LETTER FROM AN EDITOR ABOUT MY CARTOONS, AND MY REPLY
So I got this in the mail today:
My general manager does not want to run any political cartoons that criticize President Trump, since we have so many readers who voted for him and support him.
Can you please send us middle-of-the-road cartoons that we could use?
If you have any on hand, we could use one today.
I replied with this:
I sent a cartoon yesterday on Le Pen’s victory in France. I suppose you guys can’t use that one. I also sent one a couple days ago on Bill O’Reilly. I guess you can’t use that one either.
The thing is, sir, I’m a political cartoonist. I’m pretty good too. What you’re looking for is a cartoonist who truly sucks at his job just about as much as your general manager does.
I hate to lose clients but I don’t work like this so my recommendation is, since you probably can’t get rid of your general manager, is to find another cartoon service.
Donald Trump is president of the United States. That’s political. I’m a political cartoonist. I don’t avoid subjects. Anyone who believes you shouldn’t publish what your readers don’t want to hear should not be in the news business. Tell your general manager he’s a jackass and a disgrace to our profession. It’s not from the lack of my cartoons, but because of him, that your readers and community have lost a good newspaper. Hopefully in the future The (redacting the name) will have a general manager who won’t run editors out of the building, like he did with Mr. Stevens, who signed up to use my cartoons.
Thank you. I hope you have a great day and best wishes for your future.
I’m a political cartoonist. I often hear from editors who receive my pitches who state my cartoons are too controversial, or too left-wing, or they can’t do anything on Donald Trump. Often times I lose a client because of what I choose to draw cartoons about. I’ve been in this business for over 25 years so I’m not naive and I know every news outlets’ first order of business is to make money. I usually respond with “I understand” and a thank you. I’m in a business too so I’m not out to argue and debate with editors or to burn bridges.
But sometimes you gotta burn one down.
I picked up this client about a month ago. They used several of my cartoons and the editor loved them. Then I received an email from the editor that he was resigning effective immediately and that he couldn’t suffer under the leadership of their general manager anymore, or watch what he was doing to the newspaper he loved. Now I see why.
As I said, I’m diplomatic the majority of the time. When a client tells me I’m covering Donald Trump too much, I listen to them. They could be correct. I should cover topics in addition to the president. But I’m not going to ignore him.
So usually it’s thank you and you’re welcome. I appreciate the opportunity and sometimes I don’t respond at all, depending on the level of crazy. I am good with that when I get the unusual. What I’m not good with is when the unusual becomes the usual.
It has become the usual to hear from editors afraid to cover Donald Trump and those who buy his fertilizer hook, line, and sinker, and swear the guy is the new messiah. I’m not talking about editors who agree on his tax policies. I’m talking about the “lock her up” editors. All that Russian stuff is fake news, don’t you know? There are editors out there like that. I know this. I hear from them.
Sure, newspapers need to make money. But they’re still newspapers. It’s a business of honesty and delivering facts. Yeah, they’ll run an ad selling you a crappy mattress but the one thing journalists do not do is remain silent. I will not be silenced.
I am not an activist and I will not take to the streets wearing a pussy hat even if I’m drawing cartoons supporting them. But sometimes the resistance extends to those who cover the news. I will resist those who tell me I can’t and I shouldn’t. Newspapers aren’t to refrain from publishing information their readers don’t want to hear. We’re not to be afraid of our readers, no matter how much some of them want us to be.
Newspapers, either in a major city or a small town, are not in the business of appeasing a cult of personality, whether through action or inaction. Right now, this is becoming the state of the industry more and more. For then, it’s “if you don’t agree with the administration then at least shut up.” I don’t do shutting up. I don’t shut up well.
I did hear back from the editor to my admittedly unprofessional letter. He was very nice and understood. He understands. I referred him to a colleague. While I need to find a new client, and many more after that, I’m not going to do it by drawing safe cartoons, which would be a much smarter business model. But cartoonists don’t always make the best people.
I’m a political cartoonist and no matter how difficult these people try to make it for me to do what I do, I’m going to keep doing it.
I’m Clay Jones. I draw political cartoons. You’ll be hearing from me. A lot.