Magazine article Editor & Publisher

From Story Writing to Art That Is Biting: Reporters-Turned-Editorial Cartoonists Discuss Why They Value Their Early Experience as News Gatherers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

From Story Writing to Art That Is Biting: Reporters-Turned-Editorial Cartoonists Discuss Why They Value Their Early Experience as News Gatherers

Article excerpt

"PEOPLE HAVE SUCH funny idea about cartoonists. The fact that you can put together a couple of sentence amazes them!"

Those couple of sentences were put together by Seattle Post-Intelligence editorial cartoonist David Horsey while discussing the reaction that he gets from some readers after they see his occasional Post-Intelligencer column.

Actually, many editorial cartoonist write quite well. After all, their satirical product usually needs words to go along with the art. But Horsey has a particular writing knack because of his background as a reporter.

Other former reporters who became visual commentators include three past presidents of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists: Sandy Campbell of the Nashville Tennessean, Jim Larrick of the Columbus (Ohio Dispatch and Ben Sargent of the Austin American-Statesman.

"I think it's a huge advantage as a editorial cartoonist to have had reporting experience," Sargent said. "I was primarily a political reporter at the state Capitol, so I covered the beast close up. I really saw the process of politics in the raw -- and in Texas, it' pretty raw! "

Sargent was an American-Statesman reporter in the early 1970s when h started doing occasional illustrations maps and other art for the paper.

When Sargent left for reporting stints at United Press International and Long News Service, he continued creating art for the American Statesman on a free-lance basis.

"The paper asked me in 1974 t come back as a full-time artist," Sargent said. "I hadn't planned to do that for a living, but I told myself that I was a pretty mediocre reporter, so let's give it a try!"

He soon became a much-more-than-mediocre editorial cartoonist, signing with United Feature Syndicate in 1980 and winning a Pulitzer Prize two years later. Sargent, 44, moved to Universal Press Syndicate in 1985.

Sargent now writes an occasional editorial for the American-Statesman, one of several Texas newspapers where he worked early in his career. The University of Texas at Austin journalism student also spent time at the Amarillo Daily News/Globe Times and Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Horsey studied commercial art and graphic design before becoming a communications major at the University of Washington, where he worked at the campus newspaper as an editorial cartoonist, reporter and editor.

After graduating in 1976, Horsey got a job at the Bellevue, Wash., Journal American, where he covered the state Legislature in Olympia while doing a weekly illustrated column and editorial cartoons.

"But I was primarily a reporter," said Horsey, whose political dispatches also appeared in the Longview, Wash., Daily News and Port Angeles, Wash., Peninsula Daily News.

Then, in 1979, he was offered the Post-Intelligencer editorial cartoonist post.

"I had not made that my career goal," he said. "I was happy to be a reporter, but I realized this was a great opportunity. There are lots of reporters in the world and not many cartoonists."

Like Sargent, Horsey became syndicated, as part of "The Best and the Wittiest" package from North America Syndicate.

And, like Sargent, he believes that his time as a state capital reporter made him a better editorial cartoonist. "I got a broad understanding of the political system and some of the people involved in it," he said.

Horsey, 42, said some editorial cartoonists can become "awfully separate" from the political process. He noted that it helps to have at least some first-hand knowledge of politics, although he emphasized that cartoonists can lose their objectivity if they get too close to politicians.

A reporting background can help editorial cartoonists realize that they are journalists, Horsey added.

"Many cartoonists focus only on the world of cartooning," he remarked. "To me, if you're working for a newspaper, you're a journalist. …

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