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Joel Pett, the 2000 Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial cartooning, was also a finalist for journalism’s most prestigious award in 1989 and 1998. His thought-provoking style differs from many of today’s cartoonists in this respect: Pett tries for well-reasoned consideration, avoiding cheap laughs. He also uses a computer to produce his finished cartoons, a method that’s just beginning to catch on with younger cartoonists.

And while the 46-year-old Pett does not yet qualify as a curmudgeon, he believes editorial cartooning has seen better days. "Editorial cartooning is not going through one of its strongest periods," says the Bloomington, In., native. "There’s a lot of emphasis on what you might call ‘infotainment’ – things that aren't really important but happen to be in the news."

The award-winning cartoonist began his career at the Bloomington Herald Telephone as a free-lancer more than 20 years ago. It was, he admits, a move to "avoid getting a full-time job." But success spoiled Pett’s part-time assignment and he was hired as the Lexington Herald Leader’s first full-time cartoonist. Since then his work has frequently been reprinted in magazines and newspapers around the country.

Editorial cartoonists, says Pett, are chronic complainers and self-appointed critics: "What I don’t like I complain about. One of the attributes of writing satire is that you develop a strong sense of how unfair this world is."

Pett believes his cartoons are often most effective when pointed at Kentucky’s politicians. He frequently takes on local issues ranging from deforestation to tobacco. Pett’s influences include The Washington Post’s Herb Block and the late Hugh Haynie of The (Louisville) Courier-Journal.

"There’s nobody I admire more than Herblock, who is 90 and still cartooning," Pett says.