By: Rob Tornoe
At the end of the month, readers of the Philadelphia Inquirer will see the last political cartoon penned by Tony Auth, a local legend and Pulitzer Prize winner who has drawn daily political cartoons for the same hole in the paper for the last 40 years.
Auth has decided to take a buyout offered by the paper’s management and move his cartoons across town to local NPR affiliate WHYY, where he’ll leave the daily grind behind in lieu of pursuing new ways to use cartoons to tell a story.
And he couldn’t be happier.
“I feel like a kid again,” Auth said from his corner office at the Inquirer’s soon-to-be-vacated tower on North Broad Street. “I’m really looking forward to trying new things with my cartoons.”
Auth is so eager, he’s barely taking any time off between his last day with the Inquirer and starting up at WHYY. He’s not giving up political cartoons entirely – he’ll continue to draw two or three syndicated cartoons a week for Universal Uclick while he explores the digital realm.
The whole idea came out of work Auth had done at the Inquirer with writer John Timpane. The two partnered to produce interesting pieces that presented a slice of life around the city just before a big event.
“These were really enjoyable pieces about what happens before the crowd shows up at public events,” Auth said. “One was about the orchestra, another about a Phillies game. I wanted to make room for these other type of things.”
“We’re very excited about the possibilities of digital storytelling and what Tony brings to the table,” said Chris Satullo, executive director of news and civic dialogue at WHYY. “Tony’s not coming here to do traditional political cartoons. We plan on using him like a photographer or videographer, to get another take and a visual look at the story.”
Harold Jackson, editorial page editor at the Inquirer, has nothing but praise for Auth’s work.
“He’s one of the greatest editorial cartoonist that this country has ever produced in my estimation,” Jackson said. “I was a decision I had hoped he would not make.”
Jackson says due to budget cuts and the pending sale, there are no plans to replace Auth’s vacant position. There are also no intentions of using Daily News cartoonist Signe Wilkinson’s cartoons in his place. They will fill the void with a mix of syndicated material and freelance cartoonists.
“For 46 years, Tony has been a strong presence and asset for the region,” Satullo said. “That era, is ending, so you have to tip your hat there in recognition of all he’s accomplished.
Rob Tornoe is a columnist for Editor & Publisher, and is a WHYY contributor. Rob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.