October 2014…I always think of Tony Auth when our reporters and teachers ask why we use illustrations and not photographs in Healthy NewsWorks newspapers.
Tony, a renowned political cartoonist who recently died, once told me that art helped him navigate the inevitable challenges of childhood. It gave him standing with other children. They appreciated his talent and respected him for it.
Tony took an interest in Healthy NewsWorks from the time the program started in 2003 when we were both working at The Philadelphia Inquirer. He had begun his career as a medical artist and immediately understood our program’s goals. After I described to him the first interview for three 10-year-old reporters with their PE teacher, which involved little, if any, actual conversation, he returned quickly and unexpectedly to my desk to show me his impression of the meeting. As we looked at the befuddled expressions that he had sketched, we both had a good laugh.
Tony enjoyed sharing his art—and generously did so throughout his life. He even drew the logo for Healthy NewsWorks. On a few special occasions, he visited with our Healthy NewsWorks student journalists to talk about telling stories through illustrations and demonstrate his lightning-fast ability to transform a blank sheet of paper into an eye-popping picture. After one school presentation, children swarmed him for autographs, including one child who had drawn a picture of Tony at work. He told her he would sign his picture for her only if she would sign her picture for him. It was an empowering moment for the young artist.
In the nearly 300 newspapers we have published, I have observed many of our young artists earn respect from their peers for their illustrations. It becomes a point of pride for them. Their pictures allow them to develop confidence, which encourages them to build other skills, from interviewing to writing and advocating for health.
Our journalists have drawn more than 1,000 pictures for their school newspapers, showing people gardening, taking a pulse, receiving a flu shot, practicing yoga, turning off TVs, exercising, eating nutritious food, and so on. These insightful drawings give our students a way to communicate important health messages and enable them to become role models for their peers.
It’s a role Tony appreciated and helped us develop for our young illustrators, and I’ll be forever grateful to him.
—By Marian Uhlman, Director of Healthy NewsWorks