Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

January 23, 2017

Go, Read: Chuck Plunkett Agonizes Over Cartoon Choice

imageI thought this was an interesting post of the kind of in-house discussion that goes on at a lot of papers: several graphs on working through the why on an article or cartoon to which many people object. It's an even more compelling topic right this very moment what with a lot of very powerful and extremely broad issues on the table. I mean, it's not that many years ago that people would have rejected the cartoon in question not for being unfair as a blanket indictment but for being totally unrealistic as even an isolated example. We know that's not the case, sadly. That illusion is gone.

I'm not sure I would have run the cartoon only because I think the caption, the direction of the cartoon's aim at Alabama voters, suggests that they're somehow specifically indictable in a case like this one. It seems to me they're being targeted for being Sessions' constituents, and punished for what one might infer from that their support for racist policy and outlook. I think that's a fair place to end up for the sake of a cartoon, but I also that's a two-step mental process, and I'm not sure readers are willing to take more than one step at a time anymore. To put it another way, the cleverness is in the structure of the joke, not what it reveals.

It's going to be several years of decisions like this at newspapers, and I don't envy editors like Mr. Plunkett this task. It's doable, though, and I think they'll have to make decisive steps in seeing this done. Many of those steps won't be as sure as they look before your foot comes down.
posted 3:35 pm PST | Permalink

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