Dec 13, 2019 • 42M

Theory of Change #006: Editorial cartoons in the age of the meme (Nick Anderson and Nate Beeler)

Editorial cartooning is under threat in the age of the meme

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Matthew Sheffield
Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen? History is filled with stories of people and institutions that spent big and devoted many resources to effect change but have little to show for it. By contrast, many societal developments have happened without forethought from anyone. And of course, change can be negative as well as positive. In each episode of this weekly program, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield delves deep with guests to discuss larger trends in politics, religion, media, and technology.
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The internet and the explosion of free political content that it created has had a dramatic effect on the media industry. Lots of people have lost their jobs as previously profitable newspapers and magazines have slashed budgets in the hopes of surviving in a marketplace while also being eaten alive by hedge funds that have become notorious for carving up publications and selling off the parts.

One sector of journalism that’s been particularly harmed in recent years is editorial cartooning. Ten years ago, most major-city daily newspapers employed artists to draw their takes on the news of the day. Now, however, the ranks of editorial cartoonists have shrunk drastically.

There’s an irony here, however, because these cuts to cartooning jobs have also come during a time in which the visual image has never been more important in American culture thanks to the explosive popularity of memes, those images with funny (and often political) messages that even your grandparents know about.

That’s why several of America’s top editorial cartoonists have joined together to form their own media outlet called Counterpoint dedicated solely to gathering high-quality artists from both sides of the political spectrum and presenting their work to the public.

In this episode, we’re joined by Nick Anderson, one of Counterpoint’s co-founders who formerly worked at the Houston Chronicle and Nate Beeler, a veteran cartoonist who draws at Counterpoint after previously working at the Columbus Dispatch.

During our conversation, we talk about Counterpoint, the newspaper industry, and cartooning during the age of the internet meme.

We also discuss why artists expressing their opinions seem to face more anger from political opponents than people who write or speak their opinions.