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Blog Newsletter Syndicate

Social Media and Stifling Free Speech

Cartoon by the great Dario Castillejos from Oaxaca, Mexico

I wrote a syndicated newspaper column yesterday. Here it is.

While the mainstream media is rightfully focused on the second impeachment of President Trump and the assault on the Capitol, right wing media is obsessed with “Freedom of Speech.”

Right wing outlets are calling for action against the “censorship” of conservatives by big, liberal, tech companies after Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites banned President Trump, taking away his preferred megaphone. The radical social media platform Parler was shut down after Amazon refused to continue hosting the site.

I run a newspaper syndicate for editorial cartoons and columns. Half of America’s daily, paid-circulation newspapers subscribe to my service, which features about 75 political cartoonists and ten columnists. Sometimes I choose to “kill” a cartoon or column that I think is inappropriate, which often leads to an angry response from the creator about censorship and First Amendment rights. I always remind them that I have First Amendment rights too, and I can choose to syndicate whatever I want.

I also hear from cartoonists whom I don’t syndicate, demanding to be on my Web site as some kind of entitlement, claiming that I’m violating their rights by refusing to allow their voice to be heard. I also hear from cartoonists in nations with no press freedom about how their government censors their cartoons; they claim this is “just the same as in America” because there are editors here who kill cartoons, too.

Cartoonists don’t seem to understand that our First Amendment rights of free speech and a free press are protections only against censorship by the government, and they don’t give cartoonists a right to be reprinted in any publication or a right to avoid editors. Cartoonists don’t have the right to be syndicated, or to be reprinted in newspapers, and no one has the First Amendment right to force Twitter or Facebook to post their rants.

If I syndicate anything that violates the rights of third parties, I can be sued. Potential liability encourages people to act responsibly. President Trump wants to strike back at social media companies by repealing “Section 230,” which generally protects these companies from liability for third party content, treating the social media sites more like telephone companies that aren’t held responsible for what people say on their telephones.

Defenders of Section 230 argue that big tech can’t be expected to police the billions of posts on their sites. This is nonsense.

Social media sites may not be liable for user posts that libel or incite violence, but they are liable for copyright infringement, and there are millions of posts that violate copyrights, especially involving cartoons. Congress imposed rules on big tech in the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act” (DMCA) that created a procedure for copyright holders to demand that a hosting company remove infringing content within a short time period, and if they don’t, the hosting company can be sued.

As a cartoonist and syndicate guy, I’ve filed hundreds of these “DMCA notices,” and in every case the hosting company has followed the procedure properly and responded to take down the content before their deadline. Some people complain about abuses of the DMCA system, but the system works, and it proves that tech companies can comply with millions of demands from injured third parties.

Why should tech companies have liability protections for some kinds of third party content (libel or incitement to violence) and not for others (copyright infringement)? Big tech can and should be liable for any harm they do.

The Section 230 protections for big social media companies should be repealed. But that’s not really what conservatives want, because removing these protections will make the tech companies act even more responsibly, prompting them to remove even more voices from the far right.

Calls to repeal Section 230 have been diminishing as conservatives begin to see this irony, replaced by calls for big tech monopolies to be broken up, replaced by condemnations of “censorship,” and replaced by demands for “Free Speech” that use the same goofy logic I hear from cartoonists.


Our reader supported site, Cagle.com, still needs you!  Journalism is threatened with the pandemic that has shuttered newspaper advertisers. Some pundits predict that a large percentage of newspapers won’t survive the pandemic economic slump, and as newspapers sink, so do editorial cartoonists who depend on newspapers, and along with them, our Cagle.com site, that our small, sinking syndicate largely supports, along with our fans.

The world needs political cartoonists more now than ever. Please consider supporting Cagle.com and visit Cagle.com/heroes.  We need you! Don’t let the cartoons die!

 

Categories
Blog Newsletter Syndicate

CagleCartoons.com Changes

We’ve made some changes to the front page of our syndicate site, CagleCartoons.com that will affect our contributing artists. Here is my latest Bloomberg cartoon that I will use an an example below.

I’ll use my recent Bloomberg cartoon as an example of the changes on CagleCartoons.com
This is the revised front page of CagleCartoons.com, our syndicate download site for editors, as it appear today.

