Steve Greenberg laid off from Ventura County Star

I just received an email from Steve Greenberg telling me that his job with the Ventura County Star will be eliminated as of Nov. 30. Since 2002, Steve has been with the paper doing editorial graphics and editorial cartoons as a secondary position. He tells me as the single artist, he thought his position was pretty safe and didn’t see this one coming.

The Star is part of the E.W. Scripps chain, which announced it was eliminating 400 positions – including whole art departments.

Steve says his cartoons will continue on Daryl Cagle’s site and will try to pick up additional freelance work.

UPDATED: Steve asks for me to add his e-mail address if you all want to contact him directly. His e-mail is:

UPDATED, again: Steve is interviewed by Mike Cavna at the WashPo.

29 thoughts on “Steve Greenberg laid off from Ventura County Star

  1. That sucks. Steve is a talented guy.

    Scripps only made $1.1 billion last year, over half of that from newspapers. It’s sad to see them hurting so bad financially.

  2. This does suck massively, and I feel Steve’s pain. Another hit to the once-proud profession that we enjoyed so much.

  3. Dedicated and hard-working staff like Steve are doing all they can to make the papers better, and yet it can never be enough in the eyes of the owners. It’s a rigged system. Steve, I know you’ll bounce back from this.

  4. As an amateur fascinated by the profession it’s a disappointing watching editorial cartooning in its death throes. If the profession was to be saved decisive action would have needed to be taken 15 to 20 years ago.

    It will be up to a bold few to discover what future, if any, the profession has beyond a few mass syndicated artists.

  5. How ironic. They lay off their cartoonist despite the fact that their biggest source of growing revenue came from cartoons.

    From E&P-

    Scripps Widens Q3 Profit On Syndication And Licensing Biz

    Published: November 07, 2008 12:35 PM ET

    CHICAGO Syndication and licensing was a bright spot in E.W. Scripps third-quarter earnings report Friday.

    While the newly spun-off company reported a $16.8 million loss on the quarter, the syndication segment increased both revenue and profits — even as newspapers across the country were launching cut-down redesigns that remove some syndicated material.

    Scripps said revenue was up $22.2 million from $21.2 million in the year-ago quarter. Scripps held cash expenses essentially flat year over year, pushing the segment profit to $1.5 million from $1.3 million.

    Scripps’ United Media unit syndicates comic strips including “Peanuts,” “Dilbert,” and “Pearls Before Swine,” and such columns as “Miss Manners.”

  6. One can only join in the chorus of lament.
    It would appear that editorial cartoonists are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine.
    We are only emblematic of a moribund, if not dying industry. Maybe the bulk of us will have to become expatriates like Greg Palast in order to continue to do honest work.
    If this were not part of an ongoing dynamic, I might have attributed it to some kind of post electoral stress disorder. ( It’s a conspiracy! )

    Good luck to Steve, and to Stuart!

  7. I appreciate all the kind words.

    I’d kept thinking ever since February, when I became the lone remaining artist, that I felt bad for all those other editorial cartoonists out there, wondering if their jobs would be cut, but that I was at least safe because of my news graphics skills and because I was the only one who could do this job at my paper. Wrong. I sure didn’t see this coming.

    Now I have to figure out what to do next with my life.

  8. When a staff cartoonist gets the axe like our latest victim, Steve, no matter how many kind words you get from friends and colleagues, you still feel like your world just caved in around you. For most of us, having one’s job yanked out from underneath one is an experience nobody ever expects to have. When this finally happens to you, it messes with your head in ways you never expected, and will for some months to come.

    Steve, here’s what I suggest you do…

    First of all, allow yourself a brief pity party. None of this was your fault. You went above and beyond the call of duty in trying to make yourself as versitile and indispensible to your newspaper, all to no avail. The bean counters win again.Loyalty is worth nothing to them.

    Now that you have had your short period of mourning, set it aside… people will only feel sorry for you for a short time. Now it’s time to get mad… damn mad, and get off your butt and get going. You are a well-known commodity after all these years in your neck of the woods. Take advantage of that brand recognition. You’ll discover that when you call on potential clients and introduce yourself, there will usually be instant name recognition. With your notoriety, you automatically avoid having to participate in that mating dance that brand-new freelancers have to do when nobody knows who they are.

    Your former employer would like for you to just quietly disappear, so do the opposite. Embark on a campaign (sooner than later) to let everyone in your area know that you are not retired or out of business, but instead are heading in a new direction as a cartoonist and humorous illustrator. With all of your cartooning, illustration, and computer skills, you are more prepared for a freelance career than many of our unfortunate ex-editorial cartoonist bretheren. Heck, if I can make a freelance career out here on the Great Plains, you can certainly do the same thing in California.

    I’ll look forward to seeing you and your bride at the ’09 AAEC convention in Seattle to get a report on how your new career is progressing. In the meantime, I am at your disposal if I can be of assistance in any way, old friend.

  9. Ted… you’ve GOT to be kidding. You know d@mned well what prompted their decision, as it’s the same economic reason as all the other papers that have gotten rid of their staff cartoonist.

