Wednesday, April 8, 2009


An art form of great magnitude seems to be fading to black as newspapers fold. One of my all time favorite editorial cartoonists, Ed Stein produced more than 8,000 drawings, many of which have been syndicated to newspapers and magazines including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek. It's like the end of an era for those of us who live and breath the political world. To quote Mr Stein, being a political cartoonist is the best job in a newspaper: "I don't know that there is really anything else as satisfying." For 11 years Mr Stein also drew a comic strip, Denver Square, for the Rocky Mountain News.

One of the cartoons he drew was after the Columbine High School shootings in April 1999, in which 15 people, including the two attackers, died. "After the Columbine shootings I did a series of cartoons in my comic strip. I think they really helped people focus their feelings and thoughts. It was cathartic for me as well," Mr Stein says.

Ed Stein's last cartoon for the Rocky Mountain News was one he had been thinking of for months, as he says they knew for a long time that the newspaper was not going to survive. But the actual idea only came to him on the last day, he says, when he realised that there were going to be a lot of people who would miss it the next day. Denver's Rocky Mountain News printed its final edition on 27 February. The paper had lost $16m (£10m) last year, as advertising revenue fell.

"So I just drew a man standing there in his robe with a cup of coffee in his hand, looking down his long sidewalk, which is totally empty, going where is my paper?" The art of the political cartoonist often gives a visual to help lighten the political mood of the moment. My favorite tasty morsel of the newspaper is always the op/ed section. The political cartoonist, much like the more modern day blogist must create something that strikes a nerve while delivering wit. A tidy visual for those of us seeking a visual component to an otherwise dry and staid story.

The delicious nature of political cartoons is only palpable when the political angst has reached a certain height of disgust. The last few months of political detail must be like manna from heaven for those who seek to sooth the soul of political maniacs who live and breath politics. I like to think of it as visual objectification of all things politically obscene. Thank goodness we have had the wit and artistic acumen of men like Mr. Stein. The newspaper business will most likely continue to morph into something we don't recognize, but the political satire of the cartoonist shall remain a delicious bite of reality that is fleeting. Let's savor the after taste of such heady delights, I know I shall miss this art form as much as I miss..oh I won't bother as it's a long list.

I like the quote from Ed Stein, it sums up the spirit of this soon to be lost art "If we [cartoonist] are not there, it is just one more thing that weakens democracy."

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