Cartoon revival: Chicago Tribune brings back the sketch

Though political cartoons have long graced editorial pages, many newspapers have turned their backs on these satirical drawings.

But in a surprise announcement, the Chicago Tribune revealed today they had named cartoonist Scott Stantis to their editorial board effective the first of September. The Tribune has not had an editorial cartoonist since Pulitzer Prize winner Jeff MacNelly died in June 2000.

The decision is perhaps a testament to the shift towards more image-heavy news content. Earlier this week, the Hartford Courant released numbers for their top five most viewed pages since their Web site redesign — three in the list were slide shows. And the graphically resplendent Daily News broke into the top five most visited newspaper sites in the month of July.

Said Ted Rall, president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, about the decision:

Competing with the Internet requires newspapers to showcase their editorial pages and to use edgier, more graphic content… Editorial cartoons are a vital part of that formula, especially the local- and state-issue cartoons that only a staff editorial cartoonist can provide.

Maybe the Tribune’s move to provide entertaining political images will reintroduce the watchdog service that used to fall to investigative journalists. That is, before readers turned away from print and to graphics for their news, forcing the same papers to cut actual reporters from the newsroom.

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