Mike Luckovich on Artists and Writers

Today, Mike Luckovich, Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, discusses media coverage of the White House, media bias in the cartoon world and the shape of John Kerry’s jaw.

Brian Montopoli: What effect do you think you and other cartoonists have on the media? Do you think reporters pay attention to your work?

Mike Luckovich: The media’s gun-shy when it comes to the multiple shenanigans being perpetrated by the White House. Cartoonists seem to be the only ones holding politicians accountable, so we’re obviously not having much impact on the rest of the media.

BM: How can cartoons be effective in ways that other mediums can’t?

ML: Cartoons don’t have to be polite. They’re not about, “on the one hand, on the other hand….” they’re immediate, straightforward. And because they’re a single image, they leave a lasting imprint in the mind.

BM: Has it become harder, over the years, for cartoonists to be as provocative as they’d like to in mainstream publications? What’s the climate like right now?

ML: I think it’s gotten harder to be provocative. Not because mainstream publications won’t allow it, but because there are so many other things competing for a reader’s attention, and it’s hard to shock anymore. Personally, the way I try to remain edgy is to get my points across using humor, because if it’s funny, people pay attention.

BM: There’s a lot of talk about bias in the media. What about in the cartoon world? Is there a liberal or conservative bent?

ML: I think it’s fair to say that most artists, including cartoonists, are liberal. That said, I don’t think there’s a liberal bias, because when a Democrat’s in office and misbehaves, none of us hold back (just ask Clinton). More than liberal or conservative, the word that defines us is “cynical.”

BM: From a strictly artistic perspective, which candidate would you have most liked to see emerge from the Democratic primary? (You seem to have had a lot of fun drawing Bush?)

ML: You ask the question in a dignified way, but the plain answer is, we just want the candidate who looks goofiest. We all sobbed when Lieberman got out. A Sharpton presidency would be worth it just for his hair, but I think we cartoonists can’t complain having Kerry as the Democratic nominee. And Jay Leno has to be happy there’s someone out there with a longer jaw.

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.