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Joe Heller laid off from Green Bay Press-Gazette

After 28 years at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, editorial cartoonist Joe Heller was told he was part of a Gannett-wide layoff plan. As with many, many others who have faced this scenario, I asked Joe to give me an exit interview.

Alan: How long have you been at the Green Bay Press-Gazette?
Joe: 28 years

Alan: How much advance notice did you have before you were told you’d be laid off?
Joe: I was given no notice of my layoff, although my spidey-sense was tingling for the past month or so. Rumors and too many closed-door meetings, etc.

Alan: Was your position ever at risk before?
Joe: Probably, but ignorance is bliss.

Alan: Was this layoff a Gannett decision or exclusive to the Press-Gazette?
Joe: I believe this was a decision handed down from corporate.

Alan: Will you still be drawing for the paper in any capacity?
Joe: I’m not sure at the moment. It is up to me whether I want to self-syndicate my work back to the Press-Gazette. There are many legal laws that prohibit me and the Press-gazette from publishing in a paper that just laid me off.

Alan: Have you had time to formulate what your plans are now – near term and long term?
Joe: Since I’m self-syndicated with more than 350 newspapers, I will continue to draw my editorial cartoons at my home studio. I’ve dodged the axe so many times, that when it did happen, I was prepared.

Alan: You’ve had for years a self-syndicated operation of your cartoons. Will that continue and if so, do you think you’ll expand?
Joe: Without the restrictions that my former paper put on me, and there a too many to note. I can now expand my empire to online and circulation areas that were off limits.

Alan: Were you able to keep your originals?
Joe: Yes, all 7,450 of them!

Alan: How do you feel about Wisconsin now being without a cartoonist (to my knowledge)?
Joe: I’m sad/angry that this had to happen. The Press-gazette was the smallest paper in the state with a full-time cartoonist. They held my position as long as they could… much, much longer than the much, much larger Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

You know, not having this “you’re the last dinosaur” label hanging over me is somewhat of a relief. I plan to do some evolving.

Alan: Is there anything you’d like to add, or say?
Joe: Alan, aren’t you getting tired of sending “exit interview” questions out? Hopefully, this will be the last one.

Community Comments

#1 Robert Ariail
August/1/2013
@ 3:41 pm

Good luck, Joe. I hope you will both continue with cartooning and prosper.

#2 JP Trostle
August/1/2013
@ 4:51 pm

Gosh, Gannett must *really* be hurting to layoff so many news people. It’s like they poured all their money down a rat hole…

Oh wait, never mind, they did?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/08/business/media/with-political-ad-profits-swing-state-tv-stations-are-hot-properties.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

#3 JimmyDee GreenBay
August/1/2013
@ 5:15 pm

Copy that Joe, expand your empire most certainly you will!

#4 don sidney
August/1/2013
@ 6:16 pm

Thanks Joe for twenty-eight amusing and thought-provoking years. Good luck. Will be watching for you on another venue.

#5 Michelle Zjala Winter
August/1/2013
@ 6:18 pm

You go, Joe!!! I love your cartoons! I do miss counting bratwurst though :-)

#6 Joe Engesser
August/1/2013
@ 6:25 pm

Keep expanding…looking forward to seeing more of your great work, Joe!

#7 Chris Hartnek
August/1/2013
@ 8:05 pm

WISH YOU THE BEST. LOVED YOUR ON TARGET CARTOONS. HOPE TO SEE YOU IN THE FUTURE

#8 Barb Baranczyk
August/1/2013
@ 8:09 pm

Thank you Joe for 28 wonderful years of cartoons; I look forward to seeing more. You are another class act!! God Bless you and your family

#9 Steve Artley
August/1/2013
@ 9:17 pm

Wishing you all the best, Joe! You’re a great talent and I look forward to continue seeing your work without the editorial restrictions.

#10 Dana Summers
August/2/2013
@ 6:23 am

Joe, we’ve known each a long time. I made it thirty years, you 28. I guess we are dinosaurs…but not extinct yet!! Hang, working at home ain’t all that bad.
Dana

#11 Beth Winkel
August/2/2013
@ 8:56 am

Joe,

I will miss your cartoons in the Press Gazette. They aare the real loosers in letting you go. I hope you publish some place so we “locals” don’t miss your great work.

