The announcement last Friday (Aug. 27) of our latest caption contest winner brought in more e-mails than usual questioning my judgement:
"If anyone ever doubted your political leaning, your choice of this week’s winner leaves no doubt!"
"I can’t believe you picked that caption as winner. Biased liberal media!!"
"Do you have any sort of idea of being unbiased? Where is the 'fairness' that Liberals always scream about? We have a terrible economy (and many other problems) driven wildly worse by this president and you come up with the Republicans having no wisdom? You pick the winners so your cartoon is your political statement. I am shocked that you can find such little to crow about with the current administration and its follies. Get real Kevin."
"You could have picked a caption that did not reference a political party, unless you are a democrat"
"I've always admired your clever wit and your artistry although they occasionally are gratuitously mean spirited. I just wish you leaned like me a tad to the right (or not at all)! Anyway, I think your choice of winner this week is atypically lame, especially compared to the hilarious winners in past weeks. 'Seeking wisdom and knowledge? Sorry, I'm a Republican'??? That's a weak and cheesy cheap shot with scarcely a hint of humor, creativity or wit. I'm not biased on this either. If one replaced 'Republican' with 'Democrat', it would be equally as weak. What happened to your judgement this week?"
"Just fell all over yourself posting that one didn't you? God, your arrogant smugness sickens me."
How to respond? A few points:
•Criticizing an editorial cartoon for being unfair and biased is like criticizing a cow for being bovine. It's the nature of the beast. A good editorial cartoon almost always has a clear, one-sided point of view -- it's one of the things that makes it such a powerful and valuable vehicle of opinion. A good editorial cartoon always has some bite. Which means, of course, that somebody gets bitten.
•The name of this blog is "You Write the Caption." Which means, despite the above letter-writers' assertions to the contrary, I don't consider these cartoons my political opinion. I have five days a week where I put my two cents in the paper. The raw material for this blog is captions submitted by readers -- these are their opinions. What I try to do is decide which of them best combines with the drawing to make the best editorial cartoon possible. There's no perfectly objective way to do that, of course. Humor is subjective. But I admire the work of both Mike Ramirez and Mike Luckovich enough to know that it isn't being liberal or conservative that makes a cartoon great. Sometimes I'll agree with the ideology expressed by our readers' captions, but many times not. The fact that we've received many comments as well over the last several weeks of a right-wing bias creeping into the contest tells me that, while it may not be a sign of some perfect balance, at least both sides are being bitten in the process.
•As I said, it's a subjective process. So while we pick a contest winner each week, our say is certainly not the last on the subject. We don't have the manpower in the editorial department to compile votes and pick the readers' favorite, as The New Yorker does, but we do have this online blog which lets readers comment on the choice, whether they agree or disagree. It's that little blue link called 'Comments' located just below this post. Please click and let us know if you have further thoughts!