Illustrated editorials may appear in the form of editorial cartoons.
Typically, a newspaper's editorial board evaluates which issues are important for their readership to know the newspaper's opinion.
Editorials are typically published on a dedicated page, called the editorial page, which often features letters to the editor from members of the public; the page opposite this page is called the op-ed page and frequently contains opinion pieces by writers not directly affiliated with the publication. However, a newspaper may choose to publish an editorial on the front page. In the English-language press this occurs rarely and only on topics considered especially important; it is more common, however, in some European countries such as Spain, Italy, and France.
In the field of fashion publishing, the term has been adapted to refer to photo-editorials features with often full-page photographs on a particular theme, designer, model or other single topic, with or (as in a photo-essay) without accompanying text.
The traditional and most common outlet for political cartoonists is the pocket cartoon, usually appears in the editorial page or the front news page of a newspaper, in the front news section of a newspaper. Editorial cartoons are not usually found in the dedicated comic section, although certain cartoons or comic strips have achieved crossover status.
Historically, these are quick, hand-drawn ink drawings, scanned and reproduced in black and white and published in print newspapers. The introduction of color came later, and more recently the use of digital drawing tools are a popular and efficient way to produce work quickly for newspaper deadlines.
Editorial cartoonists may reflect the political opinion expressed in the editorial page, or a newspaper in general, but they can also express opposing views, or opt for more populist humor that often reflects the conventional wisdom of the readers.
Historically, these artists have roots in ancient art forms, such as the cave painting of Early Man, or the hieroglyphics of Egypt, in terms of their role in informing society. Cartoonists in many ways take on the role of a court jester, who though employed by a King or ruler, would often mimic and ridicule him and his regime in his performances, to entertain the court, or 'the common man'.
In recent years, the internet has become an excellent means for distributing this kind of short format media, humor, and minority political opinions, leading to a large growth in the popularity of online and alternative editorial cartoons.
The rise of comic journalism online, which combines the longer comic strip format as a means to relay a story in more depth, is very effective in a vertical web format. As visual journalists, they can tell a story in a visual way, with words and images.
Because an editorial cartoonist expresses an idea visually, with little or no text or words, it can be understood across many languages and countries. A strong tradition of editorial cartooning can be found throughout the world, in all kinds of political environments, including Cuba, Australia, Malaysia, Pakistan, India, Iran, France, Denmark, Canada and the United States.
In the United States, there are more than a hundred published editorial cartoonists, from both sides of the Republican-Democrat divide.
In India, the most common and popular form of political commentary is the pocket cartoon. R. K. Laxman, Sudhir Dar, Mario Miranda, E. P. Unny, Shekhar Gurera, Ajit Ninan are some of the popular editorial cartoonists, through their daily pocket cartoons.
A political cartoonist's aim is often to encourage debate; they can also fuel controversy. Their work can expose corrupt or abusive regimes, governments or political groups, and therefore often put themselves and their publishers at risk.
In 2005, Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard received numerous death threats and was attacked in his home by man with an axe.
In 2015, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's offices were attacked by two Islamist gunmen in reaction to publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Twelve employees were killed, including staff cartoonists Charb, Cabu, Honor, Tignous and Wolinski.
The Cartoonists Rights Network International awards the annual Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award to political cartoonists who show bravery and risk their own safety to publish their work. In 2015, this accolade was awarded to Atena Farghadani of Iran, who was jailed for more than 12 years for publishing a cartoon of Iran's parliament with heads of various animals.
There is a Pulitzer Prize awarded every year for America's top editorial cartoonist as decided by a panel of senior media industry professionals and media academics (see Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning). Other major awards given each year to editorial cartoonists include the Association of American Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Thomas Nast Award from the Overseas Press Club, and the Herblock Prize.