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A political cartoonist reveals his secrets in a new video

Traditionally a creature of print, political cartoons are now finding a new life and new relevance in the world of digital journalism.

Political cartoons have infuriated kings, crooks and captains of industry since the days of the penny press in 19th century England. In a new video produced by two talented Los Angeles Times staffers, Armand Emamdjomeh and Don Kelsen, I describe how I carry on this satirical tradition in a world of iPads and online news. Please check it out.

One thing I may not have stressed enough in the video is the work that comes before dreaming up ideas and doing drawings. I learned about that early from one of the masters, Paul Conrad. From 1964 to 1993, Conrad was a formidable editorial voice at this newspaper. His cartoons won Pulitzer Prizes in three different decades. I was lucky enough to meet Conrad when I was just starting my career, and I asked him how I could be a better cartoonist. His answer was simple: "Read, read, read."

And he was right. It's not just about drawing. It's not just about humor. It's about knowing enough to intelligently engage in the great debates of our times. It is a privilege to have a job where I can jump into that debate, and it's an honor to practice my craft in the place where Conrad once raised political art to a lofty standard.

For close to two centuries, cartoonists such as Conrad ruled the world of political satire -- or were, at least, the most lauded court jesters. Now, in the star-power glare of comic commentators such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, plain old political cartoons can seem old-fashioned.

Still, I think the best cartoons retain a unique, subversive capacity to get inside people's heads and speak truth to power. Traditionally a creature of print, political cartoons are now finding a new life and new relevance in the world of digital journalism. Cartoons are visual and succinct -- key attributes in grabbing the attention of wide-roaming online readers.

Excuse me now, it's time to do the hard work. I need to go read, read, read.

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