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March 5, 2009

Ted Rall Responds To My Charge That Better Arguments Are Needed On Behalf Of Editorial Cartoonists

Current AAEC President Ted Rall sent this in this morning, in response to the top item here.

Ted Rall: I couldn't agree more with you: the AAEC and other cartoonists organizations need hard data that demonstrate the value of editorial cartoons, comics and graphic arts to newspapers, online publications, etc. I have been working toward that goal for several years within the AAEC. What is lacking is money.

Yes, money. Among other things, we need to hire a professional polling organization to conduct a scientifically sound reader survey to study readers' attitudes towards cartooning. Such surveys cost $20,000 or more -- not that much money objectively, but we're a small organization and haven't been able to budget the funds. In short, it's not that we don't know what needs to be done. The trouble is figuring out how to come up with the cash to do it.

You challenged me to come up with five examples of newspaper-cartoonist relationships that work. I could point to scores! The problem is that no cartoonist and no newspaper wants to discuss the details of their businesses, including the well-known fact within the business that editorial cartoons routinely top out reader surveys conducted by papers, in a public forum. Why that is varies -- maybe it would make cartoonists uppity, or perhaps it's proprietary information and that's reason enough to keep it secret. But it surely says something that, even in the current regime of ferocious cost-cutting, the vast majority of big-city major newspapers still employ a staff editorial cartoonists. It's not just because so many AAECers are so darned cute.

Anyway, we need to do some polls to prove what we already know to be true: cartoonists add a lot of value to their papers.

Tom Spurgeon Responds: Ted, thanks for responding. I appreciate your position, but I still have a hard time believing that the only options here are very general exhortation or specific, funded research results. There has to be some middle ground in there somewhere. I hope that you'll consider a qualitative approach even if you can't do a quantitative one. I know that there are dozens of papers with editorial cartoonists, and it's probably not because they're cute. On that level I guess they all work. But the trend is going the other way, and I'd love to hear you get at more specific reasons why even if you don't have hard numbers. For you to say that you could point to dozens of relationships that work is no doubt true; I could, too, for as far as that goes. But 18 months ago that list would have included, say, Chip Bok and Jim Borgman and their newspapers. It's my hope that we could hear from your organization in slightly less broad strokes than implying everyone who disagrees with you is kind of a moron why, say, Tom Toles is an asset worth keeping.
posted 7:35 am PST | Permalink

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