The future of the newspaper editorial cartoon

August 30, 2009 in Comment


Former editor of The Guardian, Peter Preston has written a piece in The Observer newspaper bemoaning the decline in numbers of editorial or political cartoonists being used in newspapers. You can read it here.

Preston focuses on recent job losses in the United States, which mirror the speedy decline of the print media there, but this trend has been long established. The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists made an awareness campaignBlack Ink Monday – back in 2005 in which all the practising professionals in US newspapers devoted a day’s work to highlighting a decline in the published drawn art form.

So, Bloghorn thinks Preston’s observations are a simple statement of fact. There are many fewer cartoonists employed by both UK and US newspapers than there were in the heyday of the print media before the advent of the 24 hour digital publication tools.

The decline in the use of print cartoon content comes as the media companies who own the print products reduce their costs to try and maintain their profits in competition with the digital media.

Preston also argues the digital media doesn’t suit the traditional drawn forms of communication, Bloghorn doesn’t agree on this point, but thinks the old print and emerging digital media industry is yet to find right method of presentation for the future of drawing about life.

If you know better please tell us why in the comments below.

2 responses to The future of the newspaper editorial cartoon

  1. Peter Preston’s article ends, “But its happening, and at least we need to realise how and why. Then we can see the potential loss – and perhaps try to do something about it.”
    He suggests that cartoons don’t suit the internet. Why don’t they ? They may not feature as much as they might/should, but that isn’t because they’re wrong for what is essentially a visual medium. Many current editors, on line and of magazines and newspapers were little children when Punch proper closed its doors. They quite possibly don’t know any better.
    There’s a long held, possibly mythical belief that journos – purveyors of the written word – don’t like cartoons because they take up word space. Good ones, especially good political ones also get a lot more over in one gag than many leader writers manage in a full page. But that’s always been so. That its apparently transferred to the internet is worrying.
    Obviously, money’s the driver here. Regional newspapers drop cartoons and use the space for advertising because editors are given targets by accountants who aren’t themselves paid to monitor quality and content, only profit and loss. Son of Sky Boss Rupert Murdoch recently gave voice to the family feud with the BBC. The BBC doesn’t have adverts. If Murdoch gained control of the BBC, would quality or revenue be an issue for him ?
    The Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation came into being precisely to “do something about it”. It doesn’t have the clout or reach the Mekon Murdoch has – far from it – but its helping keep decent cartooning visible, as does the excellent Cartoon Museum, although “museum” has something of the grave about it. Events like The Big Draw and Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival keep cartooning active and real. But PCO , the Big Draw and Shrewsbury operate on a shoestring, driven by volunteers, many of whom froth at the mouth when confronted with an accountant driven media, and an Arts Council which doesn’t have a category in its cultural checklist for “cartoons”. But, something is being done about it and maybe the patient’s vital signs can be kept just visible until the Carpathia arrives.

  2. A major problem- to state the bleedin’ obvious – with putting cartoons on the internet is that, although people like to see them, they won’t necessarily want to download and certainly not if they have to pay. They can stare, laugh and move on. Back in the world of print there is (probably) still room for more cards, postcards, posters. Posters need to be re-invented.
    They did well in the Sixties. Talk to booksellers to give us annexe space. Give them something to improve their usually dire humour sections. And exhibitions (Shrewsbury for starters) and books. Why not a cartoon book co-operative? Book of the month, buggin’s turn, all contributing money (where possible). Web-publishing, copies as needed. Or have you been through all that and discarded it? Yeah! Some books would be duds. And let’s keep pestering the Arts Council to stick the word cartoonist among their categories.

    But whatever the faults or shortcomings of the internet they’re not as bad as the shortcomings (and soon goings) of the current newspaper scene. They are certainly not the future.

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