After an era marked by downsizing and low morale, many newspapers are experiencing a rebirth of their journalistic vigor thanks to the campaign and subsequent election of Donald Trump as president.
While the mission of watchdog journalism has been renewed by the Trump administration’s war with the press, there has been a notable absence of an important form of political satire long associated with newspapers that doesn’t appear to have benefited from a Trump bump.
Political cartoons, once a staple of newspapers that were as popular with readers as they were hated by those in power, have all but disappeared from the online offerings of many media companies ensconced in the brutal transition from a print-centric world to a digital-first mission.
Those media companies that do have editorial cartoonists remaining on staff, less than 30 by my count, largely relegate their work to less-trafficked internal pages of their websites, seemingly for no reason other than a lack of any idea how to properly utilize them.
That’s something Chris Weyant is trying to better understand. A cartoonist by trade, Weyant’s work stretches across the publishing world in many forms. He draws gag cartoons for the New Yorker, produces award-winning children’s books with his wife, Anna Kang, and is an accomplished political cartoonist who spent 15 years skewering Washington’s elite in the pages of The Hill.
Weyant is a year removed from participating as a Nieman Fellow, just the second cartoonist accepted into the prestigious journalism program in its nearly 80 years of existence. He left his wife and two kids in New Jersey and spent a full year at Harvard, taking classes, speaking with fellow journalists and editors and trying to tackle a question in the forefront of his mind: Why aren’t political cartoons more popular online?
“It just didn’t seem to make sense,” Weyant said of the lack of interest in digital political cartoons at newspapers…