For New Jersey cartoonists, the best view of the convention is from behind their drafting table

Several cartoonists from throughout the country converged upon the Democratic National Convention last week in Denver, and many more will attend this week's Republican National Convention in Minneapolis.

But their New Jersey comrades won't be joining them.

Both Jimmy Margulies, the editorial cartoonist for The Record, and Drew Sheneman, the editorial cartoonist for The Star-Ledger, have been covering the conventions from afar, filing traditional cartoons and covering the pomp and pageantry much as they would any other event on their radar.

"Right now obviously saving money is a big priority for newspapers, so sending a cartoonist would be a luxury," said Margulies, who has never gone to a convention in his long career as a cartoonist.

"I don't think they considered that a priority."

Both newspapers have been hit by the same financial woes that have sent shockwaves through newspapers across the country. The Record is planning to vacate its main headquarters and move its staff to the site of its sister daily, The Herald News of West Paterson, while The Star-Ledger seeks to cut staff by 200 employees, and threatens that the paper could be sold if the cutbacks are not completed by October.

However, in an era with a 24-hour news cycle, blogs, twitter, blackberries, and other methods of obtaining information, it's possible for a cartoonist to work from home and obtain as much insight on the event as they would if they attended.

"We bring the same perspective to the conventions as we do to the daily news events we commentate on the rest of the year," Sheneman said. "I'm not positive you have to be there on site to do it."

Sheneman covered both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in 2004 in New York and Boston, respectfully, and those events shaped his decision not to go this time around.

"The reality of covering a convention is that 99% of your time is spent sequestered away from the actual proceedings," he said.

"In New York we were in the post office complex across the street. I made it into the arena a grand total of one time during the week and spent the rest of my days watching the events on TV like everybody else."

Margulies fells that going to a convention can help if your newspaper wants you to capture what's going on behind-the-scenes, but ultimately agrees with Sheneman's assessment, saying that it's possible, "to do a good job without being there."

Still, Sheneman has fond memories of the two conventions he attended, but more from networking and interaction with colleagues than for the events themselves.

"It ended up being a valuable experience because you get to socialize with other cartoonists and reporters doing the same thing."

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Jimmy Margulies's
cartoons appear daily in The Record, and are distributed nationally to over 425 papers by King Features Syndicate.

Drew Sheneman's cartoons have appeared in the Star-Ledger since 1998, and are distributed nationally by Tribune Media Services.

"It’s not a political environment that’s particularly warm for incumbents, but it looks like Booker has little to be worried about as the campaign season draws to a close."
—Krista Jenkins, poll director and professor of political science, FDU.