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New Cartoonist: John Kennedy

KPaZmR5YQ6-i92ZR0VjqCA We're very pleased to introduce Irish cartoonist John Kennedy as the newest member of the Cartoon Movement. His work has appeared in The Irish Herald, The Irish Sunday Mirror, and the Londonderry Sentinel, to name just a few. Over the years, John's experienced censorship and death threats because of his outspoken condemnation of Irish terrorists who were out to destroy a fragile peace process. We are looking forward to seeing his perspectives in the newsroom.

The Sorry State of Journalism

By Tjeerd Royaards

I've been thinking about whether to do this post or not for a couple of days now. I concluded that to me, the event I'm about to describe is a clear example of what is wrong in the field of journalism today, and therefore well worth writing about.
On Friday May 20th I received an e-mail from an editor at Trouw, a major Dutch daily newspaper. They were planning to run an article about the role of cartoons in the Middle East, and requested if they were allowed to run one or two cartoons by Egyptian cartoonist Sherif Arafa. Did we have those cartoons available in high resolution, and would it be all right to run them for free if the cartoonist/Cartoon Movement were credited? I sent back a polite e-mail explaining that we are a professional platform that pays cartoonists for their work, and also charges a fee for the republication of cartoons in other media. The answer was that there was no budget and they would use other images instead.

0317-110207 Egypt (Arafa)_small                                 A Dictator's Worst fear

I was a bit disappointed with the lack of budget for cartoons at Trouw, but didn't give it much of a second thought, as this lack of budget unfortunately is all too familiar in dealing with media these days. Then, on Monday, someone sent me the article as it had appeared in Trouw. They hadn't printed our cartoons; instead, the article started out with a detailed description of the cartoon 'A Dictator's Worst Fear', explaining the cartoon as an example of how cartoonists from the Middle East cannot depict their leaders in cartoons. The article continued to talk about  the cartoon 'After Mubarak' which was published a week later (and two days after Mubarak's fall), and was the first depiction of Mubarak by Arafa. The article was interesting, but there was one thing missing (in addition to the cartoons). The author had neglected to make any mention of Cartoon Movement as the publication in/on which these cartoons had first appeared.

0322-110214 Egypt (Arafa)_small After Mubarak

In reaction to our refusal to supply free cartoons, the editors at Trouw apparently decided to retaliate by leaving out our organization altogether.

My response was to write the following letter to the editor who first contacted me, as well as the editor-in-chief. I have yet to receive a response:

Dear Editor,

With some surprise I've read the article about the role of editorial cartoons in the Middle East in Trouw of Saturday, May 21. In the article, the cartoon by Sherif Arafa is described in detail, and even the publication date is mentioned, but the fact that the cartoon is published on Cartoon Movement is omitted. I can't help but feel that this omission is related to our refusal to supply Trouw with free cartoons.

The author of this article would probably be reluctant to work for nothing more than 'exposure', and the same applies to professional cartoonists. A daily national newspaper like Trouw surely knows that journalism costs money? Cartoon Movement is a platform for and by cartoonists, and its mission is twofold. First, we are a platform for cartoonists from all over the globe to share their perspectives, especially those perspectives that might not be appreciated in  the cartoonist's country of origin. Second, Cartoon Movement is trying to build a sustainable future for editorial cartooning, which means we pay all our cartoonists for the work they publish at Cartoon Movement. In this way, we provided bot the means and the platform for Sherif Arafa to publish his work about the Egyptian revolution.

Part of the funding that is needed to sustain Cartoon Movement comes from the republication of cartoons in newspapers and magazines. The fact that Trouw feels that cartoons are worth writing about, but does not have any budget to run them is regrettable, but it's almost characteristic of the current state of journalism. However, describing one of our cartoons in detail, but leaving out where it was published, seems very odd. It strikes me as a remarkable lack of consideration from one journalistic organization to another; this consideration can only be attained by supplying free material.

