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RJ Matson laid off from St. Louis Post Dispatch

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The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has announced it has laid off 23 staffers from their newsroom citing weak economic conditions. Riverfront Times reports Post-Dispatch editorial cartoonist R.J. Matson was among those let go.

The Post-Dispatch announcement:

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has laid off 23 staffers from the newsroom, advertising and production, the company announced today.

The cuts continue the trend of downsizing at the newspaper, the largest in the Lee Enterprises chain, as the industry struggles to contend with declining print advertising revenue.

Lee earlier this month announced that it had narrowed its losses in the fiscal third quarter. The loss of $1.5 million, or three cents a share, compared with a loss of $155.5 million, or $3.46 a share, a year earlier.

Lee Enterprises, the paper’s parent company, also announced it gave CEO Mary Junck a stock bonus worth some $655,000.

Community Comments

#1 Dale Stout
July/28/2012
@ 3:04 pm

What a shame, loss and disappointment. I really enjoyed R.J. Matson’s work at the Post-Dispatch. One of the best. Fortunately, we’ll see it elsewhere, but it’s still disappointing. He added so much.

#2 Paul Fell
July/28/2012
@ 3:26 pm

Betcha those layoffs didn’t even come close to covering the stock bonus that CEO Junck received. On the bright side, though, at the present time, Lee Enterprises stock is almost worthless. Just like their management.

R.J. Matson was the best thing the Post Dispatch had.

#3 Michael Pohrer
July/28/2012
@ 6:32 pm

Well that is just terrible. I admire R.J.’s work. So Clean and fantastic. As a fellow St. Louis editorial cartoonist I’ve been watching The Post dwindle away for years. I don’t even know why I subscribe to the printed pages.

#4 Michael Pohrer
July/28/2012
@ 6:35 pm

By the way how about Dan Martin?

#5 Charles Brubaker
July/29/2012
@ 2:09 am

Geez, what a waste.

Will Matson continue to draw for syndication?

#6 Mike Peterson
July/29/2012
@ 3:01 am

Lee Enterprises was once a mid-sized chain of small community newspapers — the largest being just under 50,000 circ. When they acquired the Pulitzer chain, they picked up a raft of similar-sized papers, plus St. Louis, a major metro so far out of their area of expertise that it was assumed they’d sell it and use the money to partially offset their leveraging.

But they didn’t, and their business decisions since have shown the same utter lack of forethought. The growth of the Internet has been a challenge, certainly, but let’s not forget the growth of stupidity within the industry — it’s been even more devastating.

#7 mike peters
July/29/2012
@ 9:38 am

What a stupid , stupid move.Matson has been developing in to a major force in cartooning.Does anyone know a web address for Matson?

#8 Michael Pohrer
July/29/2012
@ 10:57 am

@ Mike Peters it’s over at rjmatson.com. Plus I’ve been wanting to ask. Do you have all the shows from your mothers program? I’ve been trying to locate episodes where my father performed.

#9 Milt Priggee
July/29/2012
@ 12:16 pm

Letting go of Matson….???? Right at THE very time that they need help to maintain their readership as they transition over to their digital platform. So much for the print people knowing how to maximize their monopoly for their bottom line.
Please correct me if I am wrong….but I believe this layoff makes Missouri the 21st state in the union without a staff newspaper editorial cartoonist.

#10 Michael Pohrer
July/29/2012
@ 1:26 pm

Transforming to digital isn’t working for them either. The whole updated online presence is just terrible looking. Appeal factor I would estimate is zero, except for the people that designed it.

#11 mike peters
July/29/2012
@ 3:11 pm

Michael, I only wish we did. a lot of tapes were sent to Umsel college (University of Missouri in St. Louis) There is a one hour tribute to her on (Carlotte Peters Show at Youtube) Thanks for the Info about Matson.

#12 Stacy Curtis
July/29/2012
@ 8:29 pm

There’s an army of editorial cartoonists who have been axed by Lee Enterprises, including myself.
They will never learn from their mistakes, which is why you can’t give their stock away.

Sorry, R.J.

#13 SJ Stone
July/29/2012
@ 9:03 pm

Mary Junck is a disgrace to the industry. She’s helped destroy Lee Enterprises, yet she gets $650 K for what? Firing people due to her own mismanagement? This CEO is just an example of why the industry is in the crapper. Dump content, lose readers, then advertisers. Idiots.

#14 Michael Pohrer
July/29/2012
@ 9:42 pm

@ Mike Peters, I was hoping my search would result in what I was looking for wishing it was included in that (I seen the Tribute awhile back) No luck. Thanks huge for the response back though much appreciated.

#15 Dave Astor
July/30/2012
@ 5:58 am

Reminds me of when several Tribune Co. newspapers eliminated editorial cartooning positions in and around 2005, and then Tribune Co. CEO Denis FitzSimons got a $41-million departing package a couple of years later. Disgusting.

