Editorial Cartoonists President Wants More Credit for Local Issues

By: Joe Strupp The new president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) says more attention needs to be given to those who draw about local and regional issues, not just national topics.

Rex Babin of The Sacramento Bee, who took over as AAEC president last month, says too many competitions -- including The Pulitzer Prizes -- often favor the cartoonists known for drawing about issues such as the economy, Iraq, and health care.

But he contends those who know local and regional issues, such as state politics, city hall topics and local figures, actually provide as much, if not more, of a service to readers.

"There are a lot of exceptional local cartoonists out there doing exceptional work on state and local subjects," says Babin, a 10-year Bee editorial cartoonist who admits he includes himself among those cited. "Cartoon competitions should take them into account when reviewing their work. Cartoonists are trying bold, non-conventional approaches that include local issues, not the widely publicized events that most people cover."

When asked if that included the Pulitzers, he said, "very much so." He added, "It takes a lot more work trying to understand the background of a topic not everyone is familiar with. There are some artists doing great work on subject matter not everyone knows about -- work that is having an effect in the local community."

Pulitzer Board Chair Anders Gyllenhaal of The Miami Herald could not be reached for comment Friday morning. But Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler said of the Pulitzers'editorial cartooning competition: "it is certanly open to the full range of cartoonists. We welcome local cartoonists as well."

Babin, a Pulitzer finalist in 2003, said he does not discount the work of those who focus on national or foreign topics. But he plans to do more with the association to promote the local cartoonists' efforts as much as those who target national topics and figures.

"I am looking forward to trying to help educate people out there that our membership is comprised of cartoonists of diverse backgrounds and practicing different approaches and disciplines in their editorial cartooning," he said. "I want to bring attention to them."

Babin is seeking to create a kind of traveling exhibit of editorial cartoonists' work, of all types, that can tour the nation. "It will also include work that is done online as well," he said, noting the growing use of animation by newspaper cartoonists. "I also plan to send out the message to various journalism groups out there to try to point out all of the work being done."


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