Last week’s kerfuffle over the New York Times Sunday Review‘s new initiative restore an editorial cartoon to it’s features by soliciting submissions of finished cartoons on spec created quite a bit of negative response from professional cartoonists. Cartoonist, former National Cartoonist Society president and Cagle Cartoons syndicate owner Daryl Cagle was one of many who received the following response from the Times last week:
As I’m sure you all know, we got a lot of reactions to our request for cartoons for a new feature in the Sunday Review — much of it negative. Your very good questions and criticisms of our process have forced us to take a second look, and to reconsider. We are going to postpone adding the cartoon to our section until we can figure out a process that is fair to cartoonists and also works for us.
Appreciate your interest in the Times.
You can read Daryl’s thoughtful reactions on his blog.
Their rethinking the process is good, but the end result of them deciding not to run a cartoon is like curing the disease by killing the patient… but at least they are only postponing the idea and not dismissing it. I agree with Daryl’s suggestion that, if they want to run an exclusive editorial cartoon, they treat the process like they would any exclusive column or regular feature. Solicit portfolios from professional cartoonists, look for one who’s work and voice are in keeping with the editorial direction of the Times, then commission them to produce a weekly cartoon and pay a living wage.
I know people think newspapers are dying, but the New York Times has a Sunday (the day this feature would appear) print circulation of 1.6 million and just passed a paid online subscription base of 380,000. I think they can afford to pay for a weekly original cartoon if it’s something their readers want to see.
Good for the Times to realize their initial approach was not well thought out, and I hope they come up with something that will benefit both their publication and whatever cartoonist(s) they end up working with.