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Choosing political cartoons

September 21, 2004

In the upper righthand corner of this page is a cartoon, but it's not like most of those which appear on The Herald-Mail's comics pages.

This is a political cartoon. The point of most of these is to make a political point with humor.

This year, more than in any other political year in recent memory, we've gotten regular reader complaints about the cartoons we've used.

Because anyone who purchases a product is allowed to complain about it, we listen to those complaints. We also believe we owe readers some explanation of how we choose the cartoons that we do use.

Unlike the big metropolitan newspapers that have their own political cartoonists, The Herald-Mail purchases its cartoons from a syndicated service.

On most days, the service offers eight or more artists, including one from Canada and others from South America. But even with all those choices, on some days it's difficult to pick one that is humorous without being "over the top."

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We don't want to use any cartoon that suggests that either of the presidential candidates is evil. Whatever objections people have to their policies and proposals, few thinking individuals believe that President Bush or Sen. John Kerry are wicked people.

Therefore, we've rejected cartoons that show either man in that light. We're looking for something subtler that will make even the supporters of either man smile, since, after all, neither one is perfect.

Have we always done that successfully? Probably not. In addition, what seems like a gentle gibe to us may come across as a slanderous insult to some Bush or Kerry supporters.

Our performance is always improved by public input, so we would encourage those who are offended to let us know, as some readers have already done.

That does not mean that we're going to stop trying to put items on this page that provoke thought and stimulate dicussion and debate.

It does mean that we want readers' input on what we use and how they perceive it.

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