Shoptalk: Verdicts Are In on Cartoons
A collection of reader responses on this topic appears on page B2.
Though our readers have strong feelings about political cartoons, it should come as no surprise that those opinions are all over the place.
I'm not talking about liberal-versus-conservative cartoons here, though personal partisan positions no doubt color some of the sentiments expressed. I'm talking about the larger question of whether to run cartoons at all.
A week ago, I noted that we at The Pilot had begun experimenting with substituting other kinds of art for the always-controversial cartoons in some cases. On a couple of days, just to see if we could, we ran no cartoons at all.
All this had grown out of an internal discussion a few days earlier. It has long been a topic of concern here that the cartoons, which we may sometimes grab just to break up the type, too often play a central role in shaping public opinions about our content - even though most of them originate elsewhere and have nothing to do with the local news that is our bread-and-butter.
"They define us as political, when we're so much more than that," Publisher David Woronoff said. "We're a local newspaper, and those aren't local, yet they're what's making everybody mad."
I asked our readers to give us our thoughts, and a great many did through various channels.
We received about 20 letters and emails, 10 of which turned thumbs down to cartoons while eight came out in favor of them. You can read excerpts from those messages on page B2 of today's paper. Arranged chronologically, they start out unanimously anti-cartoon but moderate considerably in the middle.
I had several voice mails, which tended in the "pro" direction.
"I want to vote for cartoons," said reader Barbara Baum. "I love the way they hit the point in perfect ways, without words. I'm especially fond of your cartoons, because you're the paper I read most and I would hate to lose them."
Another reader, Col. Edward J. Vaughn, felt the same way. "I enjoy the cartoons very much, and I would be dismayed if you stop them," he said. "It's a grim enough life as it is, and I'm all in favor of cartoons. So is my wife."
But caller Leslie Baldwin disagreed, saying: "Every time I see the cartoons, they leave a bad taste. Or maybe I don't get it and that ticks me off. Personally, I like photos of local color."
Last time I checked, we had generated 20 comments on thepilot.com - of which six favored cartoons, two opposed them, and the rest were difficult to categorize.
"Many of the political cartoons are in incredibly bad taste and really cringe-worthy," went one response from a commenter known as "Easygoing," who added: "A more careful review of the message and favoring humorous satire would be more interesting. But do not shy away from taking positions. No matter what you print, someone will be incensed. It appears many readers are offended by anything that differs from their own bias and opinion."
My favorite Web comment went, "I love the cartoons! Especially that clever Glenn McCoy fellow!" The author: Glenn McCoy.
Bottom line: Though you will continue to see fewer political cartoons (and more carefully chosen ones) in The Pilot from now on, we won't be going cold turkey, as you can see above. The idea will be to opt for a mix of cartoons, photos and other kinds of art, often depending on what best seems to illustrate accompanying text.
We will also strive to publish more custom-created cartoons dealing with local themes. Starting last February, we have been using biweekly cartoons on local topics from a talented former North Carolinian named John Cole, who now lives in Pennsylvania. He did the one about John Edwards that appeared on Sunday's page B1. We'll be on the lookout for other local talent.
In addition, we plan to begin showcasing regular classic shots from Moore County's storied past, whether they come from longtime staff photographer Glenn M. Sides or the Tufts Archives in Pinehurst - whose director, Audrey Moriarty, has graciously agreed to work closely with us on this. We'll also be in the market for contemporary photos, whether by our own talented Hannah Sharpe or others, that might convey a compelling message appropriate for these pages.
Thanks to all who offered this valuable input. Keep an eye on us and let us know how we're doing.
Steve Bouser is opinion editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 693-2470 or by email at email@example.com.
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