Let me be clear: opinion pieces are not all inherently bad. Good ones can provide context for complex concepts and hard to understand situations. The late, great Jeff MacNelly once said this about editorial cartoonists:
"We violate all the rules of journalism. We misquote and slander and distort. [But] the interesting thing is, the political cartoonist usually, if he’s any good, gets a hell of a lot closer to the truth than a responsible reporter.”
Opinion pieces can take shortcuts. Actual journalists have rules and standards and ethics, which I'm told can really slow a person down! And they can be annoying. Do reporters have to keep asking that politician I support those stupid questions? Do they have to keep digging? It's not their business. Oh, but it is. It's vital that journalists do the hard work because who else is going to vet the truth? You certainly can't count on the opinion people.
You may have noticed the absence of my cartoon last week. It was actually a pretty good example of where opinion and real news tangle. In the cartoon I suggested that our country was strong enough to survive this current disaster (not just the coronavirus pandemic but also the Trump administration). It's one thing to write it, it's another to put it in a cartoon where humor is implied. With events moving at light speed these days, there was no way of knowing how the context might shift, so my editor thought it best not to run it (and I agreed). I certainly didn't want something seen as a glib opinion distract from the actual news.
And context has changed quite a bit. Looking at the cartoon a week later, the most objectionable thing about it may be that I drew the two characters too close together — definitely not at a proper social distance.
John Auchter is a freelance political cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.