As Breen leaves the Union-Tribune, some thoughts on political cartoons

Barry JantzBarry Jantz Leave a Comment


If you missed Steve Breen’s farewell cartoon in The San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday, it’s worth seeing, along with his departing message.

I shared it on Facebook, resulting in a couple messages from those who apparently don’t always appreciate Breen’s politics.

As a student of journalism and the history of journalism, I came to love the history of editorial cartoons in this country, not only as an art form, but also as a reflection of current events.

A glance back at some of the best political cartoons published over the years provides compelling snapshots into history, often casting humor on the most pressing issues of the day.

One of the most famous such political editorial cartoons is the 1812 “Gerry-mander,” showing the extent to which Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry pushed salamander-like district boundaries favoring his party. The cartoon ended up coining the gerrymander term now used for over 200 years in politics.

Hundreds of thousands of editorial cartoons over the years have provided humor and opinion to millions of readers, in a unique, succinct way a written editorial can’t begin to touch.

Political cartoons were memes before there were memes. They are the impactful and artful sound bites of opinion, as compared to the 500 to 750 word editorial piece that oftentimes people just don’t take the time to read.

If a picture tells a thousand words, a political cartoon may compress the same number of words into a singular point.

Of course I don’t always agree with the sentiments of the cartoonists. Does anyone? When Steve Kelley was with the local paper, his work was probably more reflective of my opinions. Yet Steve Breen often made me laugh, even at times I may not have agreed with the message his creativity meant to convey.

Breen is just one of the many talented journalists leaving the SDUT in the aftermath of the recent sale. I salute them all, whether or not I may have always agreed with them.

As for Breen in particular, I’ll miss his creative artwork and thought-provoking humor.


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