Looks like the full-page JibJab cartoon on the front of the LAT's Opinion section two Sundays ago wasn't the bold stroke and clever visual play it seemed. Turns out it was just the beginning of another (yawn) predictable design format. Today's cartoon (PDF file) by Roman Genn is fine as a work, but the conceit of devoting the entire front page to a one-note illustration feels tired after three straight weeks. Now that I expect it, the splash of color doesn't pull me into Opinion. Instead, it telegraphs nothing new here. It smacks of space filler, like the giant photos in Outdoors, and that's bad in a section that is supposed to lure you with the allure of its ideas.
Instead of coining a new design cliche, why not pick their spots and surprise readers with a really good cartoon or illustration a few times a year? If they must do a giant cartoon every week, and won't move it to the back page, at least shrink it to a half-page. It would still be the largest graphic in the paper all week, but then the editors could really have fun on the cover with catchier headlines, teasers, other graphic devices—maybe even, you know, a particularly smart thought or idea piece. (* Ouch: Three letters in today's section also pan Opinion. One complains about "the dumbing down of what was once the most insightful section of your newspaper" and another says "I like to read the funnies about as much as most people, and I think Michael Ramirez's offerings are great. But I don't read Opinion to read cartoons.")
Also in Opinion: Marc Cooper does the honors in this week's Outside the Tent, urging that Times reporters in Iraq be encouraged to report what they know and not be limited by the conventional journalism standard of reporting what they witness or are told by a credible source. It's the second week in a row that a critic has called on reporters to abandon traditional newspaper "objectivity"—though Cooper and Hugh Hewitt would probably view the war coverage that results in much different ways. Comments are coming in at Cooper's blog, where he also reveals that he has been asked to write often for Outside the Tent. (On theme: The intro for this week's 'Tent' reads, "An experimental column in which the Los Angeles Times invites outside critics to stomp vigorously upon a Los Angeles newspaper that willfully puts cartoons on the front page of its Opinion section.")
Also: The poster that ran on the Opinion cover two weeks ago is now for sale at JibJab.com.