Editorial cartoonists insulted by NYT solicitation

An editorial cartoonist tells Romenesko readers: “There’s a little tempest brewing in the cartoon teapot over an offer the NYT sent out yesterday to editorial cartoonists to submit sketches on spec. They then pick one to run in the Sunday Review section for which they’ll pay $250. A bunch of the cartoonists they solicited are taking the whole thing as an insult.”

Here’s the Times’ email

Hello –

The Sunday Review section is bringing back editorial cartoons! Each week a single-panel cartoon will run on page 2, facing our weekly comics by Brian McFadden.

Please email your submissions to sundayreviewcartoons@nytimes.com

There will be a few changes to the format we used at The Week in Review
– We will run 1 single-panel cartoon a week.
– The cartoon has to be original (not syndicated) and submitted to this email by Friday morning (11 a.m. deadline) for publication on Sunday.
– Compensation for an original cartoon will be $250.

The first cartoon will appear in the issue of February 26th.

(See the technical/payment details below.)

All the best,

Aviva Michaelov
Art director
Opinion Pages | Sunday Review


Please send an RGB, JPG file, at 300dpi. Approximate size is 6in wide x 4in high

Your cartoon will be proof read by our copy editors, if it is selected, please be prepared to correct any typos (if any) on Friday. The final file will be due by 4 p.m.

Payment process
We use an online payment system for invoicing. If your cartoon is selected you’ll get an email with our contract and a W-9 form. Once you return the documents, you will receive an email with a login and password to our payment site. The following week the payment will be processed, and you can login and collect your payment. (If you are selected and published multiple times, you’ll only need to login and approve your payments.)


This letter from St. Louis Post-Dispatch cartoonist R.J. Matson is posted with permission

Hi Aviva,

Just to be clear, are you asking cartoonists to submit a finished cartoon each week on spec? As I read this email, the New York Times promises to pay $250.00 for a submitted cartoon only if it is selected by Times editors to be published.

I might be willing to participate in this weekly contest if the Times were to select a cartoon based on a quick rough sketch, and then commission the final cartoon from that cartoonist, and pay something closer to the going rate for illustrations in the Sunday Review.

If the Times expects to be choosing from a batch of unpublished, finished cartoons each Friday, I suggest the Times has just insulted every professional editorial cartoonist who has opened this email.


R.J. Matson

R.J. Matson
Editorial Cartoonist
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
900 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63101

Ted Rall penned this and, according to my source, most of the 80 cartoonists on the original NYT email are signing it

Dear Aviva-

While we appreciate and applaud your move to add more cartoons to the Sunday Review, we are concerned about your announced submission (no pun intended) policy and payment.

The current proposal has the effect of putting scores of cartoonists to work every week. But only one will have a (small) chance to be published. Like an old-fashioned “shape up” of longshoremen, this is demoralizing and will likely lead to a diminished number and quality of submissions over time. This works neither for we cartoonists nor for The Times. We suggest that you either commission cartoonists whose work you like directly, or return to the previous approach of running syndicated material which do not require additional work on the part of editorial cartoonists who are struggling mightily in the current economic environment.

Furthermore, the proposed payment is extremely low given the low chances of publication, the requirement that an artist clear his or her Friday schedule, and–most of all–the huge circulation of The New York Times, the largest newspaper in the United States. The market standard for a reprint for a newspaper of your size is $250–not for original content. An original cartoon for The Times should pay closer to $1500 to $2000. And the rate should be even higher if you maintain the New Yorker-style submission policy, to which many cartoonists have long objected and boycotted.

It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel here. There are long-established norms for submission and payment for cartoons in the newspaper industry that have functioned well and would work well for you going forward. We hope you will consider them.



  1. Passing Shot said:

    But it’s mere shell of its former, glorious self from the 80’s.

  2. Anything that brings Ted Rall less money and less work is something I support!

  3. Dan said:

    As always, you’re a real class act, Gerard.

  4. Carl McKenzie said:

    As disheartening as this may be, why shouldn’t the Times do this if it gets them what they want? This is business after all, and who wouldn’t try and get something for as cheap as they possibly can? Things are what they are… Too many cartoonists and not enough work, supply and demand sets prices, not commissioners. No point in writing them angry letters… It won’t change a thing. Just, quite simply, DON’T participate. But sadly for every cartoonist that refuses to participate, ten others will, out of desperation and stupidity. What can you do, huh?

  5. Here’s an article on the current cartoon submission process.

    Every Tuesday is judgment day, the day Robert Mankoff, the magazine’s cartoon editor, meets with cartoonists face to face.

    My point is that cartoonists are already willingly drawing for The New Yorker on spec. Perhaps the call for submissions is a bit tactless, and the $250 lower than the “$675 to $1,400 a gag” quoted in Sturm’s article, but I don’t see it as the worst thing in the world.

    Nobody’s forcing artists to draw on spec.

  6. Oh god I read the New York Times as the New Yorker. Forget everything I said.

  7. JT said:

    “What can you do, huh?”

    Diss the practice in the hope that fewer artists participate, and so-called world-class organizations that claim to serve the public interest don’t do it as much.

    “Nobody’s forcing artists to draw on spec.”

    And by criticizing spec work we’re not forcing the Times to stop asking for it. Just pointing out it’s immoral.

  8. Kay Shawn said:

    Ny’er cartoonists bring in sketches, not finishes.

  9. Kevin Alderman said:

    I’m surprised they offered payment at all. The trend post Web 2.0 is to do it for the “free publicity”. Talented, professional artists have been replaced by “LOLCats”.

  10. nick said:

    Those at the top want those at the bottom to work for free.

    But you never see anyone offering “Run this company for free for a while, and if we like what you’ve done maybe you’ll get paid.”

  11. Malc said:

    I get tired of all those hard- headed “realists” who reckon that the market determines everything so put up or shut up. No, YOU shut up, idiot. The market is determined by those who trade in it. If professionals organize and withdraw from the market then the only ones who replace them will be amateurs. Can the NYT distinguish between amateur and professional work? Apparently so, they are the NYT.

  12. Is there an update on this, Jim?

  13. Jim said:

    I’ll check to see.

  14. Scott Lee said:

    I’m getting so sick of this crowdsourcing horse shit. The fact that now the NYT is lowering itself to this game is leaving me in a bit of confusion over whether to laugh until I pass out, or just projectile vomit and hope I can hit the center.

  15. Ed Sawicki said:

    An unpaid internship that leads to an unpaid professional career. Praise capitalism.

  16. orky said:

    unpaid internships are mostly a college student thing. and guess what! students get credit for said internships. there is no comparison between that and, y’know, not being paid for your effort as somebody actually out in the work force.