Political Cartoons A Fading Art

For eight years Kirk Anderson drew political cartoons for the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn.

"I was fortunate to be an editorial cartoonist while Jesse Ventura was our governor," he says.

Las year, he was suddenly fired.

"When I was let go, I was told it was strictly budgetary," says Anderson.

As CBS News Correspondent Anthony Mason reports, more and more cartoonists like Anderson are finding newspapers are erasing their jobs. The number of staff cartoonist positions at American papers has been cut from 150 to just 80 in little more than a decade.

What's making the editorial cartoonist an endangered species?

Well, there are fewer newspapers than there used to be, and newsprint costs more than it used to. But, in some cases, political cartoonists have become, well, too political.

"I remember the new publisher coming in and saying something to the effect of, 'Can we really go a little bit easier on Bush,'" says Mark Fiore, a former staff cartoonist for the San Jose Mercury News.

But he says his cartoons and the economy cost him his job.

"They want people to laugh, they want it to be light," he says. "They don't want to offend people."

Fiore's space in the Mercury News has been filled with cheaper, nationally syndicated cartoons.

"When a cartoonist leaves, dies or is fired, it's very rare for them right now to replace that cartoonist," says Fiore.

Fiore and Anderson are now doing freelance work. So would they recommend "print cartoonist" as a career?

"Not for someone looking to buy a Lexus anytime soon," says Anderson.

The cartoonist's job may be to make readers laugh, but these days it's no funny business.
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