When I placed my audio recorder on the table, Walt Handelsman was immediately suspicious:
What do you work for the NSA? What is that thing? I looked at it twice. I thought it was a Geiger counter.
Government surveillance, as it turns out, is one of the many things that annoys Handelsman and he turns that irritation into cartoons that appear in more than 200 newspapers nationwide.
Handelsman visited Flagler College on Feb. 11. He is one of America’s best-known cartoonists. His work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications. He won journalism’s top honor – the Pulitzer Prize – in 1997 and 2007.
Handelsman got into cartooning right out of college. Sadly, he said, editorial cartooning is “a dying field.”
If you wanted to be an editorial cartoonist when I graduated from college, which was 1979, there were probably 250 editorial cartoonists in the country. It was still hard then. You had to wait for someone to die or retire. It was really a job no one left.
Then newspapers consolidated and every city that had two or three newspapers had one. Many of the cartoonists were lost during that period of time in the 1990s. Then the Internet, cable news and all that began shrinking newspaper revenue. Newspapers stupidly, I think, got rid of many of their cartoonists. And so if I saw a young person now who wanted to do political cartooning, I would try to suggest that they do animation or some kind of other political satire because the field is on its way out.
Pursue whatever is going to make you happy. You may want to try animation. You may want to try something that is more web-based.
The bottom line is, will political satire be alive and well? Absolutely, but will it be seen as a cartoon, animation or something else? No one knows.
One thing’s clear, he said:
The idea of poking politicians and doing satire on social commentary is not going to go away.