Borgman: I’m not retiring, just reducing workload

After 32 years with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Jim Borgman is leaving behind editorial cartooning, both for his paper and his syndication work for Universal Press. For the last 12 years, he’s been doing both the editorial cartoons and his comic strip Zits which he co-created with Jerry Scott. The combined workload “adds up to a lot of late nights and weekends,” he says.

Three or four weeks ago, the Enquirer’s publisher sent out a memo to all employees offering a severance package to all employees. With the recent journalism purge and no foreseeable change in the industry, Jim thought this would be an opportune time to reduce his workload. His editors were surprised with his decision and they asked him to continue to freelance with the paper to which Jim agreed to a weekly feature that will start in January.

As to the new feature, Jim admits that it’s “vague” at this point, but he’s looking at Phil Frank’s Farley as a mental model to start thinking of a feature. He likes Phil’s whimsical and local touch and doesn’t foresee his feature becoming heavily political.

Jim has been a fixture in Cincinnati where he was born and raised. He is often mentioned in polls and surveys as one of the most influential citizens. Speaking of his connection with Cincinnati, he said, “I do feel that the people here get me and I get them. I’ll still be able to talk with them with my new weekly feature in January.”

Jim won the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 and the National Cartoonist Society’s editorial cartoon division award five times.

15 thoughts on “Borgman: I’m not retiring, just reducing workload

  1. Well, at least Jim wasn’t forced into his way, even if the decision was based on what is happening in the industry.

    I’m curious to see what his new feature will be. Maybe it’ll be similar to the “Wonk City” strip he did for the Washington Post, 1994-96.

  2. Sad news indeed for the editorial cartooning world, but that weekly local feature sounds like a great idea. (Even if I won’t catch any of the references.)

  3. I don’t know Jim, and I’m going out on a limb here, but by editorialist standards he’s a young man who’s thrown in the towel, so why?

    Well, the obvious reason is that editorializing doesn’t excite him anymore. Sure he has a workload, but he’s his own boss, it’s not like he has to work 9 to 5 pushing trolleys and fits in the cartooning when he can. His relationship with the Cincinnati Enquirer must mean that he has security of tenure, there’s no pressure on him to make every cartoon a keeper.

    No, I believe Jim, and many other editorial cartoonists, realized long ago that the US political system, especially under the present President, was beyond satire.

    There was nothing any cartoonist could do to parody it. Nothing they said or did made a blind bit of difference!
    Very debilitating for a cartoonist, that.

  4. Actually, Malc – I don’t have to go out on a limb here – I actually talked to Jim personally. He looked at the future of the newspaper industry, his 2 jobs that he’s had to balance for the last 12 years and simply dropped one when it seemed like a good opportunity. The idea that Jim would simply start knocking out mediocre scribbles just to punch the clock so he could devote more time to Zits is laughable. Jim’s one of the giants in the field – you don’t become a giant by punching the clock.

    Opinions regarding topics are most valuable when they’re not based on conjecture.

  5. Alan,
    If you read my post through again, you’ll find that it wasn’t a jibe at Borgman, it was a satirical jab on the state of the political scene, i.e. that eight years of Bush has rendered it beyond parody, therefore even the best cartoonists resign rather than try to hit it with another pig’s bladder.
    I’m sure Jim doesn’t need anyone to stick up for him, but way to go, buddy.

  6. Jim is one of those rare editorial talents that on one day could create a cartoon that was laugh out loud funny and the next day feature something that truly touches your heart. As a Cincinnati area resident, it’s been a real joy to follow his career. I look forward to his return feature in January.

  7. As a Cincinnati native and hobby cartoonist (I draw for the fun of it!), I must say that Jim will be much missed! My brother and I have long looked up to him and found his work to be top quality! We will miss you at the Enquirer, but look forward to seeing Zits fly!

    Good luck in all you do, Jim!

  8. Perhaps Jim finally realised that 99% of the modern audience is completely incapable of detecting irony and chucked it in. A lesson you would do well to learn, Mister McGookin.

  9. “Jimâ??s one of the giants in the field – you donâ??t become a giant by punching the clock.”

    I agree and disagree.

    You only become a giant by virtue of being victim to some hormonal disorder, or mythical. Punching the clock is no way to increase size, perhaps you are using a very obscure euphemism for increasing size elsewhere. And that doesn’t work either.

    However, once attaining giant status, most people would rampage through a city of skyscrapers or live in a big castle and eat children, so I doubt Jim would merely share a field with other genetic freak/imaginary creatures.

    Mere conjecture of course. I have not spoken to Jim on the matter.

  10. Actually Paul, “punching the clock” is a well-known euphemism in athletics circles for taking anabolic steroids. This derives from an infamous incident where a certain 200m sprinter (I won’t mention her name, but I imagine you can guess!) knocked a timekeeper unconscious in a steroid-fueled rage after failing to break a world record. Hence, “punching the clock” could indeed make one a giant in the field (and in fact on the track).

  11. Clearly the clock is ticking and newspapers fade a bit more each day, losing more and more of what makes them STILL vastly superior to the web in terms of quality and research, but in terms of quantity, the web is just an unending avalanche…

    On the other hand, OH BOY!! A new cartoon from Borgman!
    Fun stuff!


  12. I don’t blame Jim for wanting to reduce an insane workload, and for taking a huge buyout to do so. But his editorial cartooning has been brilliant day in and day out for decades, and it’s a real loss to the profession for him to give this up.

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