The point I'm trying to make is that the editorial cartoon will disappear if no one is willing to pay cartoonists to make them. The article in Trouw acknowledges the important role of cartoons, and calls them a gauge of public opinion. The Cartoon Movement is currently one of the few initiatives (if not the only one) that is committed to ensuring a future for editorial cartooning. At the very least, we are entitled to some respect.

Best regards,

Tjeerd Royaards
Executive Editor - Cartoon Movement

Kids & Cartoonists

By Tjeerd Royaards

Last Thursday (May 19), the special project about the Millennium Development Goals was concluded in Amsterdam with the presentation of the book 'Kids & Cartoonists'. The project was a collaboration between 82 cartoonists and more than 200 students from five high schools throughout the Netherlands. Together, they came up with over 300 ideas for cartoons about the environment, water, energy and human rights. From these, 98 cartoons were selected for this cartoon book, which will be used in schools to teach about the MDGs, and about the value of editorial cartooning.

All the cartoons that have been made for this project can be found on the website, but the sheer volume of cartoons, both published and in the newsroom, might make it difficult to get an idea of the project. The slideshow below gives an overview of some of the best sketches that were submitted by students, and the cartoons that were made by cartoonists on the basis of those sketches.

The project was made possible with funding by NCDO, a Dutch organization dedicated to creating awareness about the Millennium Development Goals and European Development Policy. This was our first project mixing editorial cartoons with education, and at the start of the project (December 2010), we did not quite know what to expect. Would high school students be interested in editorial cartoons, and would professional cartoonists be interested in collaborating with the students?

In the first two months of the new year, we (me and my colleague running our Foundation) visited a number of schools to tell about the project and to get students involved. The response we got was great. To my surprise, the students were very interested in cartoons, and most had a very good eye for what the cartoonist was trying to say. I heard some new and valid interpretations of cartoons, and some students even spotted things in cartoons I had missed.

So far, so good. Students liked cartoons, and were interested in hearing about them. Phase II of the project was to get them actively involved in the making of cartoons. We created a special section in our newsroom for students and cartoonists to use, and basically waited to see what would happen. The first ones to respond were the cartoonists, and soon the newsroom was filling up with with great cartoons. Then, students started trying out the newsroom; a bit hesitant at first, but as they received positive feedback from their fellow students and cartoonists, the amount of contributions rapidly increased.

Some photos taken at the book presentation:

One thing that concerned me in this project was that cartoonists are used to developing their own ideas into cartoons. Would they want to draw an idea that someone else came up with? Again, the response was great and far exceeded my expectations. The dynamic that evolved during the two months students and cartoonists worked together in the newsroom was the highlight of the project, and for me it showed the great potential of editorial cartoons as a tool in education, beyond just interpreting cartoons, but by having students work together with artists from all over the world to actively come up with ideas about certain subjects.

The project not only resulted in a great book with some brilliant cartoons, but also in a commitment of Cartoon Movement to continue with these kinds of collaborations, with schools in the Netherlands, but also schools in other parts of the world.

Tjeerd Royaards is an editor at Cartoon Movement.


Review: Prizewinning Political Cartoons: 2011 Edition

By Matt Bors

61-240PXydL._SL500_AA300_ In the sometimes too-quick-to-react world of editorial cartooning, there is barely time for reflection as the next deadline looms.  As the 2010 prizes have all been handed out at this point, we can look back at who was doing notable work, who was given a nod for it, and who was overlooked, but most cartoonists are already charging toward next year's entry and today's deadline. Book collections offer an attempt to capture the fleeting glory of daily editorial cartoons and have been notoriously spotty and of dubious necessity for as long as anyone has been printing them. The two mainstays, Daryl Cagle's The Best Political Cartoons of the Year (Que) which is currently on hiatus, and The Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year (Pelican) edited by Charles Brooks have been nearly alone up to this point.

