By: Dave Astor
How have a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a Pulitzer Prize winner been spending their spare time? They’re among the people instrumental in putting together next week’s Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention in Sacramento.
“I’m an editorial cartoonist, not a meeting planner,” Rex Babin said wryly. But convention host Babin (a 2003 Pulitzer finalist from The Sacramento Bee) and AAEC President Matt Davies (the 2004 Pulitzer winner from The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y.) think attendees will like what’s planned for the June 8-11 gathering.
Unless something else comes up, Arnold Schwarzenegger has promised to attend the AAEC’s June 8 opening reception at the California Museum in Sacramento. There, the governor will see an exhibit of approximately 60 editorial cartoons about himself and various other California topics.
“From my experience, Schwarzenegger enjoys editorial cartoons,” said Babin, who noted that the exhibit is slated to continue into the summer. “Of course, he enjoys the ones favorable to him more than the ones that are unkind to him.”
Babin added that a Schwarzenegger arrival can be quite a sight. “A huge fleet of black vehicles comes charging up, and an entourage comes out,” he said. “It’s an intensely Hollywood-esque experience.”
On June 9 and 10, convention speakers will discuss topics such as how an editorial cartoonist can earn money without a full-time newspaper job and how technology will affect the future of cartooning. Among the speakers will be Mark Fiore, who makes a living creating political Web animations.
The evening of June 9, the Cartoonists’ Rights Network is hosting a dinner in Sacramento to present Turkish artist Musa Kart with the Courage in Cartooning Award. Kart has continued cartooning in Turkey despite fines, threats, and censorship.
Oakland, Calif., Mayor Jerry Brown will address AAECers the night of June 11. “He’s getting married literally a week later, so he’s spending one of his last bachelor days with us,” Babin said of the former California governor and presidential candidate.
Also scheduled to speak at the convention is Michael Newdow, known for his efforts to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.
Babin, whose work is available nationally via King Features Syndicate, joined the Bee in 1999 after 10 years at the Albany, N.Y., Times Union. So he knows something about state capitals, and said Sacramento is a very political town that’s looking forward to the arrival of political cartoonists.
In addition to his regular cartoons, Babin also does “Caleeforneeya” on a “not-quite-weekly” basis. The color, multi-panel, comic-bookish cartoon — titled after the way Schwarzenegger pronounces the state’s name — comments on the governor and other California issues.
Davies, who’s syndicated by Tribune Media Services, was elected AAEC president last September. Since then, he has continued the work of previous presidents in advocating the importance of editorial cartooning at a time when the number of full-time positions is shrinking.
“We need to figure out a way to save editorial cartooning,” said Davies, who does speaking engagements as one way to get out the word. “Editorial cartoons are drawn by human beings who need to pay their bills and need health insurance.”
Davies and others have also been involved in planning the organization’s new Web site (www.aaeconline.org), which recently went live — though it’s still incomplete. On the member side of the site, cartoonists will be able to archive their work, post new material, participate in message boards, and more. On the public side, visitors will be able to request information on reprints and originals, seek speakers, do research, etc.
“We want the site to be the place everyone comes to when they want information editorial cartooning,” said Davies.
The site, funded with the help of a Herblock Foundation grant, will also offer information on using editorial cartoons in the classroom. “Teachers love using editorial cartoons to help teach social studies,” said Davies, who periodically visits schools.
Davies — who’ll be succeeded at the AAEC helm this September by Clay Bennett of The Christian Science Monitor — has juggled the presidency, a full-time job, post-Pulitzer appearances, and the co-parenting of two kids under five years old.
“Basically,” said Davies, “I’ve had a crash course in time management.”
But at least he won’t have any more Sacramento convention planning after next week.