Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Cartooning Hell: Even A Rejection Would Be Nice

Plenty of outgoing emails this morning and, so far, only one automated response suggesting that I’d managed to hit the nerve feeding raw photographs from field reporters straight into a newspaper’s command centre. My cartoon will clearly find the wrong person. I need to try again another day with another cartoon. Meanwhile, I'll have to throw last night’s effort away now that its moment has passed.

One of the biggest struggles I seem to face is simply finding the right person to talk to. Newspapers don’t list the contact details of the cartoon editor and newspapers increasingly don’t publish any email addresses of their staff. It’s an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed as the separation of them and us gets ever larger. It’s as if news operates at a level above that of your common man; a conviction that grows stronger every day as the people who make news always seem to know the people who report the news.

The paradox is, of course, that the media continually tell us that they’re listening. They go to great lengths to throw up their Twitter handles and to tell us to get in touch, but that’s one of the problems I realised about Twitter a long time ago. Behind this supposed utopia where everybody is equal is a great publicity machine working against our ultimate emancipation. Because social media feeds the media with free content (‘Hey! Send us your photos of the storm [whispers] but don’t expect to be paid’) it allows them to stop listening, stop seeking professional services, and to keep the controls inside a very tight circle in the heart of London.

I come from a family of news obsessives and once 24 hour news started, we rarely watched anything in the day followed by the BBC News at 6pm, 9pm and Newsnight on BBC2. Sky News used to be the best news channel but they reduced their service to a rolling 15 minute cycle of perhaps 3 news items and the BBC has become our regular source of information. It’s a shame. Sky News used to be something compelling and really special; as special, in fact, as Sky’s sports coverage or their 3D service, which I’ve had chance to glimpse a few times and is amazing at its best. They also had some of the best young journalists and come the day that the BBC retires the great John Simpson, Sky News have his ideal replacement in the even greater (in my opinion) Tim Marshall.

But I digress. Sending cartoons, articles, and books away in the hope that somebody will be willing to take a moment and look at them can be a shocking business for your self-esteem. I’d always been prepared for rejection. I’ve had enough in my time and I welcome rejection when somebody actually tells me what I'm doing wrong. However, nothing ever prepared me for the reality of the silence.

To break into the news circle as either a cartoonist of writer is extraordinarily frustrating. I end up sending work to vague sounding inboxes such as ‘the news’ or ‘tellusabout’ or simply ‘contact’, which probably aren’t read by anybody .

I thought writing books hard work but nothing was like the hard work of trying to get somebody read the damn things. It’s the same with writing essays and drawing cartoons. Selling them is the horrible side of the business when it should really be the easiest. I started last night cartoon’s about 5pm, worked on it at a relaxed (dare I saw blissfully happy) pace through the night and started to apply colour about 9pm. I was finished about 2am. It sounds like a long time and result isn’t going to set the world alight but then, I’m still learning and the time I take is time I put aside to learn this craft. Last night I also discovered that I can do a couple of things with my technology that I previously thought impossible. I wish my craft could make two breakthroughs a night. I should do some night school course on how to draw, though the thought of having to sketch some local hobo in his posing pouch doesn’t fill me with excitement given that very few of our local hobos look are as sexy as Kate Upton. But then again, neither are many cartoonists… It’s a cruel world.

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