What happened to balance of cartoons?

Question: Until a couple months ago, I defended the S-R as a rare, unbiased source of information; at least in your Opinion page. When someone accused you of a liberal/conservative bias (check one) I would direct them to Section B, where they could almost always find one political cartoon from each side of the aisle.

What happened? That's no longer the case. Now you run two pro-Bush cartoons in nearly every issue. Please say it wasn't the President's visit to Spokane ... The one that raised big advertising bucks to promote the conservative cause.
Coincidentally, that's about the same time you stopped giving equal time to the editorial cartoons. -- Brent Helmick, Spokane

Answer: I would be surprised to find any pro-Bush cartoons on our pages, or pro-Kerry for that matter. In my experience with political cartoonists, they are rarely pro-anything. They are professional lampooners and can better be categorized by what they are against.

That said, I looked back over the past week and looked at the past 15 cartoons to appear on our opinion pages. In my judgment, four were anti-Kerry and two were anti-Bush. One was critical of Republican party policies but not specifically the president. Another cartoon commemorated (over a "thousand points of light" caption) the thousand-death threshold for U.S. service personnel in Iraq; conceiveably, calling attention to the war's toll could be considered anti-Bush, but I didn't include it in that category for my tally.

As for the other seven cartoons out of the sample, there were a variety of targets -- Kobe Bryant, Israel, Dan Rather, assault weapons and terrorists. One poked fun at Bill Clinton for his dietary habits.

The fact is that cartoonists are satirists, motivated more by irreverence than ideology. We subscribe to a good mix and make every effort to present a balanced selection. In short stretches, there will occassionally be a tilt one way or the other, such as the 4-2 edge in Bush's favor over the past week. An accurate measure needs to be taken over time.

Interestingly, it wasn't that long ago that we were hearing about the imbalance in favor of liberal points of view. We were aware at that time that we had few conservative perspectives in our mix and, to correct that, we added a couple of cartoonists to the stable.

We still hear that criticism from the right from time to time. With this message, we're hearing it from the left. Maybe we've struck a balance after all. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

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