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Gannett Cuts Steve Benson and Charlie Daniel – updated

Gannett, continuing its recent actions, has cut loose dozens of journalists today
including editorial cartoonists Steve Benson and Charlie Daniel.

From Poynter:

Another brutal day for journalism.

Gannett began slashing jobs all across the country Wednesday in a cost-cutting move that was anticipated even before the recent news that a hedge-fund company was planning to buy the chain.

The cuts were not minor.

The slashing is expected to continue.

 

At the Gannett owned Arizona Republic Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Benson was a casualty.

The Phoenix New Times reports:

Benson is a veteran of the Republic, joining the paper in 1981. He won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1993 and was a finalist for the award in 1984, 1989, 1992, and 1994. Although most of his career has been in Arizona, he did a brief stint at the Morning News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington in the early ’90s.

Republic executive editor Greg Burton deferred questions to a Gannett spokesperson. The spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.


At the Knoxville News-Sentinel editorial cartoonist Charlie Daniel, who six months ago was inducted into the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, was forced out.

From Compass Knoxville:

Charlie Daniel, who has delighted readers and poked fun at the powerful with his editorial cartoons in Knoxville newspapers for six decades, is being forced to lay down his pencils.
Daniel turned down early retirement only to have his job eliminated.
The News Sentinel is eliminating Daniel’s position as editorial cartoonist, according to multiple newsroom sources.

From the Nashville Post is more about Gannett’s decimation of its Tennessee newspapers.

I’m guessing this also means the end of Charlie’s Rosy’s Diner comic.

 

Will update with more as news and reactions become available.

 

January 24 –

Arizona Republic editorial staff says goodbye to Steve Benson:

Did you see Benson today?

It was a ritual, for the powerful fearful of being skewered, and for readers looking for his take on the most important news of the day.

They turned to Steve Benson’s cartoon on the editorial page of The Arizona Republic.

Brilliantly sketched. And always with the sharpest, and finest, of points.

Benson, winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, was laid off Wednesday as part of a staff reduction by parent company Gannett Co., Inc…

 

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and Immediate Past President Pat Bagley have issued a statement condemning the Gannett action against Steve Benson:

The Gannett newspaper chain just shot itself in the foot. Steve Benson, a 37-year veteran of The Arizona Republic and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for cartooning, was let go yesterday. He was swept up in a company-wide downsizing by unthinking business school graduates who have no clue what Benson does for them: he draws in readers.

The full statement.

 

Puzzled by the status of Charlie Daniel.

The Compass Knoxville (above) reported Charlie had been let go, but the Knoxville News twitter feed showed Charlie’s cartoon for today as did the AAEC, both showing the News-Sentinel as home paper. But the paper’s website has not update Charlie’s page to include today’s cartoon.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel is reporting that Charlie Daniel will retire February 1.

Charlie Daniel, whose editorial cartoons have delighted Knoxvillians for more than six decades, has announced his retirement.

His last day with the News Sentinel will be Feb. 1.

No mention in the announcement/article about Gannett forcing him out.

They do mention his Rosy’s Diner feature:

In 2007, Daniel took an occasional setting of his cartoons — Rosy’s Diner — and turned it into a weekly strip that appeared at the top of the News Sentinel’s Sunday Perspective section.

“Rosy’s Diner” — where the one rule of civility was “No Hat No Service” — captured the spirit of everyday life in Knoxville.

Also:

In March, the News Sentinel will publish a retrospective special section looking back on Daniel’s 60 years of cartooning in Knoxville.

 

 

January 25 –


The Knoxville News-Sentinel has set up an extensive tribute gallery (55 photos) of Charlie Daniel.

 

Today’s column by Michael Cavna, of the Washington Post, reports the actions taken against Steve Benson and Charlie Daniel, and the sad trend toward editorial cartoonists in general.

And that is what we lose most as the job of newspaper staff cartoonist disappears. We miss, and should mourn, these prominent visual voices who hold the feet of the mighty to the fire. They are conversational lightning rods – and their art attracts loyal eyes, especially when they become go-to institutions within a community.

Closing with:

So enjoy your staff cartoonist while you have one – if you’re still fortunate enough to have one. Because the industry’s hourglass is not on their side.

Here’s the column via SFGate if you don’t want to use a WashPost freebie.

 

Arizona Republic readers are reacting to Benson’s firing with a full range of opinions.

 

Editorial cartoonist Paul Fell has an opinion:

 

 

January 27 –

Arizona Daily Star editorial cartoonist David Fitzsimmons
doffs his hat to, and sheds a tear for, fellow Arizona cartoonist Steve Benson.

 

 

You knew Steve Benson’s cartoons from the editorial page of The Arizona Republic, beautifully drawn and pointedly on target.

But he has a whole body of work you’ve never seen.

Steve would set up an easel and draw caricatures to raise money for charity. He drew caricatures of his co-workers.

If I had a guest in the newsroom, I would take them by Steve’s messy office, and he would push aside a scattering of pens and the ink-stained ruler on his table to draw them.

He knew why people liked it.

“We are drawn to faces like planets to the sun. There’s a gravity that pulls us in,” he said. “We are fascinated by the face, the human face.”

The Arizona Republic’s Karina Bland recalls Steve’s other career sideline as caricaturist.

 

Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
January/24/2019
@ 2:44 pm

Benson being let go merits a paraphrase of a classic Mauldin cartoon: “I won the Pulitzer. What did they fire you for?”

There was never any mistaking Benson’s feelings or beliefs, except by a never-ending supply of one-offs at GoComics who would call him a Hillary-lover, apparently unaware of the depth of his antipathy toward Ms. Clinton. I was surprised to learn recently that in 1988, he was a reliable Republican voice (per Jules Feiffer’s wide-ranging interview in the Comics Journal in that year, available online).

I hope he lands on his feet. In a sane world, he’d be snapped up already.

#2 David Cohen
January/28/2019
@ 4:58 am

At the AAEC convention in 2016 at Duke University I had the pleasure of meeting Steve and sitting with him and some other cartoonists at the hotel where we were all staying. Not only is he a brilliant cartoonist but he is a genuinely funny guy. Later that week he drew a caricature of me that is one of my treasured possessions. His talent cannot be denied, and he will find a way to use it, not only for his benefit but for all of ours as well.

#3 Alena Densmore
January/29/2019
@ 1:57 am

Like Kathy Griffin before him, and Rosie O’Donnell, and that guy who took over the daily show, Steve Benson has finally found out that being a full-time Trump hater isn’t a lucrative business model. It leads to low ratings. If only the Arizona Republic had hired a business school graduate to run the place instead of a guy who earned a certificate of happy face in Maternal trans-gender meditation from Cal-State Berkley. 61 million people voted for the man who saved America from the nightmare that would have been President Hillary. And those 61 million are the very ones who can afford to buy things like newspapers and tickets to shows. Liberal Democrats are far too enlightened to do something as boorish as earn money or run a successful business. They’re busy doing noble things, like helping illegal aliens get welfare and free medical care for their anchor babies.
So nobody goes to their shows or reads their papers or cartoons, and then they’re all out of a job. It’s the inevitable and easily predictable end to every liberal’s business career. Buh-Bye Steve Benson, the entire Arizona Republic is right behind you, on the unemployment line.

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