While both of those collections are thick and deliver a good dollar-to-cartoon ratio, they suffer from cluttered layout and redundant, sub-par material. Cagle's collection is grouped by major news stories of the year, which often means numerous cartoons on the death of a celebrity or one who has has yet to die but has committed some other act deemed worthy of our attention, such as dating other humans or being a complete train wreck. This leaves cartoonists who hover beneath the blare of the media megaphone, churning out work on under-the-radar topics like torture and women's rights, largely ignored. For The Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year, the bar to entry is so low – including scores of unprofessional work – that many cartoonists don't even bother to submit their work for fear of guilt by association. (The collection doesn't pay for reprints but will mail contributors a free copy.)

Prizewinning Political Cartoons (Pelican, again) edited by Dean Turnbloom, an annual collection published since 2008, ducks the question of who is the best by simply printing who is the most prizewinningest. And the collection is just that: prizewinners from U.S. competitions, from the RFK Journalism Award to the Pulitzers, presented in a slim volume of 109 pages but with comics printed in color and given the space earned by such prize-worthy work.

But right out of the gate, new problems present themselves. Mark Fiore, who snagged the 2010 Pulitzer for his brilliant animations and writes the foreword for this collection, is represented by screen shots of his work, without captions or context. After that awkwardness is flipped past, you are dealt a selection of largely well-regarded big names that seem to rotate in the prizewinning circle: Steve Breen, Matt Wuerker, Mike Keefe, Tony Auth, Nate Beeler. Wuerker's watercolors stand out as does the black line work of Auth, printed here larger than any space-strapped rag would dare.

The work of prizewiners Mike Peters and Jack Ohman are absent, with pages noting their wins and a simple line stating they were "unavailable for this edition." It's a shame that Ohman's work in particular wasn't included. His large, quarter-page strips for the Sunday Oregonian have earned him the SPJ and RFK Awards in recent years and are not available online, not available to anyone outside of distribution range of the physical paper. The standout in the collection is seeing the huge, intricate comics of Alexander Hunter printed regularly in the Washington Times as full page comics. Artists expanding beyond the single panel gag into more narrative work is a good development for the field and this collection – it's in displaying this work that a book can justify itself and its shelf life.

Contributors are still limited to prizewinners, but some of the award judges (the real editors of the series) have appeared open in recent years to bestow accolades on more inventive, involved work like this, with this year's example being Gary Varvel's "Path To Hope" series (winner of the Aronson and RFK). Perhaps with a broader interpretation of "prizewinner," say, including finalists as well, the collection could take off. Ted Rall's large full-page filings from Afghanistan to the Los Angeles Times (a trip I accompanied him on) would look well reprinted here and beef up the book's page count in the process. (He was a finalist for the Scripps Howard Award.) That and getting everyone to contribute.

Another option would be to expand to include international prizewinners, since many international cartoonists focus on major world issues U.S. readers are familiar with. As it stands, you have a book that gives you a feel for what is happening in the field, but with a high bar for entry that is inevitably going to overlook some truly great work. No true "best of" book exists for political cartoons. That is probably unattainable, but so far, Prizewinning is the only real contender.

Matt Bors is an editor at Cartoon Movement

News Roundup

-1Malaysian cartoonist Zunar sends word that the case involving the government censorship of his two cartoon collections was heard by the court Wednesday and "Judge Rohana Yusuf will deliver the verdict on July 14." The government contends that the collections contain "terrible accusations" which could lead to "public disorder." Malasiakini also has a roundup of some colorful online comments supportive of Zunar.

Politico reported on an email spat between Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau and lobbyist Lanny Davis, who had represented embattled Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo as he clung to power, and was called out by name in a recent Trudeau strip.

One of Cartoon Movement's contributors, Stephanie McMillan, took home the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award for editorial cartooning. While McMillan won in the category for large circulation newspaper, the other three winners were Mr. Fish, Mike Lester, and Ruben Bolling.

Image provided by Zunar

Monkey Business

By Matt Bors

The visual language of editorial cartoons has a long history steeped in racial stereotypes, which has led to both a laziness on behalf of artists in relying on outmoded depictions of people and a current hyper-sensitivity in the public to see what isn't there–or at least, what wasn't intended––when an artist overlaps a pun with a radioactive subtext.

