Robert Ehlert: Help the Statesman choose a ‘Tuesday Toon’

On most days one of my favorite duties is to select an editorial cartoon for publication in our print edition.

Some make me laugh. Some make me think. Some even make me angry — at the subject, at the cartoonist or for some other reason.

An editorial cartoon’s edge is so sharp sometimes, or so representative of one end of that political spectrum on a given day, that — well, I hear about it.

We publish about 470 editorial cartoons per year. These days the McClatchy Company also posts some online. These are the work of cartoonists affiliated with McClatchy-owned newspapers in places such as Charlotte, N.C.; Kansas City, Mo.; Miami; Sacramento; and Lexington, Ky.

I get to choose from McClatchy cartoonists and some others we purchase from The Washington Post, Politico and independent sources. The cartoons — like all of the other features we publish on the Opinions page (with the exception of Statesman Editorials) — are not necessarily our views, but those of the author or creator of the feature. We serve up a variety in an attempt to present that spectrum.

I’ll be the first to admit that choosing cartoons, Letters to the Editor, Guest Opinions and syndicated commentary is an inexact science. During the same week people have contacted me or others at the Statesman to say we are leaning too far left and too far right. When that happens, I figure we’re about where we are supposed to be.

Recently we published a cartoon that was on the topic of the Minnesota dentist/trophy hunter who killed Cecil the lion. It is not uncommon for our stable of available cartoonists to seize on the same “topic of the day.” Almost every one of them that week ended up depicting some version of a mounted head of a trophy hunter.

About a half-dozen people contacted us offended by one we used that was drawn by the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Joel Pett. His offering suggested a terrorist had done in the trophy hunter, and the caption read, “In a slightly more perfect world ... ”

We were accused of supporting terrorists and terrorism, which, obviously, we don’t and never have. But the lessons here are these: I wouldn’t run that one again because the mixed metaphors went out of bounds, and there is such a thing as too edgy to publish. For the record, I reject cartoons every day for a variety of reasons (see “inexact science,” above). I appreciate the feedback we got from our audience on this one. It made me think and gave me an idea.

I would like some more feedback. Today on the Statesman’s Facebook page I have posted three cartoons that are candidates for our Tuesday Opinions page. I’ve labeled them topically: Voting, Coal and Subway/Jared.

I’m asking those of you who are willing to choose one to do so in a comment on our Facebook page. The one with the most votes between now and Monday morning when I come in will be the one I will publish Tuesday.

I’m going to try this interactive opportunity for the next couple of weeks — load three cartoons on our Facebook page on Sundays — and see what kind of participation there is. I hope you play along and include the reasons you picked one cartoon over the others.

The Today’s Question feature we implemented earlier this summer and now this “Tuesday Toon” initiative are just two ways we hope you’ll become more involved with your Idaho Statesman.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman’s editorial page editor. Reach him at 377-6437 or follow @IDS_HelloIdaho