#16 Mike Lester
July/30/2012
@ 6:48 am

I’m not the guy to do it but seems one could compile a pretty impressive list of editorial cartoonists w/ no home paper. Including yours truly.

#17 Milt Priggee
July/30/2012
@ 6:53 am

Newspapers are NOT the solution, they are the problem.

#18 Stacy Curtis
July/30/2012
@ 7:20 am

I think Lee Enterprises only has one full-time editorial cartoonist left … David Fitzsimmons at the Arizona Star.

#19 Pedro Molina
July/30/2012
@ 12:00 pm

Ouch!

#20 Phil Hands
July/30/2012
@ 3:20 pm

I think Stacy is right. Granted I think they only ever had two, Fitzsimmons and Matson. Lee was a chain of relatively small papers until they overpaid for/bought the Pulitzer Group.

#21 Jeff Darcy
July/30/2012
@ 3:44 pm

Just think about how many Editorial cartoonists salaries in that chain or any other, that 650 k bonus would pay for

#22 Pat Bagley
July/30/2012
@ 3:54 pm

CEOs get paid so much because of their “talent.” Wonder how much Ted Bundy would be pulling down today if only he’d gone into finance.

#23 Stacy Curtis
July/31/2012
@ 1:11 am

Phil, I was a full-time editorial cartoonist when Lee bought our newspaper, prior to them buying the Pulitzer Group.
I lasted several years under Lee’s ownership, but they kept trimming the newspaper staff down until my number came up.

They buy newspapers and cut and cut and cut until there’s nothing left. I know our newspaper went through several rounds of layoffs. Even after I was cut, they kept on cutting.

And someone kept on getting richer.

#24 Milt Priggee
July/31/2012
@ 10:58 am

What Stacy described…IS the print newspaper owners’ business model…and has been for decades.

It’s a business model that doesn’t have anything to do with journalism, freedom of speech or any of that other stuff you thought was important to democracy.
The print newspaper business model is nothing more than pure ……LIQUIDATION. Financially gut it is as much and as for long as they can then find some other entity who believes they can continue it. (Can you say Thelma and Louise )

Like I said earlier….newspapers are NOT the solution, they are the problem.

#25 Matt Davies
July/31/2012
@ 12:10 pm

Ugh. Watching the corporate newspaper budget jockeys expertly manage the “transition to web” is heartbreaking. If you are a remaining member of the rapidly shrinking pool of salaried editorial cartoonists, PLEASE start working on those long-deferred extra-curricular projects so that when the pink slip fairy comes to visit, it’s not the end of the world. And not working for a newspaper really isn’t the end of the world, by the way. Just the end of halfway decent health insurance and afternoon naps

Good luck RJ. Don’t look back!

#26 Michael Pohrer
July/31/2012
@ 4:47 pm

HA! True story just happened. Insult to injury. Long story short. Needed to get a prescription filled. Walked in. There they were “Hi would you like to subscribe to the Post?” You can imagine my reaction being a fellow St. Louis Cartoonist. I did tell them my exact thoughts and left them with “Tell Lee Enterprises I will be cancelling my subscription!”

#27 Steve Artley
August/1/2012
@ 6:14 am

It’s such senseless maneuvering when feeling an economic pinch to eliminate your best among the ranks, while retaining the deadwood in management. At the same time, the trend in PROFITABLE businesses these days is for management to cut salaries of their workers while giving themselves bonuses. As a worker bee, you’re screwed in either scenario.

Wishing you all the best, RJ! I’ve always admired your work.

#28 William Foristal
August/3/2012
@ 10:22 am

Sorry to hear about the layoffs. I will really miss RJ Matson’s cartoons and will especially miss his weekly Punch Line caption contest. Hope everyone who got the pink slip finds employment soon. (How can the CEO get a stock bonus when they are laying off loyal, hard working employees?)

#29 Robert McAvoy
August/29/2012
@ 11:37 am

In one of the best things to happen to a paper that is in its death spiral, was to get rid of a cartoonist who did not reflect the readership of the Post-Dispatch. Matson should be ashamed of himself by continually attacking conservatives, yet approximately 50% of the subscribers to the paper are conservatives. The paper talks about being fair, yet Matson was never fair. Never criticizing the liberals and Democrats, yet only criticizing the people trying to create jobs, stop handouts and entitlements, and build self-reliance in all people. No, Matson, I am glad to see you go and perhaps we will get some balance in the cartoons printed. So far, more balance in 3 weeks, than I have seen in Matson’s entire, sorry stay at the paper. Glad to see you go.

#30 Jeff Klayman
September/12/2012
@ 9:54 am

My wife and I have subscribed to the Post Dispatch since I returned from Vietnam in 1969, a time when the paper was one of the better publications in the country. Since Lee took over, the quality has steadily diminished. Lee was obviously unprepared to run a major newspaper and today our once-great publication might more accurately be renamed “The St. Louis Feed Store Gazette.”

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