Should editorial cartoonists follow same ethical guidelines as journalists?

Columbus Dispatch cartoonist Jeff Stahler resigned Friday, following accusations that he had plagiarized three cartoons -- including one last Monday -- from The New Yorker.

Stahler said the similarity with his Monday cartoon was a coincidence. Syndicated cartoonist Chip Bok said a heavy workload may have been to blame, while New Yorker Cartoon Editor Robert Mankoff said he suspects Stahler came up with the idea for the cartoon "completely independently."

Last month, Urban Tulsa Weekly cartoonist David Simpson resigned after he was accused of plagiarism. The two incidents have prompted the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists to consider creating ethical guidelines.

Michael Cavna, who runs The Washington Post's "Comic Riffs" blog, wrote about the debate over cartoon plagiarism last week and raised some important questions: "Is an editorial cartoonist foremost a journalist --  or a comedian?" And, "If you are a comedic journalist, then, are you absolved if you blatantly steal jokes?"

In a live chat this week, Cavna and Poynter's Kelly McBride talked about whether editorial cartoonists should follow the same ethical guidelines as journalists; the factors that newsrooms can consider when deciding whether an editorial cartoonist has plagiarized; and how readers respond to cartoon plagiarism.

You can revisit this page at any time to replay the chat.

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website,, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.


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