Wiid et al. (2012) Every Story Tells a Picture: Lessons from Cartoons on Corporate Governance

Citation Wiid, R., Pitt, L. F., Mills, A. J. (2012). Every Story Tells a Picture: Lessons from Cartoons on Corporate Governance. Business Horizons, 55, 543–550. URL

BibTex entry for this article:

BibTex entry for this article:

author = {Wiid, Ria and Pitt, Leyland F and Mills, Adam J},
journal = {Business Horizons},
pages = {543--550},
title = {{Every Story Tells a Picture: Lessons from Cartoons on Corporate Governance}},
volume = {55},
year = {2012}


Abstract While pictures tell stories, in the case of cartoons, stories also tell pictures. A theory of cartooning suggests that cartoons reflect public sentiment toward issues. As such, cartoons are a useful way of gauging and tracking public sentiment over time. This article uses a historical cartoon analysis to track public sentiment toward issues surrounding corporate governance. Specifically, it compares what cartoons reflected prior to the economic crash of 2008 and what they portrayed after. The criteria of narrative, location, binary struggle, and normative transfer were used as a framework to analyze 258 cartoons. We found that three major changes emerged after the 2008 crash that hold important lessons for those who govern corporations: the public’s concern is no longer so much about corporate and individual fraudulent behavior as it is about corporate and individual greed; there is an impression that corporations do not do bad things so much as they do not do any good things; and ordinary people, workers, and taxpayers are those who suffer most when corporations are not governed well.

Key ideas


1. A picture is worth a thousand words...or more

2. Corporate governance over the years

3. Cartoons: The pictures that stories tell

Political cartoons are influential because they “seize upon and reinforce common sense and thus enable the public to actively classify, organize, and interpret in meaningful ways what they see or experience about the world in a given moment.” Greenberg (2002) p. 545

4. Corporate governance cartoons: Pre-and post-crash

5. After the crash of 2008, what lessons do cartoons hold for those who govern?

6. What pictures will stories tell next?