#12 fran fraser
August/2/2013
@ 11:17 am

I watched for your toons in the Denver Post. Of all they were the best! I looked forward to them. Hope I still get to see some. With newspapers it seems only the good ones get fired.

#13 T. Brian Kelly
August/2/2013
@ 12:35 pm

I believe Phill Hands is still drawing editorial cartoons on a regular freelance basis at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison. He’s also syndicated by the Canadian Artizans Syndicate.

#14 Breanna Heller
August/2/2013
@ 4:51 pm

you’re the best dad, everything will be fine :) you’ve still got the syndication, and most of all, you have me and the rest of our family backing you 100% no matter what. love you lots!

#15 Bobbie Lison
August/2/2013
@ 8:01 pm

Another horrible mistake by Gannett. Heller was one of the reasons I keep my subscription. Truly a loss and will diminish the paper.

#16 Pedro Molina
August/5/2013
@ 7:28 pm

Sorry for the paper, All the best to Joe!

#17 Joe Heller
August/6/2013
@ 8:57 am

Thanks for your kind words, folks. It will only get better from this point on! -Joe

#18 Milt Priggee
August/6/2013
@ 3:41 pm

They need Joe a lot more than Joe needs them.

#19 Milt Priggee
August/6/2013
@ 3:47 pm

I pray that IF Joe agrees to some sort of freelance agreement with the GBPG that his price is one that will make them wish they hadn’t let him go…..

#20 Steve Barr
August/13/2013
@ 7:57 am

When newspapers axe their cartoonists, they lose a big part of their soul and their personality. I wonder sometimes if they do any research at all about the impact this has on their readers and their circulation over time. I have a feeling it is just a “bottom line” kind of thing, but they don’t realize the intangibles that are involved. Regardless, I know Joe will grow and prosper after this, because he’s too good not to. The paper and its readers are the ones who lose. Best of luck, Joe! I can’t wait to see what you do next.

#21 Mac & Renee McDougall
September/16/2013
@ 2:26 pm

The very best to you and yours! We MISS you so much!
I guess politics can’t even stay out of cartoons.

#22 sara falk
September/26/2013
@ 5:34 pm

Can’t believe they let you go!! saw you in Sturgeon bay and was very impressed. in my travels saw you in many papers. People wonder why newspapers are having such a hard time——this is a good example.

#23 Paul Schanen
October/3/2013
@ 9:24 am

Another bush-league move by the GBPG. Thanks for the past 28 years. What is left in the Press Gazette I can read on the internet. If my wife agrees, we will cancel all but Sunday delivery to still get the coupons. Sorry Press Gazette, this was the last straw.

#24 Mark Bentley
February/17/2014
@ 6:57 pm

Joe: Have truly missed your political insight! As the Press Gazette continues it’s march to political rightwing hell, with an ever increasingly ignorant and declining populace (i.e. subscribers) I wish only you the very best! In return, we are stuck with totally political LISA, and Charles Krauthammer? Wish us well? This neverending Gannett rightwing hell truly sucks!!! Best wishes!!! Mark

#25 Judith Murphy
October/23/2014
@ 5:53 pm

Joe? I’ve considered you an editorial cartoon genius all these years. You’ve left me dumfounded with your ability to come up with intelligent, clever, witty and/or funny cartoons covering every spectrum of subjects that randomly came up on a next to daily basis. Not many individuals could stand the pressure of the deadline so well as you did, as I never felt the quality of your cartoon was something you compromise. You have just a remarkable and hard to comprehend ability, which, I am happy to say, I expressed to you personally at Artstreet one year when you made yourself available to the Public.

I must add that, besides the wording you came up with, your drawings alone were (are) superb?.many of which I would bet we fans cut out and shared and/or saved for repeated future viewings.

SPECIFICALLY?.I MUST BRING UP AND AGAIN CONGRATULATE YOU ON YOUR 9/11/01 STATUE OF LIBERTY Editorial Cartoon. Of course you had a ton of great ones?.however, the emotion shown in that one really did display the feelings of our Nation. That was spectacular by you and that alone will keep you in memory of all of those who were able to purchase the wonderful copies you had made for purchase by the general public.

Rock on ?and enjoy your progression without any political or other ties that may have stunted any part of growth and, more likely, gave you annoying headaches. Have fun!

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