The Bennett-Brinkley Report: A Prize and Keynote Speech at Cartoon Confab

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By: Dave Astor

Clay Bennett added the Ink Bottle Award to his 2008 honors at the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) convention Saturday night.

In early April, the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press/Washington Post Writers Group (WPWG) editorial cartoonist was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his 2007 Christian Science Monitor work. Later that month, Bennett won the 2007 Thomas Nast Award for best international editorial cartoons from the Overseas Press Club of America.

In fact, Bennett has received so many honors (including the 2002 Pulitzer) that the AAEC played a video spoofing his prize prowess and gave him a trophy for “Outstanding Distinguished Excellence in Winning Awards” before presenting him with the Ink Bottle plaque for contributions to the AAEC and editorial cartooning.

AAEC President Nick Anderson of the Houston Chronicle and WPWG said a major reason for the Ink Bottle honor was Bennett’s work as AAEC president in 2005-6. During that “tumultuous and eventful” time, recalled Anderson, Bennett worked on such things as finding a new management company for the AAEC, upgrading the organization’s Web site, diversifying the AAEC’s membership by attracting more alternative cartoonists, and responding to the eliminations of high-profile cartoonist positions at the Los Angeles Times and The Sun of Baltimore.

“That was a dark harbinger” of more cartoonist cuts to come, said Anderson. “Clay was very eloquent in our defense.”

Bennett also responded to the huge reaction in the Muslim world to the Muhammad cartoons published in Denmark. He did this through proxies such as Anderson, because Bennett didn’t want to further endanger then-kidnapped Christian Science Monitor colleague Jill Carroll.

And Bennett later aided the AAEC by helping to coordinate an online auction of cartoons to raise much-needed funds for the organization.

After the Ink Bottle was presented, noted author/historian Douglas Brinkley addressed the AAEC. Brinkley is currently working on a book about the many environmental accomplishments of Theodore Roosevelt, and he said editorial cartoonist “Ding” Darling (1876-1962) “helped create the modern conservation movement with TR” during a career mostly spent at The Des Moines Register.

Brinkley, a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans before coming to Rice University in Texas, also urged cartoonists to keep drawing attention to the fate of post-Katrina New Orleans.

The speaker decried the Bush administration’s “abandonment” of many of that city’s neighborhoods — including those with a strong African-American heritage. “Inaction is a policy decision,” said Brinkley, who authored “The Great Deluge” about Katrina as well as biographies of Rosa Parks and other notables.

Also during the Saturday banquet, Dick Locher presented the John Locher Memorial Award for top college cartoonist. As E&P reported this spring, the winner was the Yale Daily News’ Samuel Ayres, whose parents accepted on his behalf because he’s on a fellowship working with refugees in Uganda.

John Locher was the late son of Dick Locher, who does editorial cartoons and the “Dick Tracy” comic strip for Tribune Media Services.

In closing, John Branch (San Antonio Express-News/King Features Syndicate) and the aforementioned Nick Anderson thanked various people for their work on the convention. Branch hosted the meeting, while the Texas-based Anderson and Ben Sargent (Austin American-Statesman/Universal Press Syndicate) offered co-hosting support.

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