Audio Michael Atchison describes work as a political cartoonist, 2008

TLF ID R10096

This is an edited sound recording of Michael Atchison (1933-), talking about his work before his recent retirement as chief political cartoonist for the Advertiser newspaper in Adelaide. He describes the process of getting a 'feel' for the main political news of the day, then choosing the topic of each cartoon. He also suggests that the negative public reaction to some of his cartoons was sometimes a result of readers getting his intent 'completely wrong'. The recording was made in October 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This recording provides an insight into the way a political cartoon is produced for a daily newspaper in Australia. It shows how the cartoonist works a day ahead of publication, with the decision on what to draw being dictated in part by what other media outlets are treating as the main political stories of the day.
  • Political cartoons have long been used to comment on issues of the day. In Atchison's view, the comment they aim to make is satirical, and generally negative. He likens the work of political cartoonists to that of 'a sort of unpaid opposition party', which suggests that, by drawing attention to the social and political issues of the day, cartoons help stimulate thought and discussion.
  • Atchison explains how experienced political cartoonists can acquire a high degree of autonomy, and that cartoonists with less experience have to produce one or more draft 'roughs' of a cartoon idea, from which the editor will select. As the Advertiser's chief political cartoonist, Atchison had the experience and 'feel' for the significant political and social issues of the time, which meant he had tacit permission to simply tell the editor what he was intending to draw that day.
  • Atchison shares some conclusions about his craft, drawing on conversations with fellow cartoonists. He believes that most are unable to explain how they actually get their ideas for cartoons. He suggests that his overseas counterparts are more likely to receive praise from their public, while feedback from Australian audiences tends to be more critical and negative, often due to some misunderstanding.
  • Atchison began contributing cartoons to Man magazine while still at school in Adelaide, where he later worked as a commercial artist and an art teacher. In 1960 he moved to London, where he contributed cartoons to Punch magazine while working with an advertising agency. Returning to Australia in 1967, he worked briefly for the Daily Mirror in Sydney before going back to Adelaide to work for the Advertiser until his retirement in 2008.

Other details

  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 20 Sep 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Remarks: Copyright Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Content provider
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 2008
  • Name: Michael Atchison
  • Remarks: speaker
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
Learning resource type
  • Sound
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Operating systems
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  • MS-Windows - minimum version: XP - maximum version: 7
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.