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Is it just me or is this editor a tad bitter?

Editor Scott Hollifield of The McDowell News (Marion, N.C.) left out the comics in a small town newspaper.

And if I do accidentally leave the comics out of the newspaper, I should not go to work the next day. And if I do go to work the next day, I should not answer the phone. And if I answer the phone, I should be prepared for plenty of questions about whether or not I am qualified to be a small-town newspaper editor, whether or not I resemble the south end of a northbound mule and whether or not my parents were first cousins.

Your newspaper, the one you hold in your hands right now, provided you are not reading this on the Internet for free and shortening my already regrettable career, may be an error-free work of journalistic exquisiteness that would make a Pulitzer Prize committee member wet his pants due to its sheer magnificence, a work of contemporary art produced by dozens or even hundreds of highly intelligent individuals who graduated at the top of their classes with Latin accolades from prestigious J-schools.

But I doubt it.

Read the whole thing.

Community Comments

#1 Stephen Bobbett
April/3/2009
@ 9:54 am

Look: I love comics, but honestly, do the folks of Winston-Salem have nothing better to do with their time than harangue their local paper for a one-time, frantic mistake?

Poor guy. He makes one wrong click of a mouse, and the town cries for his resignation, despite the fact that he was trying to make sure the building wasn’t on fire. I’d say he’s more beleaguered than bitter.

#2 Mike Peterson
April/3/2009
@ 12:19 pm

I’d say he’s bitter, beleagured and due for retirement — even if he’s only 27, which I suspect.

Yes, mistakes happen. And you take your licks when they do, without insinuating that the real problem is the complainers, not the mistake.

And if your excuse is, “Hey, get over it, you semiliterate cornpones. I can barely handle my responsibilities as it is, and it doesn’t take much to make me screw up,” well, don’t say it where your publisher might read it.

#3 Beth Cravens
April/3/2009
@ 1:32 pm

Well, on the upside at least he knows his paper is getting read. I know that small town people can be a vicious lot sometimes, but gracious apologies will usually do the trick. If he really is that bummed about working at a small newspaper maybe he should get out.

#4 Rick Ellis
April/3/2009
@ 2:28 pm

No, not bitter, snarky.

#5 Wiley Miller
April/3/2009
@ 3:57 pm

Wouldn’t it be nice if an editor would step back for a moment and simply think about such a response to a mistake? What does that reaction from the readers (you know, the one’s who BUY the newspaper) say about the importance of that section to the very livelihood of the paper, especially in these dire times, which means his OWN livelihood.

Rather than getting angry that the readers love what he considers pedestrian fare, wouldn’t he, and all other papers, be better served to use the comics by paying more attention to them and giving them a better, more prominent display? The irony, of course, is that’s exactly why newspapers created comic in the first place.

#6 P.S. Mueller
April/3/2009
@ 5:07 pm

A lot of folks in print are about ready to snap. Every long-time editor and reporter I know who works at a daily is watching it all crumble from the inside, and many are praying for a buyout instead of an ax. The fourth estate is disappearing, plain and simple, and what emerges will likely be less suited to cover the courts, bond issues, and school board meetings that the few remaining participants in democracy expect.

I give the guy a pass.

#7 Jeff Darcy
April/3/2009
@ 5:19 pm

Wiley-
That’s one of the biggest mystery’s to me today at Newspapers.
I came across the memior of an Editor who worked for Cleveland papers from about 1874 to the early 1900’s. He writes about being overjoyed at discovering and hiring the papers first cartoonist. How it would boost the paper and so on… How did it go from that and comics being used to draw in and keep young readers to cartoons being seen as pain in the but to editors I’ll never know.

#8 Jeff Stanson
April/3/2009
@ 6:02 pm

Randolph Hearst and Joseph Paterson knew full well the importance of having a full-featured newspaper, and the part features played in customer satisfaction with the complete product. They worked along with cartoonists to shape their papers’ strips. At some point journalists became self-important and scorned the other elements of a paper. Now the few readers that are left care little to nothing about the byline on a story or what the editors’ opinions are. Editors once were some of the most respected citizens in town; now in a day when newspaper corporations don’t even have the respect of their employers, why should we respect their editorials? I think this editor deserves what he got.

By the way, I’m familiar with Marion, NC, and have perused copies of the McDowell News on several occasions over the years. Marion’s a long way Winston-Salem and much closer to Asheville.

#9 Wiley MIller
April/3/2009
@ 7:39 pm

“How did it go from that and comics being used to draw in and keep young readers to cartoons being seen as pain in the but to editors Iâ??ll never know.”

Simply because it’s not taught in J-school. All of these people coming out to J-school look down on features in general, thinking it’s beneath their editorial dignity. REAL newsmen don’t have anything to do with the features section! So they’ve completely lost touch with the newspaper BUSINESS, which they’ve completely turned over to the corporate bean counters, who are even more clueless, as they only look at the bottom line without understanding what produces the bottom line.

It’s utterly maddening, made worse when you try to explain this to any editor, who just give you a blank stare. They just don’t want to deal with comics, even though it’s the only thing that’s holding on to what few readers they still have and providing what few jobs remain in newspapers.

Death by ignorance and stupidity.

#10 Mike Cope
April/4/2009
@ 5:38 am

I read the complete article and found the whole “raging furnace motor fire” story to be an excellent analogy for what his real message was: “Comics-free newspaper no laughing matter”

He admits upfront that his is a “small-town newspaper,” yet the article is mixed with hints of the same doom and gloom being faced by the big newspapers in the big cities.