  10. Steve, I think Paul’s advice is spot on. You WILL bounce back from this. I know how hard you have worked in marketing yourself over the years and developing other skills beyond editorial cartooning. It’s not you, just a sign of the times. We all need to continually re-invent ourselves as contributors to the great American debate. For the vast majority of us, it just won’t be as a staff cartoonist at a declining circulation newspaper. Be positive. Be strong. You’re a great talent and a hardworking, resourceful artist. You’ll land on your feet.

    signed, your old Bay Area colleague

  11. Its always the cartoonist who is first to get the axe. “Its not you, Its the economy.” Just like in a school district’s budget, what is the first thing to be cut ? The Arts/Music programs. Heaven help us if you dare mention s-p-o-r-t-s cuts. Editorial cartoonists give the newspaper an individual identity, people come to know and expect how certain topics will be covered. Ed. Cartoons are better then a “Letter to the Editor”, sine when do letters win awards, major awards ? I know syndicated ed. cartoonists are making a living and have every right to do so, but this is just the latest way to gut the heart and soul out of the local newspaper.

  12. The NJ Star Ledger let go 40% of it’s staff. The NJ Bergen Record Closed one of it’s offices. I would say it’s beyond just firing cartoonists. I’m just doing my own cartoon books for fun.
    It’s a bad time to be breaking into the newspaper comics business.

  13. Our friend Paul lays out a good game plan, Steve. It’s a shame the forces-that-be are dismissive of the forces you bring. You will rise from this and find bring it in new ways. I wish you the best.

  14. “Steve is a talented cartoonist and a nice guy. I canâ??t imagine what prompted the Star to make such a decision.”

    The Star didn’t make the decision. Some suits in Ohio did. Just like the majority of papers that are just part of someone’s stock portfolio.

    I keep wondering why editorial cartoonists continuing to syndicate their work and cut the throat of the profession. These papers that let go their staff cartoonists don’t stop running editorial cartoons, after all. Steve and others are being replaced by other cartoonists whose cartoons can be bought for $15.

  15. Wow. I love Steve’s work. Seeing him get let go really shows that talent is not a reason to keep anyone. Watching this period in newspaper history unfold is just painful.

  16. “The Star didnâ??t make the decision. Some suits in Ohio did.”

    My bet is that the suits in Ohio gave the Star managers a number they had to meet and left the details for them to figure out.

    But I could be wrong. It’s happened before.

  17. I suspect John is right on the mark.

    This makes two papers I’ve worked for that went from three artists to zero; my previous paper in Marin County (CA) went the same route, and a coworker there who went to Wiley’s old paper in Santa Rosa tells me they went from four artists to zero. Seems to be a trend. Odd how every newspaper is praying that the internet saves them, and yet they’re slashing the visual people they need for that. Among others.

  18. You’re probably right, John. I would be interested in knowing if the decisions come down from corporate or are being made locally. I assume this is something the AAEC keeps tabs on or if not, it should.

  19. I would suspect that there are some conference calls or email exchanges in which the various editors and publishers in the chain talk about some of the cuts they’ve made to meet corporate’s targets, and that cartoonists are seen as a luxury. And there is likely a corporate vp in charge of a group including a particular paper, who may say “So, why are you spending $50,000 a year on a guy who draws one picture a day? Would you spend that on a reporter who only filed one story a day? Or a photographer who only took one picture a day? Why don’t you use a syndicated cartoon in that slot?”

    The editor who said, “No, we have to keep him. He has a lot of local identity for our paper — that ‘one cartoon a day’ is a critical part of our presence in this community” would get to keep him.

    And if it were the only time he disagreed with the VP on something every other editor in the chain had caved in on, he’d even get to keep his job. Which would be crucial, because his replacement would not likely repeat the mistake.

  20. “and that cartoonists are seen as a luxury. ”

    It has always been thus. That’s why the staff cartoonist is so easily replaced with incredibly inexpensive syndicated cartoons. We love to blame the editors and publishers for all the jobs lost, but the fact is, it’s our own who are the real source of the problem.

  21. Maybe there are a lot of jobs in jeopardy at the Star. Those dedicated folks who used to fill up street lights with oil have been unemployed for some time. Steve is a very talented cartoonist and probably a great employee, but aren’t newspaper sales plummeting due to the internet, or information super highway. There is a demographic that still likes reading the paper but they are getting old fast. As the advertising dollar shifts to online, so to must staffers find a place there. Good luck to all, including myself. Me thinks we will need it.

  22. I’m a little late on this latest firing but after reading the advice to Mr. Greenberg on how to “pick yourself up and start a freelance career”, I have a little experience in that world and here’s the reality:

    If you want to be fired on a regular basis, start a freelance career.

  23. SG: I also want to add my condolences, best wishes and offer any freelance advice. Here’s tip one (in a series): invest in yourself i.e. advertise your skill set. It’s true: you have to spend $ to make $. (Bonus tip: don’t drink your profits.) Good luck.

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