By: Dave Astor
Last year, the buzzword in the Pulitzer Prize editorial cartooning category was “animation.” This year, winner Michael Ramirez hopes the buzzword is “substantive.”
“My approach is to have a powerful image along with a significant statement,” said the Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) cartoonist, when reached by phone this afternoon. “It’s great to be funny, too, but the most important element is the message — to have an impact and make people think.”
Ramirez added: “Editorial cartooning is an extension of journalism, not just entertainment.”
Some editorial cartoonists — whether on their own volition or because of pressure from controversy-averse papers — rely a lot on gags these days.
Ramirez, who now has two Pulitzers, said cartoonists trying to make substantive statements “have to do their homework.” He’s helped in this respect by being part of the team running the IBD editorial page — a level of responsibility few other staff cartoonists have at their newspapers.
“It gives me a better perspective on the news,” he explained.
Ramirez, 46, joined IBD in early 2006 — soon after being forced out of the Los Angeles Times. When asked if winning the Pulitzer was especially satisfying after that experience, he took the high road.
“I’m very grateful for the time I spent at the Times,” Ramirez said. “There were some wonderful people there. They gave me a great deal of creative freedom, and were very supportive until the last one-and-a-half years. I’m sad I wasn’t able to win a Pulitzer for them.”
But Ramirez said he’s thrilled to win for his current paper. “It’s fantastic to bring one home for IBD,” he said.
Ramirez previously won the Pulitzer in 1994 for The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, for which he worked from 1990 until joining the Times in 1997.
Cartoons in Ramirez’s Pulitzer portfolio this year included ones that commented on the vagueness of some of Barack Obama’s stands, on the troubled U.S. economy, on the use of corn to make ethanol rather than as food, and on other topics. Ramirez is considered a conservative cartoonist, but said he tries to approach every issue with an open mind. Sometimes, he noted, conservatives criticize his work.
Last year, all three cartoon finalists did some animation in addition to print work, and observers wondered if this was the shape of things to come for the Pulitzer. But Ramirez doesn’t do animation.
The California resident did say he likes some of the animation out there, and may try it himself at some point. But Ramirez reiterated that the most important thing about a cartoon is the message — whether it’s conveyed in a black-and-white print cartoon, in a color print cartoon, or in an animation.
Ramirez’s work is syndicated by Copley News Service.
When reached by E&P, Copley Vice President/Editor Glenda Winders said: “We are thrilled and so proud of Michael. He is the master of integrating art and idea, and he richly deserves this second Pulitzer. It’s a happy day here at CNS!”