Cartoon Journalism

Journalism is the process of imparting the truth to people. It is a journalist’s duty and responsibility to convey it in its raw and original form. But the truth is always a bitter pill to swallow, and doing so continually, grows strenuous. To inform people about severe subjects in amusing ways, Cartoon Journalism was invented. The earliest use of cartoons to inform people, was done by printmaker Currier and Ives, a printmaking firm based in New York City, from 1835 to 1907.

George Luks, an American artist, illustrated American Civil War battles. He was also one of the first to use his artworks as a form of journalism. Thomas Nast was also a cartoonist who created political cartoons.

Cartoon Journalism, also known as Graphic Journalism, covers news or non-fiction events using the framework of cartoons, illustrations, etc.

Cartoons represent the happenings in a rather direct way. They make understanding news and information, enjoyable. Reading news, has become way more fascinating than it used to be, due to Cartoon Journalism.

Also Read – Cartoons: The era of Yellow Journalism (Serious Subjects, Fun Way)

Why is Cartoon Journalism considered as Background Journalism?

The term ‘on background’ refers to the usage of the information provided by the source, but not naming the source directly. The articles/news reports with ‘on background’ sources, fall under Background Journalism.

In this kind of journalism, the verifications delivered by the source, can be published. But the sources do not want their names released, though will generally agree to a description of their post.

In most cartoons or comics, only the name of the illustrator is mentioned. The source however, is seldom stated, sometimes not revealed at all.

This then becomes ‘on background’ information as only the data disclosed by the source, is obtainable to the citizens. The name of the informant is rarely known. Hence, these cartoons also come to be known as Background Journalism.

Political Cartoons:

1. “Join or Die”


It was America’s first ever political cartoon, made by Benjamin Franklin in 1754. The idea behind it, was to increase support for the Union of Britain’s North American Colonies

The snake is severed into 13 pieces, each piece representing an American colony. Benjamin Franklin’s goal was to unite the colonists to combat the French and their Native American allies. He didn’t the achieve that goal, but this image was so powerful and persuasive that it took on a life of its own.

2. “The Common Man”

RK Laxman was one of the most famed cartoonists in India. His most noted cartoon character was, ‘The Common Man’. He highlighted the hopes and grievances of the common Indian masses in a light hearted yet critical way.

The petrol pump handle is acting as a weapon and holding the common man hostage. This illustration represents the major hike in petrol prices, brought about by the government, that upset the general public.

3.“The Plumb-pudding in Danger”

British writer, Martin Rowson hailed it as “the greatest political cartoon ever”. It is a typical Georgian-era’s cartoonist’s satire, drawn in 1805 by James Gillray.

It portrays French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and British prime minister William Pitt, hungrily carving a plum- pudding, shaped like the world. It is a humorous representation of the leaders’ battle for geopolitical power.

4. “The New Year’s Gift”

This cartoon appeared at the end of the Indian Mutiny. It was published on 2ndJanuary, 1858. Sir Colin Campbell, the British general appointed to subdue the Indian Sepoy Rebellion in 1857, is gifting a leashed tiger, to the hesitant British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston. The unruly tiger represents India, only recently pacified, but not quite tamed. This is a reference to the official suspicion in London, regarding the British government stepping in, to take direct control over India.

5. “Boss Tweed and the Tammany Ring”

Often praised as “the father of the American cartoon”, Thomas Nast, was best known for his works, ridiculing politicians William Magear Tweed and Tammany Hall, during 1870s.

This illustration highlights the so-called Tammany ring’s corruption and insolence. It was in reference to its Democratic political machine led by, William Tweed, which was frequently accused of nepotism.

Also Read – Cartoons: The era of Yellow Journalism (Serious Subjects, Fun Way)

Importance of Cartoon Journalism:

One of the most significant forms of journalism is Cartoon Journalism. Cartoons are an integral part of newspapers, online news platforms, etc. They have helped establish and sustain the peoples’ attention to subjects such as political satire, social events/issues, economical disputes, prominent individuals, etc.

Cartoon Journalism makes citizens aware of the lighter aspects of the harsh and brutal information, without reducing it to laughing matter. Cartoons convey a lot of information in very few words. The emotions behind them are genuine, and although harsh, they are taken with a sense of humour.

India has had legendary cartoonists, such as RK Laxman, Rajinder Puri, etc. They have contributed a lot in the field of Cartoon Journalism. They made the grim and cruel realities of the government and society, seem less difficult to handle.

Cartoons provide a lighter alternative to traditional news reporting, providing a welcome break from the increasingly depressing community and social dialogue. Cartoons provide accessible and immediate comments and analysis on current events due to their capacity to distil news and viewpoints into a caricature.

They are a unique form of journalism, that cast a powerful interpretation on the day’s news. They explain and explore stories in a manner, articles cannot. More effective than writing, they capture the exemplary human nature of their subjects, in order to humanise the topic they depict.

Also Read – The Reality of Drugs and Substance Abuse in India

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