The day after the fatal shooting on Parliament Hill, a cartoon by Bruce MacKinnon published in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, offered a small measure of comfort. The image of the bronzed soldiers of World War I, immortalized in the National War Memorial, climbing down off their pedestal and coming to the aid of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, said so much more than words ever could. It’s rare that a political cartoon can be so sentimental in emotion, and in an act rarer still, the National Newspaper Awards named MacKinnon their Journalist of the Year for his creation.
MacKinnon received the honour at the Toronto Press Club last Friday. Over the weekend, he posted his thoughts to his Facebook page:
My first thought was if I were any one of the hard-working five-star journalists in the room that night, I’d be protesting on the street right now. To be singled out from that group, by a panel of former NNA laureates, is both baffling and incredibly humbling to me. But as a cartoonist in a country with such a strong history of editorial cartooning, it made me extremely proud and hopeful for the future of our profession. I am grateful to the NNAs for recognizing Canadian editorial cartooning in such a profound way and I hope it sends a message to newspapers about the value in hiring cartoonists.
The value and impact of political cartoons and cartoonists has been discussed a lot this year, primarily in the context of the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. They say that a picture is worth a thousand years, and in newspapers, now more than ever, space is at a premium, so the full effect of the cartoon should not be underestimated. The recognition for MacKinnon comes in many ways at the right time for an art that’s more often maligned than revered, as papers look for ways to save money, cartoonists are usually amongst the first out the door.
On the other hand, MacKinnon celebrates three decades at the Chronicle Herald next year, so there is something to be said about longevity in political cartooning. At least if you’re good enough to be Journalist of the Year.