BY RITA CIOLLI
There’s a new cartoonist in the house!
Matt Davies, an extraordinary talent, is our new editorial cartoonist. He replaces Walt Handelsman, who returned to New Orleans last fall. Davies will start drawing this fall, as soon as he moves his family to Long Island from Connecticut. A gallery of his cartoons is now on our website.
Davies is the newest voice in Newsday’s strong tradition of barbed commentary from the point of a pen. This began for us in 1957 with Tom Darcy, who always knew how to go for the jugular. Darcy won a Pulitzer in 1970 for his drawings on the Vietnam War. The anchoring of our editorial pages by Pulitzer winners continued with Doug Marlette in the 1990s and then with Handelsman, who won his second prize in 2007 for his “stark, sophisticated cartoons” and animations for Newsday. Newsday also launched the cartooning career of M.G. Lord, one of the few women in this line of work.
Davies won a Pulitzer in 2004 at Westchester’s The Journal News for his “fresh and original style.” He was a finalist in 2011 for works that offered “sharp opinion without shrillness.” In 2004, he was the inaugural winner of the Herblock Prize, created to honor the memory of the Washington Post’s legendary Herbert Block.
Here’s how he got to Newsday. The decision on replacing Handelsman was postponed until the arrival of a new publisher. Gordon McLeod started on April 1, and the next day he asked me whether the Opinion Department had all the resources it needed. I told him our first priority should be to find a replacement for Walt. Our readers deserve someone who can comment on the news of the day with both a pointed and witty vision. And I said that Newsday should defy the disturbing trend of newspapers dropping their cartoonists.
More than a decade ago, cartoonist Patrick Oliphant lamented the depleting ranks of the profession. “That once-potent galvanizer of opinion, the kick-starter of conversation and discussion, has been allowed to atrophy from disuse, and is, after several centuries of successful use as a castigator and common scold of the body politic, in great jeopardy of fading away altogether,” Oliphant wrote in Neiman Reports.
Four months after my conversation with Gordon, and after we interviewed some the nation’s best talents and reviewed the work of dozens of others, Davies is joining the staff. At a time when most newspapers are without a staff cartoonist, Newsday has decided to make an important investment.
This a very happy day for us, and for Matt, who is thrilled to be back in a newsroom.
Ciolli is the editor of Newsday’s editorial page.