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Ohio State alumnus, Pulitzer-winner Nick Anderson drawn to cartooning politics

Courtesy of Nick Anderson

As a cartoonist in 2012, Nick Anderson is an example of a dying breed.

“We’ve lost well over half the cartoonists we had 15 years ago,” Anderson said. “I’m still lucky to be doing this.”

Anderson is a left-of-center political cartoonist for the Houston Chronicle in Texas. Born in Toledo, Anderson graduated from Ohio State in December 1990, where he studied political science. He has been cartooning ever since.

“I had a job waiting for me. The summer before, I had interned at The Courier-Journal in Louisville doing political cartoons and they offered me a job at the end of the year,” Anderson said.

He joined the Houston Chronicle in 2006.

Anderson draws cartoons daily for the Houston Chronicle and other national media outlets. His work is syndicated across the United States through the Washington Post News Media Services.

“I’m never completely satisfied. If I do a few cartoons (with) one I feel good about, there’s a good chance the next day I’ll do one that I don’t feel so good about,” Anderson said.

In 2005, when Anderson was still at The Courier-Journal, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. A jury of four newspaper editors and one OSU professor chose Anderson’s portfolio of 20 cartoons over the work of two-time Pulitzer winner Don Wright and “Doonesbury” author Garry Trudeau.

OSU professor emerita Lucy Shelton Caswell served on the Pulitzer jury.

“When it became clear that Nick’s was among the final group, I made full disclosure that he was a former student of mine and that I knew him. The other jury members agreed that this was not a conflict of interest,” Caswell said.

“It was clear to us that year that Nick presented a very strong portfolio. He covered a wide range of issues very effectively and I think he merited that prize,” said Caswell, who has served on the Pulitzer committee six times.

The Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Anderson “for a distinguished cartoon or portfolio of cartoons published during the year, characterized by originality, editorial effectiveness, quality of drawing and pictorial effect,” according to the Pulitzer website.

His cartoons cover topics ranging from local Houston politics to national news. Recently, Anderson has been mixing his cartoons with blogging.

“I did some (half-page cartoons) on child abuse, and I did a bunch of my own research and reporting,” Anderson said. “I’ve always relied on the reporting in the newspaper, but this year I’ve been trying to do a little bit more of my own.”

Jeff Stang, manager of Laughing Ogre Comics, located at 4258 N. High St., said political cartoons are losing their ability to affect the world.

“Maybe at one time they did (affect the world), but now with the 24-hour news cycle, I really don’t know if political cartoons have as much of an impact as the talking heads that you see on CNN and Fox nowadays,” Stang said. “Most people don’t read that much anymore.”

Anderson said he thinks his work has at least a small impact.

“I just provide a flash point for discussion. I get people thinking and I just have to be satisfied with that,” Anderson said. “People argue and they get angry and they let me know, and that tells me they’re at least thinking about it, and that’s pretty important alone.”

He catches a lot of flack for daring to not be Republican in Texas.

“There’s a lot of people here that cannot stand me, wondering why the newspaper has a staff cartoonist that’s out of step with Texas politics. It’s a lot more interesting than it would be if I was just in San Francisco and singing to the choir,” Anderson said. “I don’t think it’s particularly healthy to live your lives without your opinions ever being challenged.”

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