Bitter? I don’t think so.

Sarcastic? Definitely.

Truthful? …

“Your newspaper, the one you hold in your hands right now, provided you are not reading this on the Internet for free and shortening my already regrettable career …”

I don’t think this editor is ignorant or stupid. I think he’s well aware of what his current situation is, and what the state of the industry is like.

Which makes me wonder, was this a social experiment? Did they make a “mistake” to see what kind of reaction (if any) they’d receive?

Regardless, you have to think about WHO is reading the comics section of a small-town newspaper? Of that group, WHO is going to write/call the editor when “THEIR” comics are missing? And how eloquent are they going to be in their complaint?

“And on and on it went. Readers may not concur as to what particular comic strip is the most beloved, but they can all agree on this: I am an idiot.

And that’s what I learned this week in my day job as a small-town newspaper editor.”

I agree with the editor. A comics-free newspaper is no laughing matter.

#11 Mike Cope
April/4/2009
@ 9:32 am

I don’t know what happened with the article’s comment section, but here’s a copy of the message I just left …

Dear Mr. Hollifield,

My name is Mike Cope, and I’m a cartoonist from Stoney Creek, Ontario (a small-town about 45 mins. away from Toronto). I read your “Comics-free newspaper” article online after seeing it mentioned on The Daily Cartoonist. If you’re not familiar with this website, it’s an excellent source of industry news for professional cartoonists and editors alike.

After posting some thoughts regarding your article, I thought that a friendly e-mail couldn’t hurt … Especially considering the types of messages you appear to have received lately from irate comic fans. I know that the role of an editor is not easy, especially one in a small-town paper, and so I applaud you for writing and sharing such a revealing article. What really struck a chord with me was your comment, “provided you are not reading this on the Internet for free and shortening my already regrettable career.”

Believe it or not, I can completely relate.

Personally, I’m saddened by the current state of newspapers (big or small). I’ve always wanted to become a newspaper cartoonist, but for us “younger” cartoonists, it’s becoming more and more difficult to break-into the business as subscription numbers decline and comic pages continue to shrink. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame editors for the fact that they have to find ways to cut costs — businesses are currently struggling everywhere. Whether either group would like to admit it or not, cartoonists and editors are in this battle together.

Ironically, it was legendary newspaper editors like Hearst and Pulitzer who created the first funny pages to attract readers. The fact that your single day mistake of accidentally leaving the comics out of the newspaper generated such an emotional response from your readers, to me, demonstrates that the funnies still have a purpose and future with newspapers.

I don’t know if you enjoy cartoons, yourself, but I hope you consider the value that your comics page can serve, rather than listening to those who just call you an idiot.

Kind regards,

Mike Cope
Stoney Creek, Ontario
Canada

#12 Mike Peterson
April/4/2009
@ 7:25 pm

I think I’m probably in about as good a position as anyone to talk about the pressure on editors these days, since I have just been told I’m about to be out of a job. So what? That doesn’t give me a free pass to look down on the readers. And I’m not crying about how hard my job is (was?) — in fact, my last job was crazy, with seven days weeks and 13 hour days and so I left. You need to take responsibility not only for your errors but for whether or not you’re happy in your job. And, yeah, I’d rather lose this job than keep that last one!

Last weekend, there was a trade show in town and we had a booth. A woman came up and told me how poorly written the paper was and how generally lousy, and I’m nodding and telling her we do our best, and then she said, “Especially …” and mentioned a particular story. “Hey!” I said, “I wrote that story!”

She was completely embarrassed, but I was laughing and then I talked to her about how I had only a limited space in which to describe the talk (which she had attended) and why I made the choices I made on what to accentuate in my coverage. And we ended up having an interesting conversation. Turns out she hadn’t liked that story, which was about her favorite author, but after talking it out, she was somewhat mollified and we parted with smiles and laughter and I think she understands a little more about how decisions are made.

Of course, that bitter, condescending jerk who berates his readers and thinks of them as losers is still employed …

#13 Brian Fies
April/4/2009
@ 10:11 pm

Sorry to hear about the job, Mike. It sounded ideal for you.

I kind of like Mr. Hollifield’s moxie. It’s the opposite of a bland, bureaucratic non-apology, which is what you’d get from most editors and publishers. He’s got spunk.

Of course, Mr. Grant hates spunk.

#14 Scott Hollifield
April/6/2009
@ 9:56 am

I’m a “bitter, condescending jerk who berates his readers and thinks of them as losers?”

That’s a bit harsh.

#15 Mike Peterson
April/6/2009
@ 12:58 pm

You remember those writing courses in college where you submit your story with no name on it, and then have to sit and listen while the rest of the class dissects it? And at the end, the teacher says, “Would the author like to comment?” and then you get a chance to explain what you meant.

The theory is that you can’t follow all your readers around looking over their shoulders and telling them what you were trying to say, and so your writing has to be very clear. Sure, someone will invariably misunderstand, but you have to write so that the bulk of readers will get it.

It’s less important if you are trying to write “Finnegan’s Wake” or “The Sound and the Fury,” but pretty critical if you’re writing an editorial for the Daily Bugle. That’s why newspaper writing is such an important training ground for so many authors.

Well, this reader thought you came across as bitter and condescending and rude to your readers. I’m willing to accept that it wasn’t your intention, but machs nix.

#16 Frank Zieglar
April/6/2009
@ 9:19 pm

I guess there is at least ONE editor who will not discount the importance of a comics page to their readers.

Now if he would go the opposite direction and give them more space then he might sell more papers.

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