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Brian Duffy was fired, escorted out of building

Former Des Moines Register editorial cartoonist Brian Duffy was escorted out of the newspaper’s building after learning that his job was being eliminated in a cost cutting (slashing?) move by the paper’s parent company Gannett. He was not allowed to return to his office to collect his personal belongings, he says in an interview with the local television station. Brian worked for the newspaper for 25 years, and as he recollects, never missed a deadline.

Here’s the interview.

Community Comments

#1 Ted Rall
December/8/2008
@ 9:44 am

It has long been standard policy at major corporations to treat downsized employees like dirt: escort them out of the building, take away their building IDs, don’t let them say goodbye to their colleagues.

Someday someone will write a management book that will become an airport bestseller and will convince executives how wrongheaded and evil that approach is.

What happened to Brian isn’t unusual, but it’s appalling nevertheless.

#2 Frank Bernard
December/8/2008
@ 11:00 am

Escorted out of the building without being able to collect his personal belongings? Was it a firing or an arrest? Sheesh!

#3 Steve Greenberg
December/8/2008
@ 11:27 am

That’s cold and disgusting… and from what I hear, a Gannett tradition. Bastards.

#4 anne hambrock
December/8/2008
@ 12:10 pm

As Ted says this practice is, unfortunately, widespread and has been going on for years. It has happened to more than one friend of mine and I never understand it. My friends in the trades just get phone calls that they’re laid off until further notice but my friends with mid-level white collar jobs get this lovely “escorted off the premises by security” send off. I mean these are usually highly dedicated employees with many years invested in the company and they are treated like some kind of criminal.

#5 Mike Peterson
December/8/2008
@ 12:13 pm

Not handing him a box is a new low. Generally, you are invited to box up your personal stuff with the guard watching over you. Which sounded a lot worse a year or so ago, before the St. Paul/Minnesota debacle where a departing exec DID abscond with a lot of proprietary information.

But, as noted in the related thread, I think he’s got a right to a fair amount of stuff, unless he keeps a much cleaner workstation than I’ve seen in any newsrooms. I assume they have some way to get him his personal items, but if they are doing the sorting, it may be a lot less than he would have selected … if only because they may decide to throw out the letter from the second grade or the business card of the nice old guy or any number of other things that he might have wanted to hang onto.

Nice bastards let you fill a box. These bastards aren’t nice.

#6 Beth Cravens
December/8/2008
@ 2:35 pm

It’s sickening. Just goes to show what selling out local media to corporate overlords gets you. Not even a box.

#7 Paul Berge
December/8/2008
@ 2:59 pm

It’s time to get in the habit of taking our nibs, ink, board, and framed accolades home every night!

#8 Aaron Taylor
December/8/2008
@ 3:40 pm

Okay, I guess I can kind of understand why corporations feel the need to escort former employees immediately out of the office without giving them a chance to gather their items (although I think it is very unnecessary, nonetheless)…
but, really, what vital business information is an editorial cartoonist going to take/steal before he leaves the offices of a newspaper? It’s not only silly, but degrading to someone who has been there as long as Brian has.

#9 Rich Diesslin
December/8/2008
@ 3:52 pm

Bummer. A cartoonist is a real threat … he might have thrown an eraser at them or something! Mike you said it well about the box! Looks like he still has his syndication to soften the blow, but after 25 years, you’d think you’d at least get a watch and a pat on the back to go with the kick in the pants.

#10 Phil Tography
December/9/2008
@ 5:20 pm

What were his former bosses afraid of ? He would chain himself to his desk ? He would call the media ? They treated him like an unruly child. I don’t think they have a legal leg to stand on, with holding his personal possessions. What gall. I’d take them to court.

#11 Elaine Hood
December/14/2008
@ 4:15 pm

The was a time when The Des Moines Register was one of the most respected dailies in the nation. That was before Gannett.

Political cartoons are a sign of sophistication, something Iowans deserve, but Gannett does not comprehend.

To have such a highly respected and awarded employee escorted out of the building is despicable and we can only hope Duffy sues Gannett for defamation of character.

I, too, have seen too many loyal employees ‘escorted’ off the premises for no wrong doing. It is time for someone of a high profile such as Duffy to take a stand and help end this dehumanizing practice.

#12 Robert Hodges
February/27/2009
@ 7:13 pm

I Can Understand Big Corporations doing that, when you fire someone you don’t want them to get revenge by doing something after they are fired.

But it seems to me that He could not have done anything to hurt the reputation, any more than they did by firing him??

#13 Bill Nelson
August/22/2010
@ 1:36 am

I freelanced at the San Jose Mercury News, working with Joan Jackson, Garden Section editor. She called one day to tell me I’d been axed by a higher up. She was gracious enough to give me the higher up’s name and number, but advised me against calling them.

The call went like this:
Anne Hearst: “You aren’t funny, you’re not sophisticated and you don’t add anything to this paper.”

Me: “But I don’t understand. I’ve been drawing for the paper for some time.”

Anne Hearst: “Didn’t you hear me? You aren’t funny, you’re not sophisticated and you don’t add anything to this paper!!”

Me: “But…”

Anne Hearst: SLAM goes the phone

After successfully designing two LCD hand held games for Sega of America (I’m told they earned $250,000,000) I was unceremoniously ordered not to remain for the usual Wednesday project meeting and not to show up “unless requested”. Shortly thereafter I received a curt letter demanding return of all project materials and stating I had “not provided art and designs as required by contract.” The games were released to the public with my art and game play layout. The corporate world is greedy and sucks big time.

I taught Computer Graphics and Multimedia at Sonoma State University. In 2003, after preparing all summer for the Fall semester, I got an email five days before the semester started, stating my services were “not required for the Fall semester.”
Gee, thanks. The Corporate world does not have a lock on rudeness.

#14 Larry Carley
April/23/2012
@ 6:24 pm

This is the type of thing that happens when a corporation takes over a family run business. Corporations are all about money and accountable to no one except maybe their board of directors and the big stock holders. A family run business can’t pull this kind of crap because they have to be accountable to their community.

#15 Dennis Morrice
July/9/2012
@ 12:26 pm

What the Des Moines Register and the corporate big-wigs at Gannett fail to realize is Brian Duffy’s political cartoons was a big reason why people would get the Des Moines Register. Its shameful that corporations feel they need to humiliate those that are asked to leave the place of employment. Brian Duffy’s cartoons made the Des Moines Register unique and different from every other newspaper. He was able to summarize the story and the feelings of those either directly or indirectly involved with the story with his cartoon better than any reporter could. As an Iowan that enjoys seeing Brian Duffy’s work, I will miss his form of wit.

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