MEDIA WATCH - Right before our eyes, an invaluable American species is fast disappearing from view: Kartoonus Amerikanas.
These are the newspaper cartoonists who’ve long delighted readers and infuriated power elites. And there’s nothing natural about their sudden decline. It’s not the result of a declining talent pool, and certainly not due to a lack of political targets.
What’s happening is that their media habitat is being intentionally destroyed.
Around the start of the 20th century, some 2,000 newspapers featured their own full-time cartoonists. But in just the last decade, those healthy media environments have shriveled. So now, only a couple dozen newspapers have these vibrant artistic journalists on staff.
One major reason is that most U.S. papers have been gobbled up by profiteering hedge funds that have merged, purged, and plundered these essential local sources of news and democratic discourse. The overriding interest of these Wall Street owners is to cash out a paper’s financial assets and haul off the booty to boost their personal wealth — journalism and democracy be damned.
They view cartoonists as a paycheck that can be easily diverted into their corporate pockets, dismissing the fact that enjoying good local cartoonists ranks as one of top reasons people give for buying the paper.
Note that this mass extermination is not old-school media censorship, but slight-of-hand financial censorship by the new monopolistic order of newspapering.
Political cartoonists are still free to express any opinion they want, but the Wall Street system locks them out of their primary marketplace. Censorship is ugly, but eliminating paychecks — well, that’s just business.
The good news is that these freewheeling artistic spirits of the cartooning craft are inventing new ways to connect with America’s strong consumer demand for their fun and important work. To get connected and get active with them, go to EditorialCartoonists.com.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. Distributed by OtherWords.org.