like I was on the Moon. To ground myself I studied a map of Russia and found myself looking to the middle of that map, fully expecting to find … Omaha. You know, just east of Moscow.

But it wasn’t until a few years ago, when, for the first time ever, I moved away from Omaha for nearly two years and found myself living in Innsbruck, Austria. That’s when my world —and my view of maps —literally turned upside down.

So much so, I gave a recent TEDx talk on the topic:

And if you missed it the first time around, here’s my previous TEDx talk on how embracing one’s vulnerabilities can increase one’s creativity—in my case how my having Tourette Syndrome helped me to become a better cartoonist:


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Blog Newsletter Syndicate

Why does The New York Times keep breaking my heart?

This post is by my buddy, Jeff Koterba –Daryl

By now, even many who don’t normally pay attention to inside-journalism stories, have taken notice of the recent decision by The New York Times to cut all editorial cartoons from their international edition. In recent weeks, friends and strangers have messaged, and have even stopped me at coffee shops in Omaha, the city where I draw cartoons for The Omaha World-Herald, to express their frustration at the news.

The fact that readers, even in the Midwest, are vexed about what’s going into the pages of an international newspaper is somehow heartening. But angst, alone, won’t bring back cartoons to countless readers abroad.

Not all that long before this latest unfortunate news, the U.S. edition of the Times would run a weekly roundup of editorial cartoons in their Sunday Review section. In the years before my work was picked up for syndication, I would submit to The Times my latest work. Much of my excitement came in anticipation of going to a local convenient mart to pick up the Sunday Times. But, of course, nothing compared to the exhilaration I felt on those rare occasions when I would open the paper and discover that the editors had chosen one of my drawings. I felt validated, but more so, I felt connected to something bigger…to the “Great Conversation,” as a friend of mine likes to say about weighing in on current events.

The weekly roundup would eventually go away, replaced by a long-form editorial comic. It broke my heart to know that I would never again see my work reprinted in the Times. But I moved on and eventually moved—to Austria. It was during a nearly two year stay in Innsbruck, while drawing remotely for my newspaper in Omaha—that I fell deeply, madly, in love with The International New York Times. Founded in the late 1880’s as The Paris Herald, the newspaper changed owners and names several times before settling on its current moniker in October of 2013. A few months later I found myself drawing from the Alps, a guy from Omaha who had never lived elsewhere and knew almost no German.

The International New York Times allowed me to once again feel connected to something greater than myself. As I took trains throughout Europe, I always—ALWAYS—made sure I had that wonderful friend along for the ride, with its broadsheets like a large bird’s wings, it’s news from around the world, and yes, with its own editorial cartoons.

What a joy to visit an old-fashioned newsstand in Paris and find that beautiful, familiar, New York Times logo peeking out beyond all the French-language publications! Or to linger over her pages at a café in Rome, sipping espresso. And again, to read those cartoons.

Those cartoons were my dessert. And I savored every inked line.

Back stateside this past spring, I was on an early flight from Tucson to Phoenix. Before taking off I’d already spread open that day’s New York Times. Next to me, a young lady began laughing and pointing at my newspaper. I studied the page facing her trying to figure out which article she found to be so funny. Perplexed, I finally asked.

“That,” she said, motioning to indicate the entire newspaper. “You’re reading one of those.”

The young lady in question was smart and well-spoken. When I asked if she reads newspapers, she again laughed and said, “Never.”

“Have you ever even held a newspaper?” I asked.


“Would you like to try?”

I handed her a section of the newspaper, and after she fumbled around, trying to figure out exactly how to fold the pages to make it more convenient to read, she fell silent. For a moment I thought perhaps she’d fallen asleep. Instead, she was deeply immersed in…reading. I almost told her that I was a cartoonist, but didn’t. I did, however, imagine her one day traveling abroad, perhaps stopping by a newsstand at a train station in Berlin, and noticing The International New York Times. Maybe she would pick up a copy, and just maybe she would read an editorial cartoon and feel connected to something greater.

Jeffrey Koterba’s
award-winning cartoons are distributed by Cagle Cartoons. In 2010, two of his original drawings flew aboard space shuttle Discovery. In his TEDx talk Jeff discusses the link between Tourette Syndrome, vulnerability, and creativity.  E-mail Jeff.

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