Brian Sandford: Political cartoons are aimed at provoking thought

A longtime reader recently wrote in suggesting a political cartoon that appeared in our newspaper July 27 misled the public about President Obama’s position on an issue. He asked why most cartoons the Appeal runs seem to poke fun at the president.

I called him with a simple answer: Because Obama’s the president. When you’ve got one of the most powerful jobs in the world, you’re sticking your neck out for criticism. Well, unless you’re leading China or Russia, where you can simply control everything the media says about you. (And where the people who criticize the leader are sticking their necks out … literally.)

Political cartoons work best when they feature someone famous enough that he/she needs no introduction in text. That allows the text to perform a different function, to play off the accompanying illustration. Few current figures are as universally recognizable as Obama.

As I’ve alluded to in previous columns, our chief goal in the newsroom is informative, unbiased and intelligent reporting. That generally wasn’t the case at newspapers back in the 1800s.

That’s when men would run newspapers not necessarily for a love of news delivery, but to have a powerful medium through which to deliver their political opinions. It’s no coincidence that a number of newspapers nationwide have “Republican” or “Democrat” in their very names.

As a way to influence public opinion, the papers would run highly sarcastic or simply critical cartoons skewing political enemies, who often were on the local or state level. The paper’s owner had a vested interest in souring readers on the targeted person.

In choosing our political cartoons, we have no vested interest in changing your mind about anyone. We just want to make you think. I chose the ones we’re running today with that goal in mind.

Anytime you detect potential bias in our newspaper, you’re welcome to contact me at the email address below. I’ll be listening.

Editor Brian Sandford can be reached at


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