Columbus Dispatch editorial cartoonist resigns after plagiarism accusations

Jeff Stahler resigned from the Columbus Dispatch Friday, Editor Ben Marrison tells me via email. “That is all we will have to say on this unfortunate matter,” he wrote. 

The Dispatch suspended Jeff Stahler while it investigated why three of his cartoons, including one published Monday, looked so much like ones in The New Yorker magazine. Earlier this year, humorist Andy Borowitz asked why a Stahler cartoon was so similar to a fake headline he had written a few days before. (In that case, Marrison said, “It appears to be a coincidence.”) Stahler told The Daily Cartoonist that the similarity with his cartoon Monday also was a coincidence.

Syndicated cartoonist Chip Bok told Poynter.org that he thought a heavy workload could be to blame, saying, “Jeff doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to me who would deliberately plagiarize a cartoon.” New Yorker Cartoon Editor Robert Mankoff told The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, “My guess is Stahler came up with the idea completely independently. … I see things like this every week with different cartoonists submitting almost identical cartoons.”

Earlier this year, Tulsa cartoonist David Simpson resigned after being accused of plagiarism. (That, too, was revealed by The Daily Cartoonist’s Alan Gardner; he says the same person raised questions about Stahler’s work and Simpson’s.)

The two cases spurred the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists to consider drafting ethical guidelines. And the lack of public outcry made Cavna wonder, “Is an editorial cartoonist foremost a journalist — or a comedian?”

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  • Anonymous

    I’ve drawn some cartoons where I wasn’t sure if the idea was original or if I was remembering something I’d seen before, then I’ve searched the Internet to try to find out. It’s impossible to be sure sometimes. 

  • JH

    Isn’t it just a little arrogant that someone would think they’re the only person in the world to come up with a joke on a current topic? I’ve seen it in comments on the web….people routinely have the same exact “witty” reaction to a story. I assume the investigation was thorough and they were able to find evidence that he plagiarized, or else it’s kind of ridiculous.