By Curt Peterson
Even in rural Vermont, you know people who get, and sometimes read, the New Yorker Magazine – in 2019 there were 1,231,715 subscribers worldwide – and each week would-be creative types are challenged to submit captioning ideas for a cartoon by a famous artist. On average, 5,372 readers submit entries, either online or via Instagram.
The winning caption, published in the June 6 issue is VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb, sports reporter and newscaster for VPR radio, who lives in South Burlington with his wife Erin, their daughter Gretchen, and their pooch Fezzik.
“I’ve actually been consistently submitting captions for about seventeen years,” Mitch told the Mountain Times.
He’s been a finalist once before, regarding a cartoon that, ironically, also featured the grim reaper. His broadcasts include riffs from the Grateful Dead, another of his passions – “Is there a theme here?” he said.
The cartoon prompt was created by Adam Sacks, a frequent submitter to the New Yorker.
Wertlieb has been host of VPR’s Morning Edition since 2003, and wears an unabashed badge of Red Sox and Boston Bruins fanhood on his sleeve.
Each week the magazine publishes an uncaptioned cartoon – those inspired to submit captions have seven days to do so, one submission of 250 characters or less per person, email address or Instagram account. Three finalists are chosen by the New Yorker editorial staff and their 1,231,715 readers are invited to vote for their favorite. The winner is announced in the following weekly issue.
Any person 13 or older may submit a caption or vote for their choice among the finalists.
“I’ve been addicted to graphic arts humor – comic books and cartooning – since I was a kid growing up in Framingham, Massachusetts,” Mitch said. “Now that I’ve won, the pressure is off – I’ll probably submit captions when one strikes me, but not as consistently as I have in the past.”
New Yorker editors analyzed geographic data from approximately 2,500,000 entries since the contest was launched. Most submissions originate in New York and California. Vermont is in a group of states with the third-lowest number of entries, but there’s no per-capita adjustment.
Why so many people submit their creations each week is a mystery. There is no prize beyond recognition.