Cartoonists Have Varying Degrees of Enthusiasm for Blogging

By: Dave Astor

Some editorial cartoonists like to blog. Others tolerate it. And sometimes it depends on whether you’re a staff or freelance cartoonist.

Those were a few of the points made during a “Blog or Die” session at the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists conference Thursday.

Panel moderator Lee Judge, editorial cartoonist for the Kansas City Star, does a blog that includes many of his killed cartoons. He enjoys the blog to a degree, but wonders if the time he spends on it is worth the relatively modest amount of traffic it attracts.

“The time it takes to do a really good cartoon — and to sit and read and think — is being eaten up by this stuff,” Judge said. But, he added, many newspapers editors “are in love” with the idea of having cartoonists and other staffers do blogs.

Mikhaela Reid, speaking from the audience, said cartoonists such as herself who aren’t daily newspaper staffers often want to do a blog because it helps build readership. She added that freelance or self-syndicated creators may not do as many editorial cartoons each week as staff creators do, so a blog can be “a valuable place to vent” when not drawing a cartoon that day.

Panelist Tom Tomorrow (real name: Dan Perkins) has mixed feelings about blogs. He was one of the first cartoonists to start one — in early 2002 — and said doing a blog helps cartoonists build “a personal relationship with an audience” independent of an employer who might fire them the next year.

But the self-syndicated Tomorrow finds a blog very time-consuming. To spend more hours with his family and his cartoons, he turned his blog into a “mini-Huffington Post” with guest bloggers doing some of the commentary.

“My blog adds about an hour and a half a day to my job,” said audience member Ed Stein of the Denver Rocky Mountain News and United Media.

Another panelist — Matt Davies of The Journal News in White Plains, N.Y., and Tribune Media Services (TMS) — said he was “a reluctant blogger at first. I felt anything I had to say I could say in my cartoons.”

But Davies became more accustomed to blogging, and said it’s inevitable that most staff cartoonists will eventually be asked to do one.

Davies also does some animation and a weekly spot on a Journal News TV show, so “time management is a huge issue.”

David Horsey of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and TMS wondered if writing a blog was too “trivial” or entertainment-oriented to be worth a cartoonist’s time.

“It’s just a different platform,” replied blog advocate Chuck Rose of USAToday.com.

USAToday.com runs editorial cartoons that originate in the print edition. Daryl Cagle, who runs a large editorial cartoon site as well as the Cagle Cartoons syndicate, asked Rose if the site would post cartoons that didn’t appear in the paper or even hire a cartoonist for the site.

“At a time of declining resources, it’s hard to do that,” replied Rose. “But if I were ‘king of the forest,’ you bet [that the site would have original cartoon content].”

Alluding to Horsey’s comment, Ben Sargent of the Austin American-Statesman and Universal Press Syndicate said editorial cartoonists’ blogs need to be journalistic rather than have content such as where the blogger is going to have coffee that day.

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