Daily alum wins Pulitzer

Jack Ohman, who got his start drawing cartoons for the Daily, won the national prize Monday.

A cartoon by Jack Ohman, published in the Minnesota Daily on Feb. 20, 1979.

Jack Ohman, Daily Archive

A cartoon by Jack Ohman, published in the Minnesota Daily on Feb. 20, 1979.

by Benjamin Farniok

A former Minnesota Daily cartoonist known for his irreverent depictions of gun violence and Middle Eastern conflict was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on Monday.
Jack Ohman, 55, is the third Minnesota Daily alumnus to win a Pulitzer award over the last four years. The other two, Steve Sack and Kevin Siers, were also cartoonists.
By age 19, Ohman was the youngest cartoonist to be nationally syndicated. Now, his work is frequently published in major national newspapers, including the New York Times and Washington Post. Since 2013, he has worked as a cartoonist at the Sacramento Bee.
The Bee’s editorial page editor, Dan Morain, said he enjoys working with Ohman — even if he does arrive to editorial board meetings late.
“We are really lucky to have him,” Morain said.
According to Morain, the content of Ohman’s work is often provocative. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry even demanded Ohman be fired over a cartoon that showed the explosion of a Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15 people.
Another series of drawings lampooned a California politician for his ties to big business. Morain said the politician was just excited to be the subject of a Jack Ohman cartoon.
“They may cringe if they pick up their paper, and they are the focus of a cartoon, but it’s also kind of an honor,” he said.
At 17 years old, Jack Ohman arrived at the Minnesota Daily and followed in the footsteps of current Minneapolis Star Tribune cartoonist Steve Sack. 
Ohman said drawing political cartoons three days a week for the Daily provided him ample time to practice his craft but also connected him with experienced writers and cartoonists. 
“It was like the world’s coolest fraternity but for nerds,” he said.
After he left the Daily in 1981, he took up work at the Columbus Dispatch, followed by a position with the Detroit Free Press and The Oregonian.
Despite leaving the University of Minnesota before graduating, he earned a B.A. in history from the Portland State University Honors College  in 1999.
According to Ohman, the atmosphere of political cartooning has changed drastically since he started, but he emphasized the importance of practice for nascent artists. 
Ohman said he thinks there is plenty of room for less traditional artistic styles, especially on the internet.
“[Political cartoons] were memes before there were memes,” he said.
Sack, now a cartoonist for the Star Tribune, said that even when Ohman was starting his career, his award-winning style and wit were apparent.
“Everyone I talked to or heard about was happy and recognized that Jack was way overdue for an award like that,” said Sack, who was a finalist for this year’s prize.