It’s All Journalism: Cartoonists React to Charlie Hebdo Attack

It’s All Journalism is a weekly conversation about the changing state of the media and the future of journalism.

“It is every cartoonist’s worse nightmare and it’s absolutely chilling. Sadness, shock and horror.”

That’s how political cartoonist Jen Sorensen described her reaction on hearing of the Jan. 7, 2015, attack on the Paris headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo magazine by two Islamist gunman.

The shootings killed 12, including cartoonists Stéphane Charbonnier, Jean Cabut, Philippe Honoré Tignous and Georges Wolinski.

“It definitely, I would say, is an attack on cartooning,” Sorensen said. “I certainly feel terrible for the victims, as we’re all kind of members of the tribe, the cartooning tribe.”

Sorensen draws a weekly cartoon of political and social satire that appears online at and in more than 20 alternative newspapers.

After the initial shock, Sorensen’s next impulse was to leap into action. She began reaching out to cartoonists from around the world. The end result was “12 great cartoon responses to the Charlie Hebdo killings,” a feature she put together with Andy Dubbin.

As events unfolded, other cartoonists began posting their art and news outlets began reprinting the works on their websites and in social media.

Erin Polgreen, editor of the online comics journalism magazine Symbolia, was concerned that many media outlets appeared to be reprinting the artwork without the artist’s permission or even offering to pay for the work. She wrote about her concerns in TPM: “Hey, Media: Instead of Lionizing Charlie Hebdo, Support The Artists You’re Exploiting.”

Cartoons, comics and cartoonists are Michael Cavna’s beat, as the editor of the Comics Riffs column in The Washington Post. In the aftermath of the Paris shootings, he aggregated the reactions of cartoonists on social media and reported the American cartooning community’s response to the attack.

In this week’s podcast, It’s All Journalism producer Michael O’Connell interviews Jen Sorensen, Erin Polgreen and Michael Cavna on their reactions to the Charlie Hebdo attack and how the media — and the cartooning community in particular — responded. For those wishing to show their support for cartoonists around the world, Sorensen recommends donating to Cartoonists Rights Network International.