The CagleCartoons.com site is the core of our little business. This is where our subscription customers get their cartoons and columns; these are mostly daily, paid-circulation newspapers in the USA who put our content on their editorial pages. (If you only read our blog and Cagle.com you may want to read no further, as this doesn’t affect you. This may be a bit wonky for most readers.)

–The Issues and the Changes

We’re the only syndicate that has their client download site (CagleCartoons.com) available for everyone to see. We’ve been addressing some nagging issues with how we deliver the cartoons on the site. Most editors only look for what is new on the front page of the site and don’t consider older cartoons in our vast database. Often (such as every Thursday) we had too many new cartoons for the front page and cartoons that were loaded early in the day were gone later in the day, pushed out by the newest contributions. Unless an editor visited twice a day, she wouldn’t see all of the new cartoons –and most editors don’t visit every day.

In general, 20% of the cartoons get 80% of the reprints. In other words, editors don’t like 80% of the cartoons, and with all of the cartoons rushing to leave the front page, too many editors complained that they were not seeing enough cartoons they liked.

We encourage our cartoonists to submit black and white versions of their cartoons, because cartoons designed for black and white look better than color cartoons converted to grayscale where some colors come out too dark and cartoons often flatten to a dull gray. The many black and white duplicate versions of the cartoons were taking up front page space that now goes to displaying more color versions of cartoons. The black and white images are now available on the “preview” download pages of the color “parent” cartoon.

We encourage cartoonists to upload their cartoons in a higher resolution than the cartoonists prefer, and we encourage cartoonists to save their work in tiff format, which is not “lossy” like jpg and png formats.  (Editors prefer jpg).

Cartoons should be archived in tiff format, so there is no loss to the original. We see our archive as a library and we want to treat the original cartoon files like historical documents that deserve to be preserved without loss –as high resolution tiff files.

We also encourage artists to save their work in CMYK format so their black lines are crispy and the cartoons don’t suffer from bad printing with poor registration. Editors prefer RGB. Until now editors have had to suffer from cartoons in different formats as the unruly herd of cartoonist/cats saved their work in different formats, now editors can download the tiff files as jpg files.

Trump-Friendly, Popular, and the World …

Some time ago, in response to complaints from Trump-supporting editors, we added a section near the top of the page called TRUMP FRIENDLY CARTOONS. This went a long way to dealing with the complaints from red state editors. We recently added a new section called POPULAR CARTOONS that pushed the WORLD CARTOONS section down the page below the fold; the purpose of the new section is to keep the most popular cartoons on the front page longer so editors don’t miss what they want most. The TRUMP FRIENDLY CARTOONS are often among the most popular cartoons with editors. We won’t put the same cartoons in both sections so they won’t be shown twice (or three times) on the front page, so if a TRUMP FRIENDLY cartoon is also a POPULAR CARTOON, it will appear only in the TRUMP FRIENDLY section.

The POPULAR CARTOONS aren’t really “trending” in the internet sense, because readers tend to like different cartoons than editors. In general, editors prefer funny cartoons that don’t express a strong point of view, while readers on the Web respond most to cartoons that pull no punches and reinforce their existing points of view. We still have all kinds of cartoons, strong and soft, left and right, but we’re making it easier for editors to see cartoons they prefer on our site. After all, this site is designed for ease of use by editors. (Cagle.com is designed for readers.)

We love the world cartoonists, but American editors don’t, and these are the least downloaded cartoons by our newspaper subscribers –so we’ve pushed the WORLD CARTOONS down the page they are still there, and there are just as many of them displayed.

The black and white versions of cartoons are no longer taking up spots on the front page, they are displayed on the preview pages of their accompanying “parent” color versions that editors see when they choose to download cartoons after logging in. Cartoons that exist only as black and white will still appear on the front page.

This is an example of an image preview or download page on CagleCartoons.com today, this is our syndicate download site for editors, as it appear today. This is what editors see after they log in, giving them options to download the high resolution version of the cartoon in different formats.

Preview Page Changes

Clicking on any thumbnail image on the site brings up a “preview page” that looks different for editors who have logged in. An example of what editors see is at the right.

Editors have many options for downloading cartoons, they can download the high resolution images to their device, or email the cartoon to themselves, or to another email address. They can also choose to receive different versions of the cartoons. I upload my cartoons in CMYK tiff format, which is “non-lossy” and best for some kinds of printing. Editors prefer RGB jpg format which is what they are used to getting from photo services like AP. Now editors can download in tiff, jpg and png formats, as CMYK or as RGB if the cartoonist saved her cartoon in CMYK format, as we recommend and as few cartoonists do.

