By: Rob Tornoe
An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina Dupuy, syndicated by Cagle Cartoons, has been making waves in newspapers across the country since starting her weekly column in 2010. An obsession with famed San Francisco Chronicle satirist Art Hoppe led Dupuy down the path of journalism, and her experience as a stand-up comedian has infused her strong liberal viewpoints with a sharp sense of humor.
What’s the appeal of writing a weekly op-ed column in an age of instant news and analysis?
I think the op-ed page is where discourse still has a chance. It’s not barking heads on TV or snarking heads on blogs. It’s still a place where you have 700 words to make your case about a current issue. Readers who wouldn’t otherwise identify with your political party will still spend the time to hear you out. I get tons of e-mails telling me they like my writing and never agree with me, which makes the op-ed page a place that transcends all the artificial polarization we’re led to believe in.
What types of columns usually garner the largest reaction from your readers?
I just did a column about how government workers are being treated like illegal aliens. Their salaries and their pensions are being portrayed as a drain on the economy as opposed to the banksters who caused the crash. The response from people who’ve faithfully worked in the government, some for 30 years or more, and now feel like President Obama has thrown them under the bus, was heartbreaking.
You had an interesting column following the Arizona shootings calling out Sarah Palin for acting in her own interest. What caused you to take that angle with your column?
I woke up at 4 a.m. and I was angry. I was on Twitter as the shooting was being reported, and Palin was the second or third public figure to release a statement about it.
The worst part about having a public platform is being accountable for everything you say. I have the constitutional right to say it, and you have the constitutional right to challenge me on it. But Palin thinks her free speech means immune speech and nothing she ever says is fair game for criticism. She’s been using the language of violent revolution. The people she endorsed during the midterms were, too. Then someone takes a legal gun, literally takes up arms against the government, and she becomes a generic politician giving her condolences passively on her Facebook page. It was cowardice. Either stand up and say, “Yeah! That’s what we’re talking about!” Or, “I’m horrified to think my calls for shootings were taken seriously.”
With emotions running so high, what type of reactions did you receive after the piece ran in newspapers?
Ninety-seven percent grateful and positive: mostly from women, conservative and liberal, who feel all the attention given to Palin is condescending to them. Of course, every time I’ve written about Palin, someone inevitably writes me and says that I’m just jealous because Palin is prettier than I am. Which is less of an insult to me and more of an insult to Palin’s “assets” as a public “intellectual.”
One constant theme in your columns is a takedown of the cable news industry, and Fox News in particular. Why is it such an important subject for you?
It stems from my extreme disappointment with the medium. We now have the most cable news channels ever in our history, and yet we have the least amount of investigative journalism possible. Instead it’s just the same five moderately informed people talking over each other 24 hours a day. Don’t call it news; it’s just topical entertainment. It’s chatting about the day’s events.
What’s the most important thing happening in the country that you feel is completely overlooked by the news media?
The poor. Since the middle class saw a lost decade during the Bush administration, we’ve stopped talking about the people below the middle class. We were almost able to talk about homelessness when a man with a golden voice was panhandling. Instead, TV news decided to try to find other homeless people with undiscovered talents as if that was the point of the story. The solution to homelessness suddenly became a Lana Turner at Schwab’s Pharmacy fantasy.
We have 43.6 million people living in poverty in what is still the richest country in the world. That’s a large group of silent and forgotten citizens. And the media treats them like they’re a curiosity – like a street person who can sing – instead of nearly a sixth of the population.
Rob Tornoe is the editor of Punchline magazine, and draws cartoons for The Press of Atlantic City and Editor & Publisher. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.