They draw you into a thought. They catch your eye with an illustration. They use a few well-chosen words to convey an opinion or to pose a question about a community or national concern. You may laugh, you may smirk, you may shake your head, you may agree, you may disagree or you may feel outrage.
Ultimately, the editorial cartoonist gets you to think about vital issues and sometimes just about funny situations in life.
These artists play an important role in the world of politics. But they are becoming a dying breed.
The New York Times in June stopped running daily political cartoons in its international edition after editors said that an anti-Semitic cartoon was published.
Rob Rogers, a political cartoonist for 25 years, lost his job at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last year. During his career, he had been critical of a number of politicians, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Mr. Rogers said critical portrayals of President Trump were probably the reason for his firing. Suppressing different opinions is bad, he said. The paper hired conservative cartoonist Steve Kelley a few months later.
Canadian cartoonist Michael de Adder was fired by his paper for a cartoon in which President Trump, dressed in golfing attire, asked two dead migrants if he could play through. Some thought it was in bad taste while others said it made for strong commentary.
Today, only about 25 political cartoonists are working for news organizations full-time, compared to 2,000 about a century ago.
Here at the Times, we feature the witty and insightful works of editorial cartoonist Ron Hill every week in each of our editions. For the last 20 years, Mr. Hill has been casting a critical eye on our communities, visually commenting on the issues at hand, including the clash between a Geauga County judge and nature enthusiasts, gun violence, fracking, dry spells for local farmers, rezoning for mega developments, anti-vaxxers, ash borers invading our trees, the opioid crisis and, yes, even national commentary on former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Trump. He has poked fun at the city of Solon’s new branding logo and has featured Chagrin Falls events such as Blossom Time. And how can we forget theme weeks, such as the most recent shark week, with one cartoon of a shark jumping over the falls declaring it was a tiger (shark), akin to the Chagrin Falls High mascot, a tiger.
Like other political cartoonists, Mr. Hill said his job is to get people to think about issues in different ways. We know he is doing his job, judging from the many readers’ compliments as well as calls from outraged readers protesting cartoons.
We consider these political cartoons the beginning of a local exchange and welcome readers to disagree or agree through letters to the editor published regularly on our opinion pages.
Editorial cartoons are an important part of the public dialogue, with the purpose to instigate a deeper level of thought on today’s issues. They are a vital component of the free speech process and the free press that keep our democracy strong. We want to start conversations about local and national issues and get people talking, debating, sharing ideas and thinking more critically.