When cartoonists prepare a separate black and white version of a color cartoon, it now appears as a “related variation” only on the preview page for editors to download, rather than with the thumbnails on the front page and in searches. In general, when a black and white version of a cartoon is available, one third of the downloads for the cartoon are for the black and white version.

In the future we may make other variations available to editors on the preview pages, such as foreign language versions or different dimensions that cartoonists may want to do, or such as a taller version or wider version.

Newspaper editors hate when cartoonists use dirty words, but many cartoonists love dirty words which are commonplace on the Web. We’re considering allowing cartoonists to do “dirty word versions” of their cartoons that would be available as variations since there is so much demand for that among the cartoonists. We haven’t quite convinced ourselves do that yet, since most of our subscribers are traditional newspapers. Maybe we will.

We’re also considering adding a feature that will allow editors to select the resolution of the cartoon they download. For now, the resolution of the cartoon is displayed on the preview page. Sometimes we get complaints about cartoons that artists uploaded in low resolution (this is more often a problem with the world cartoonists who have a harder time accepting higher resolution). Unfortunately, it does no good to try to increase the resolution of a low resolution original; this option is only good for resizing cartoons to lower resolutions or dimensions, which would be helpful for Web clients.

Editors can see the resolution on the preview page so they won’t be surprised after downloading the cartoon. There is more demand for higher resolution cartoons now as new devices have higher resolution displays and as better printing processes demand more from cartoon files that are blown up as illustrations.

That’s it for now. More changes will be coming soon!


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Categories
Blog Newsletter Syndicate

Gatehouse Guts our Guys

Editorial cartoonists losing their staff jobs has become old news as staff cutbacks at newspaper chains continue, but yesterday was an especially bad day. The Gatehouse chain laid off three staff cartoonists, Nate Beeler of The Columbus Dispatch, Rick McKee of The Augusta Chronicle and Mark Streeter of The Savannah Morning News. They have been regular contributors to our Cagle.com site for close to fifteen years. Gatehouse’s fourth cartoonist, Dave Granlund, was not laid off, apparently because he works under a freelance contract and was not an employee. Beeler and McKee are part of our CagleCartoons.com newspaper syndicate and are among our most popular cartoonists.

Gatehouse is America’s largest newspaper chain in terms of number of newspapers. (Gannett is the largest newspaper chain in term of number of readers.) The three cartoonists who were laid off were part of Gatehouse’s “More Content Now” shared services, distributing their work in internal syndication to all of the Gatehouse newspapers, so their loss will be felt by a large number of newspapers. Even though the value of the creative contribution of the three cartoonists’ work was multiplied across all the newspapers in the Gatehouse chain, making them much more valuable than the other employees laid off in this round of cuts, this cost-cutting move by Gatehouse doesn’t come as a surprise.

Rick tells me he hopes to continue drawing cartoons for the approximately 850 newspapers that subscribe to our syndicate, and I hope the same will be true for Nate. My sincere condolences go out to all three, and I am confident that they will continue to have successful cartooning careers as their work turns in new directions.

Here are the most recent cartoons by Rick McKee of The Augusta Chronicle, Nate Beeler of The Columbus Dispatch and Mark Streeter of The Savannah Morning News.

 

Categories
Blog Newsletter Syndicate

Chinese Hackers! Ouch!

On Thursday night, last week, we suffered an unusually effective series of attacks from Chinese hackers against our database server that have brought our database and our CagleCartoons.com download site down, along with our PoliticalCartoons.com store site.

Chinese hackers, looking over my shoulder.

On Friday, my valiant editors Brian and Stacey Fairrington, answered over 250 calls and emails from editors to give them the new, emergency, interim Google Drive cartoon download location where we set up a temporary download site for the recent cartoons. Our new columns are available on Cagle.com, see them on the front page at the right. (If you’re a client who needs access to the interim Google Drive site to download the recent cartoons, email [email protected] and we’ll give you the link.)

Our cartoonists should email new cartoons to us at [email protected], which goes to all of us; we will manually add your cartoons to the Google Drive interim download site and we will be sending new cartoons out to the editors who take email delivery through MailChimp until we have a new CagleCartoons.com back up with a new database and server. We’re updating Cagle.com manually for now, so it may be slow to display new cartoons. Payments to the cartoonists who get paid quarterly went out a couple of weeks ago, and the royalty checks for the monthly cartoonists went out this weekend, for January. Don’t worry, the cartoonists have all been paid!