Hajo de Reijger, a Dutch editorial cartoonist, finds himself in one of those situations this week with a cartoon depicting Obama presenting the trophied head of Osama on the edge of a cliff. Hajo explains: "This cartoon is about the (misplaced) celebration over the killing of Osama. With a reverence to the stand-up comedy at the correspondence-dinner a couple of weeks ago."

Comic But the student paper at the University of New Mexico, The Daily Lobo, printed an apology after students complained that the comic was racist for depicting the president in a scene where the character was originally a baboon. (The Daily Cartoonist has the local news video.)

"It sometime happens that people 'misread' a cartoon," Hajo told me in an email. "In this case it's quite interesting and sad, because it shows how sensitive this issue still is in the US. And how insecure some people still are about racial equality."

Hajo said he doesn't believe the comic was published in The Netherlands, "but if it was, I don't believe it would have caused any uproar."

The uproars have happened with greater frequency in the U.S. since the inauguration of Barack Obama. A cartoon by Sean Delonas published in the New York Post in 2009, featured police shooting a crazed chimp said to have written the stimulus bill. The scene was pulled from real life when a chimp viciously attacked a woman, horribly maiming her for life. In the cartoon, the monkey is supposed to represent the leadership in Congress, but was immediately taken to symbolize Obama, leading to a national news story in the U.S.

"If I have to draw black people or other minorities, I make sure I never make fun of them because they're black or belong to a minority," Hajo says. "In this way it can never be racist."

What can or can't be seen as racist is the central problem in controversial cartoons. In America and Europe, these debates typically center around white cartoonists explaining to offended minorities how the perceived undertones were not intended and, often, with the dismissive tone of them being too sensitive to political correctness. I decided to ask some of Cartoon Movement's African contributors what they think of Hajo's cartoon, as well as the broader question of depicting minorities, particularly black people, in a way that could be seen as racist.

Victor Ndula, a Kenyan cartoonist, said the "depiction added little or no value to the cartoon. We all know racism links monkeys to Africans. If the monkey chants in Europe when African soccer players come to the pitch is anything to go by, the uncanny resemblance of Obama's mouth and the baboon character in The  Lion King raises eyebrows."

There are a few topics Ndula won't touch due to racial sensitivities. "As cartoonists, we need to be careful about sensitive issues. For instance, in my country Kenya, after the post poll violence it would be unwise for me to try and draw humor on a tribal basis, as it is still a raw nerve."

"I do not think the cartoonist is a racist and meant any harm with the concept," says Tayo Fatunla, a cartoonist working in Nigeria.

"Hajo though, whom I've met before, could still draw Obama holding up Osama's head without drawing him striking a monkey pose if he chose to," Tayo said. "And then again the responsibility of publishing cartoons of a cartoonist lies with the Editor. Cartoonists have a role to play in enlightening many through cartoons, depicting people rightly and cartoons should not be used as a catalyst for stereotyping any race or religious views."

Stereotyping is definitely not what Hajo was intending, he says. And that seems to be the issue when caricaturing a man whose depiction can be seen as a comment on an entire group of people. "The thing with this Obama cartoon is that I drew Obama, not a monkey, and not a group of Afro-Americans," Hajo said. "If Obama stands symbol for the Afro-Americans as a minority, then no one can ever make fun of him, because that would be racist."

I asked Hajo if would draw the same cartoon again. "I would make the same cartoon," he said.  "Maybe an additional one: me on top of that rock, holding this Obama/Osama cartoon, because it was the birth of quite a little upset."

Victor Ndula says he tends to think cartoonists should "leave the drawing of monkeys to African cartoonists. I would have no problem with an African drawing an African leader as an ape–it has been done before. The logic is that monkeys are indigenous to Africa and we have a few proverbs reffering to monkeys in our culture. As a cartoonist, if I did a drawing of a monkey it will be purely metaphorical, not racist."

"A few European cartoonists still draw and stereotype black people and Muslim people in their cartoons," Tayo says. "With time, they'll learn or time will leave them behind."
Matt Bors is an editor at Cartoon Movement.