Sunday, December 14, 2008

Editorial cartoonists, endangered species

Editorial cartoonists, the last of the truly ink-stained practitioners of journalism, rank among the most endangered, too.

Nearly a fifth of these uniquely talented newsfolk fell victim this year to staff cuts, reports Rob Tornoe of Politicker.Com, who believes he is the only full-time editorial cartoonist employed at any website.

At least 16 full-time editorial cartoonists have departed American newspapers this year, says Rob, leaving about 80 still on the job. If the Rocky Mountain News goes down, which unfortunately seems a forgone conclusion, two more would be added to the toll, representing an 18.7% reduction in the population of this group.

If you assume that publishers on average trimmed about 10% of their work forces in 2008, then the job-mortality rate among editorial cartoonists is nearly twice as high as it is for reporters and editors.

In a interview this weekend with Lee Judge, who recently was laid off at the Kansas City Star, NPR reported that there had been as many as 300 editorial cartoonists in the 1980s. "It's pretty hard to find a new job when your resume says you are a professional smart ass," says Lee in the interview.

Lee's ability to crack wise in spite of his decidedly unamusing personal circumstances is what makes editorial cartoonists such a rare species. They have harder jobs than the rest of the people in the news business, because they not only have to come up with a fresh angle on the news but it have to make it funny, too.

They also also have to be able to fittingly caricature their subjects. For a guy who can’t even color inside the lines, I am gobsmacked by what they can do.

Here’s Rob’s list of the 15 cartoonists who, beyond Lee, left their newspapers this year:

:: Jim Lange – Oklahoman, involuntary early retirement

::Chip Bok – Akron Beacon Journal, voluntary buyout

:: Peter Dunlap-Shohl, Anchorage Daily News - voluntary buyout

:: Jim Borgman, Cincinnati Enquirer - voluntary buyout

:: Don Wright, Palm Beach Post - buyout/retirement

:: Stuart Carlson – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, - forced buyout

:: Dwane Powell – The News Observer, voluntarily departure instead of downgrade to part-time status

:: Richard Crowson – Wichita Eagle, laid off

:: Dick Adair – The Honolulu Advertiser, laid off

:: David Catrow – Springfield News-Sun, voluntarily left for other work

:: Jake Fuller – Gainesville Sun, laid off

:: Dave Granlund – MetroWest Daily News, laid off

:: Brian Duffy­ – Des Moines Register, laid off

:: Steve Greenberg – Ventura County Star, laid off

::Eric Devericks – Seattle Times, laid off

If the Rocky Mountain News goes under, two more would be added to the list, says Rob. They are news cartoonist Ed Stein and sports cartoonist Drew Litton.

Like his print brethern, Rob often finds a way to extract humor from even the grimmest situations. Here's his deft take on the heavy toll of layoffs in the newspaper industry:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about many of the others, but Lee Judge and Duffy were pioneers in their industry. Duffy, from The Des Moines Register, has been animating his cartoons for the web for years. Judge, who gave a stellar presentation at the Kansas City NCEW convention two years ago, had a KC Star blog full of interesting features. My favorites were when he published sketches that couldn't have been printed in the paper.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Kevin Gregory said...

Here is the list of cartoonists at McClatchy newspapers who've left this year:


2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"They have harder jobs than the rest of the people in the news business."

Are you kidding? They have to read the papers and draw, and most of them -- especially Lee Judge -- don't draw very well.

I'm sure if these folks are as indispensable as you think, they should be able to make a decent living on the Web. Right?

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm happy to report that, while we do not have a fulltime cartoonist -- haven't for 25 years -- we recently asked our staff's politically inclined artist to contribute a local political cartoon to the Sunday editorial pages.

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cartoon by Steve Greenberg

With three editorial cartoonist jobs getting whacked within the past two weeks — including mine! — here’s a cartoon I did many years ago when I was the contributing cartoonist to Editor & Publisher magazine that seems relevant.

-Steve Greenberg

Cashflow Problems at Daily Planet, Clark Kent to Take Buyout!

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit a personal favorite was the Des Moines Register, which had a century-old tradition of being the only paper in the country to run a front-page editorial cartoon. It gave Des Moines a unique flavor in these days of traveling around the country to see rubber-stamped designs. So it is just another tradition dying in an age that is trampling on traditions.

6:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was a copy boy at the Miami News on the sixth floor of the Miami Herald building -- the one now for sale and likely headed for demolition -- one of the best parts of the job was to go to the composing room and get Don Wright's "slicks" and deliver them to him. This was DON WRIGHT! I was getting the cartoons he would send to other papers! Was worth every glue pot I filled and typewriter ribbon I changed. I hate to sound old, but those really were the days. Thanks for that memory, Don, wherever you are.

7:42 PM  

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