Matt Davies, The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y.

By: A cartoon picturing condoleezza Rice playing the piano was not music to the ears of some readers.

"Bizarrely, several suggested the cartoon inferred Condi could only play a piano with one key because she's African American, and so were accusing me of being racist," says Matt Davies, the 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner who does his cartoons for The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y., and Tribune Media Services. Others who did "get" the November 2004 cartoon just complained about Davies being liberal.

What was Davies trying to convey in the cartoon? "It depicts a brilliant and highly capable Secretary of State, who happens to be an accomplished concert pianist, who is totally wasted on a foreign-policy piano fitted with only one key," replies Davies. "Sure, it was my opinion, but not one reader argued effectively against what I was saying. I love a good discussion, but 'the Bush White House doesn't have a one-note foreign policy' just doesn't do it for me."

About 40% of e-mailers liked the cartoon ? exemplifying what Davies calls "a pleasant evolutionary step" in cartooning. "Before widespread use of e-mail," he explains, "only people who were spitting mad could be bothered to put pen to paper, or worse, call. Now it's so easy to send someone an e-mail, we're starting to see mail from people who appreciate and enjoy a cartoon, too." He adds, however, that much of this positive e-mail comes from overseas.

Ron Patafio, the Journal News' editorial page editor, says e-mail has also contributed to readers complaining directly to a cartoonist about a cartoon rather than contacting an editor at the paper.

Patafio says Davies' piano cartoon "was an excellent commentary on the administration's foreign policy ? clear and funny." He adds: "I welcome a cartoon that generates comment, even in the form of strong protest. Stimulating debate is what an editorial page is all about."


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