The Chinese hackers, who leave lots of Chinese language files and malware on our database server every time they break in, have been watching as we repair the server and they come back each time repairs are made to tear the server down again. We’ve tried but we can’t keep them out of our outdated system. The hackers win this round. We had to give up on the old server and we’re scrambling to re-write our management system to work with a current SQL server.

Regular readers know how we’ve had continuing problems with hackers attacking Cagle.com, mostly with DDos/denial of service attacks. Thanks to the generosity of Cloudflare, we’re fending off the DDos attacks.  The current problem is that we were using an older database and server for our CagleCartoons.com syndicate site and PoliticalCartoons.com store site, which left us vulnerable. We were too complacent, since the attacks were all against Cagle.com in the past. Our old database system worked so well that I hated the prospect of the cost and hassle of recreating it with newer, more defensible code.  I procrastinated too long.

We don’t keep confidential information online. No credit card information was stolen.

The editors have all been lovely about this and we haven’t gotten any complaints – at least not so far. It has been nice to see the support and goodwill from our subscription clients at a time when they could justifiably be grouchy.

I also appreciate the heroic efforts of our staff, Theo, Brian, Stacey and Rob, who have really stepped up this weekend to make things work through our database crisis.

I hate inconveniencing everyone. Thanks for your patience with this mess! We hope to have new versions of the CagleCartoons.com and PoliticalCartoons.com sites up soon.

Perhaps I’ve been drawing too many cartoons of Xi Jinping as Winnie the Pooh.

 

 

 

 

Categories
Blog Syndicate

Welcome Jos Collignon!

We just added a new cartoonist to our CagleCartoons.com newspaper syndication package – Jos Collignon from Holland. We think Jos is great! See more of his cartoons below, and on his Cagle.com archive here.

Welcome, Jos! This newspaper-reading-Trump-voters will see your cartoons now –give ’em hell!

 

Categories
Blog

See My Big, Long, Video Interview with Mr. Media

Here’s my long interview with Bob Andelman (Mr. Media) about my work, the editorial cartooning business and editorial cartoons around the world.

This is a cartoon I was working on when I did the interview at my drawing table.

Categories
Blog

Welcome Cristina Sampaio!

We just added a new cartoonist to our CagleCartoons.com newspaper syndicate and our Cagle.com site! Cristina Sampaio, the charming and brilliant cartoonist from Portugal. Here are a few samples of her work. Just another great reason for newspaper to subscribe to our syndicate! Read more about Cagle.com here.

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Blog

Farewell to NBCNews.com/msnbc.com

For the past six years we’ve enjoyed a partnership with msnbc.com (which recently changed its name to NBCNews.com) and for six years before that, with Slate.com when it was part of the Microsoft Network – all in all, twelve years with Microsoft and MSN.com.  I regret to write that our partnership has come to an end.

nbcnews Farewell to NBCNews.com/msnbc.com   cartoonsI was the official “editorial cartoonist” for Slate.com, msnbc.com and NBCNews.com.  Of-course, all of the cartoonists that work with us through our Cagle Cartoons syndicate and Politicalcartoons.com were featured on the MSN.com sites, including slide shows on news topics of the day on msnbc.com, the Today Show site and NBC Sports; we did a cartoon week in review and maintained a “CartoonBlog.”

Recently, msnbc.com changed ownership to be run by NBC, and NBC itself recently changed ownership.  It isn’t usual these days for cartoons to be cut to save costs, but we were cut for editorial reasons. The reason I was given for our departure was “the new management wants nothing to do with cartoons.” Msnbc.com/NBCNews.com has never had an opinion section, or other opinion content, so it is disappointing, but not entirely unexpected.

Readers of our Cagle.com site will see very few changes – the NBCNews.com logo is gone from our header and will be gone from my attribution in my future cartoons.  Our site will look the same as always; we’ll continue our syndication business as always at CagleCartoons.com and Politicalcartoons.com.

Our editors at MSN/Slate/msnbc/NBCNews were wonderful to work with all these years; I’ve appreciated their support for our cartoonists and our art form.  They loved what we did, let us do what we wanted and were happy with what we wanted to do – the perfect editors!  They were great.  I miss them already.