News / USA

Political Cartoonists Worried About Future

The pen may be mightier than the sword, and editorial cartoonists have skewered many a politician with one.  But with the newspaper industry shrinking, it is getting harder to make a living doing it.

Some of the best cartoonists from around the United States gathered in the nation's capital recently for the annual meeting of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

In the 1990s, there were several-hundred staff cartoonists working at American newspapers.  "Now it's down to somewhere closer to 60," said Jimmy Margulies, who draws for The Record of northern New Jersey.

He says what's being lost is a form of commentary that is more blunt and to the point than editorials.  "This is more like pinning someone down, and in its simplicity bringing out some essential truths that are not directly stated in other forms of opinion writing," Margulies said.

But Chip Bok, who used to work for the Akron Beacon Journal and now has his own website Bokbluster was optimistic.

"Times are tough for the old idea of cartoonists, but all kinds of other things have opened up," he said.  "And editorial cartoons, all cartoons, are more popular than ever.  You see them all over the Internet.  The problem now is figuring out how to get paid."

Despite their worries, cartoonists are having a field day making fun of the candidates in the U.S. presidential election.  "I love drawing Obama," said Bok.  "He's got the ears," the cartoonist added, drawing a pair each nearly as large as the presidents head, "and an incredibly skinny neck and body."

Bok noted that Romney is often drawn as a robot, a commentary on the candidate's difficulties in connecting with ordinary Americans as well as a parody of his square-ish facial features.  "He's got kind of a heavy brow and bushy eyebrows and the big chin," Bok said, wistfully recalling the fun he had with the chin of former President Bill Clinton.

Matt Wuerker of says often the best presidential ticket to caricature is the one he did not vote for.  "Eight years of George Bush and [Dick] Cheney, it was hog heaven!  It was tough on the world, but for cartoonists, it was great."

Wuerker invited a VOA reporter and cameraman to Politico to watch him drawing a cartoon, an exaggeratedly square-jawed version of Romney as the notoriously out-of-touch French queen, Marie Antoinette "That 47 percent?  Let them eat cake," the Romney character says in the cartoon.  It was a reference to the real Romney's secretly videotaped remarks, telling wealthy donors that he wouldn't try to win the votes of that percentage of Americans, who he said depend on government aid.

Wuerker uses india ink and vivid water colors and follows the style of 19th century cartoonists Thomas Nast and Joseph Keppler.  "It's a little contrarian on my part," he said. "There are a lot of cartoonists who are enamored with digital tools.  You can draw on Cintiq tablets, even iPads, and color things in with Photoshop. But there's a smoothness, and a uniformity about that kind of stuff that make all those cartoons look the same."

Wuerker believes cartoonists will survive the crisis, and he jokingly borrows what he describes as a Romney metaphor.  "Cartoonists are basically opportunistic parasites," Wuerker said.  "We've survived on the backs of newspapers for a couple centuries, and it worked really, really well.  But the old dog is dying, and so we have to jump onto something new."

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs