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Ed Hall loses freelance client after controversial cartoon

Ed Hall, a Florida editorial cartoonist, has “temporarily” lost a client newspaper after a local cartoon criticized an area school district’s spending. The cartoon appeared in the St. Augustine Record depicting a large, overweight school administer listing the items they were cutting such as art, music, athletics and then goes on to say, “so we’re canceling school… with paid leave for us of course.” Ed reports on his blog that the “superintendent of schools has said that it is an ‘untrue picture of our district.’ What I suspect is that I’ve actually hit a nerve with this cartoon; which is usually the case when one causes such a stir.”

According to Ed, the fall out is mostly be absorbed by his editor and that he also lost another client when that editor was laid off.

So anyway, that’s where it stands now – temporarily suspended – for doing my job. I have to say that my editor is actually taking most of the heat on this, and for that I am sorry. She is an old school journalist who knows what a quality editorial cartoon can and should do. She’s not afraid, she took a chance on this cartoon, and I appreciate and admire that.
Two days prior to this controversy, I found out that due to budget cutbacks, another editor at a different paper was let go – and with him – me. Ouch. Two in one week.

Community Comments

#1 Ted Dawson
November/26/2008
@ 1:09 pm

This is not out of character for this newspaper. Last year:

Newspaper Asks Public to Identify Local Blogger

A Florida newspaper appears to have hit an all-time low in the relationship between bloggers and the media. The St. Augustine Record is asking the public to help expose the identity of a local blogger who recently started a site critical of county politicians.

http://workbench.cadenhead.org/news/3140/newspaper-asks-public-identify-local

Apparently the publisher is a little too chummy with political golfing buddies to be much of a journalist. But what do you expect when a sales and marketing executive becomes publisher.

#2 Phil Tography
November/26/2008
@ 2:37 pm

This is too sad for any witty type comment. It appears many newspaper editors lack a backbone. Afraid of what a little controversy will do to the ‘paper. Lose a few advertisers, in the past others would have taken up the slack. Today, most everyone is PC and actually cares what certain extreme groups say and do.I know of some editors who have the guts to stand up to the groups. In turm good feuds help ‘paper sales.
I got to give it to this cartoonist for telling the truth. All too often it is the arts and music programs which are the first to be cutback/eliminated.

#3 Ted Rall
November/26/2008
@ 4:02 pm

Instead of being dismayed, the paper should have commended Ed for sparking discussion and engaging readers. That isn’t just what edtorial cartoons are supposed to do. It’s what newspapers are supposed to do—those that want to stick around and remain profitable, anyway.

#4 Mike Peterson
November/26/2008
@ 5:22 pm

I guess the question I’d have is, does the cartoon have some basis? It would be nice if Hall said, “This is what the district cut, this is what they didn’t cut, this is why I drew what I did.”

Absent some background information, there’s no way to tell whether it was a solid commentary on the situation or a cheapshot. I’m disappointed he didn’t include it.

#5 Mike Lester
November/27/2008
@ 8:42 am

All editorial cartoons worth the ink are “cheap shots”. The rest is p.c. pap. This is about cowards and Ed works for one. I empathize for him. How’s he supposed to do his job next time w/out looking over his shoulder? Newspapers and the people who run them are the proverbial team that built a big lead, played to protect it and now find themselves losing. My publishers biggest headache is his editorial cartoonist. Why? He’s old school and stands up to the faux-offended on behalf of his employee(s), his paper and his idea of what’s right. Hang in there, Ed.

#6 Mike Peterson
November/27/2008
@ 9:56 am

So, if I get you right, Mike, you’re saying that it doesn’t matter whether his criticism of the school’s administration is based on their actions or policies, or simply stems from his ability to come up with a scenario in which they look selfish and stupid?

As long as offends them, it’s a good cartoon? Come on, you can’t mean that.

#7 Wiley Miller
November/27/2008
@ 10:20 am

You can, with very little effort, find “offense” in virtually any cartoon, whether it’s an editorial cartoon or not. It’s a simple matter of taking the abstract hyperbole of a cartoon and reading it literally. And passing a cartoon around among a review board is the easiest way to accomplish this idiocy. And what makes this whole thing even more idiotic is that controversy builds readership! The editors should be thrilled that the cartoon evoked response. That shows people are reading it, and I guarantee you that every one of those “offended” readers will go right to that page first every day now to see if there’s something else to enrage them. For God’s sake, this is the very thing that built the newspaper industry in the first place! This is yet another example of how today’s editors and publishers have absolutely no idea how their own industry works. And they wonder why it’s going down the tubes…

#8 Wiley Miller
November/27/2008
@ 11:04 am

I should also add that’s it’s easy to be offensive in a cartoon, and being offensive for the sake of being offensive to get attention is a fallback position for a lazy cartoonist who has nothing to say and doesn’t have a grasp of the issue he or she is lampooning. This is supposed to be the reason the paper has an editor. A good editor knows the difference between a good, hard-hitting editorial cartoon and one that’s just vacuous, juvenile humor, then will stand behind the good cartoon and reject the other. Sadly, there are precious few good editors understand the difference and have the backbone to do their job.

#9 Mike Lester
November/27/2008
@ 4:10 pm

“So, if I get you right, Mike…” -Mr. Peterson.

You responded in english, but that’s as close as you got.

Let me say it slower: unlike what passes for news reporting, the big three news casts, Katie Brian Charlie, MSNBC, Olberman, The New York Times, etc. etc., the ONLY job of the editorial cartoon IS to interpret the news. We are NOT journalists but apparently, neither are the journalists.

Wiley, there’s always been and always will be a big difference between real musicians and somebody who bites the head off a bat.

A personal note of thanks today for my fellow professionals, our Country and our role in it as cartoonists. God bless you.

#10 Wiley Miller
November/27/2008
@ 5:30 pm

“…thereâ??s always been and always will be a big difference between real musicians and somebody who bites the head off a bat.”

Yep. The bat head-biters have always outnumbered the professionals in every profession. And so it goes.

#11 Mike Peterson
November/27/2008
@ 7:18 pm

“Let me say it slower: unlike what passes for news reporting, the big three news casts, Katie Brian Charlie, MSNBC, Olberman, The New York Times, etc. etc., the ONLY job of the editorial cartoon IS to interpret the news. We are NOT journalists but apparently, neither are the journalists.”

So if you did a cartoon that showed Missouri Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Bartiromo stealing the towels from their hotel room at the Taj Mahal, an editor who suggested you should do a little more research would simply be an incompetent idiot infringing on your artistry?

Okay, this is English, Mike and I’ll move my lips while I type so you can read it: Are you saying that the facts don’t matter?

#12 Mike Lester
November/28/2008
@ 7:13 am

Nevermind.

#13 T. Brian Kelly
November/29/2008
@ 1:18 pm

Maybe the media owners WANT it to go down the tubes. Maybe those editors making the daily decisions are only organizing the evacuation.

#14 Milt Priggee
November/29/2008
@ 1:45 pm

DAMIT ED!!!

What the @#$%^& are you doing…!!!!?? Don’t you know we’re losing circulation and now you’re upsetting people and generating excitement about the newspaper.

Don’t you understand I have to make nice with these people you’re drawing your cartoons about???!! You’re supposed to be supporting our school administrators…Why do you have to be so negative?
Don’t you know how this game is played!!?? I’ll repeat myself for the last time…I allow you to subsidize my newspaper by drawing local cartoons that DON’T offend ANYBODY, cartoons are supposed to to be FUNNY- nobody wants editorializing!

Look! you little cartoon creetin, don’t give me that !@#$%^&*( freedom of speech BS and that the cartoon was OK’d by the editor–you’re suspended!
I don’t need freelancers makin’ me do my job…!

Now remember in the future…….- no funny, no money,
Your EX-publisher

#15 Mike Peterson
November/29/2008
@ 5:53 pm

Okay, take this phone call (logical, common facts assumed due to the fact that we haven’t been told what the actual facts are):

“Milt? Hey, it’s John Dewey over at District 13. I’ve gotta tell you, Milt, I’m getting grief from everybody over this cartoon your guy did for Tuesday’s paper — parents are calling, teachers are in my office, my administrators are up in arms. And the calls from the public are killing me — we’re trying to get these budget cuts together in a way the citizens will understand and support …

“Look, Milt, I don’t mind taking some hits. But this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Yes, we’re putting some administrators on paid leave. But, Milt, they are contract personnel with three years left to run. Our only other choice was to buy them out, which would mean, instead of just paying their regular salary over the next year and then dealing with it once the crisis is past, we’d have to come up with the whole three years right now.

“What we’re doing, Milt, is trying to get through the next year. In the long run, yes, they’re gone. But we can’t afford to buy them out right now, with the governor slashing our aid. It would completely wipe out any benefit of closing down their offices and put us even deeper into the hole.

“And the thing is, Milt, he didn’t even have to call me to find that out. He could have asked your own education reporter. Sheila hasn’t mentioned that particular thing in her stories, but she’s been at all the meetings and she could have told him. I mean, Jesus, Milt, aren’t editorial cartoonists supposed to be journalists, too? Would it have killed him to just drop by her desk and take five minutes to find out what the deal was, instead of going off half-cocked with this bullshit?

“I’ve got another emergency budget meeting tonight, and I know we’re going to waste half of it talking about this stupid, wrong-headed cartoon when we need to be working our way through these cuts. And part of that conversation is about how we tell the taxpayers that, no, just because it was in the newspaper, that doesn’t mean it’s true, and I don’t think that’s how you want people talking about your paper.

“You’re freakin’ killin’ me here, Milt. I’m a big boy and I can take it, but you’re hurting our schools. You’re making this whole process harder than it has to be, and it’s already hard enough. Jesus, beat us up for the things we do. That’s your job. But for god’s sake don’t kick our asses for stuff you don’t even understand.”

#16 Mike Lester
November/30/2008
@ 12:02 pm

If the columnist or cartoonist (btw / inho: neither of which are reporters or journalists) don’t know the players, the scenario or the facts, their opinion is worthless and they should start throwing rather than appearing in the paper.

So assume for a minute Ed was wrong, how is he different than the Who Shot Liberty Valance? attitude that when the “legend becomes fact, print the legend”? This mentality is so pervasive that 50 cartoonists will draw the completely fictitious g.warming icon, polar bears stranded on icebergs.

The list goes on: Texan accent “nuklear” = retard but Obama sez he’s’ been to 57 states = brilliance; derisive “Sarah can See Russia from Alaska” cartoons when in fact you CAN see Russia from Alaska; Joe Biden (pick-a-gaffe) = crickets while a mother of 5 gets publicly stoned; oil co.’s couldn’t set price at pump if they wanted to but doesn’t stop the iconic Fat cats smoking cigars crowd w/ access to pen and ink.

I’m not familiar enough to know whether Ed got his facts straight but it appears that it’s not a job requirement and by default makes it political cow-towing. The old axiom “you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts” is immaterial as relates to ed. cartoons.

One more: Why is it that if you listen to Limbaugh you’re a knuckle dragger, but sit in a pew and listen to J.Wright goddamn America for twenty years and you’re “The One”? That one needs some ‘splainin’, Lucy.

Mike Lester
Editorial Cartoonist
Rome (Ga.) News Tribune

#17 Mike Peterson
November/30/2008
@ 6:38 pm

Dude, I’m only an editor, not a shrink. But I guess my answer would be that cartoons that advance an ideology but don’t stand up to the most basic fact-check shouldn’t be published, no matter what the ideology.

Look, there are some really crappy novels being published. That doesn’t mean publishers have an obligation to publish other crappy novels. Some crappy movies are released, but that doesn’t mean that a person with a crappy idea for a movie deserves to have his script shot. And the fact that some crappy cartoons get published doesn’t mean that other crappy cartoons should also be published.

And yet — Behold! — crappy cartoons are published regularly. But if you can look through a mainstream collection of political cartoons — at Cagle or Uclick or wherever — and come away with the notion that only one side of the spectrum is being represented by nonsensical, counterfactual crap, I’d say you’re wearing some very effective blinders.

(Again, this is a theoretical conversation, since we don’t know the facts behind Ed’s cartoon)

Mike Peterson
Editor
The Connecticut Valley Spectator
also
lecturer on political cartoons in
New York
Colorado
Kentucky
South Carolina
Illinois

#18 Milt Priggee
December/1/2008
@ 1:38 am

The only facts about Ed’s cartoon that were pertinent are…

#1. Ed’s cartoon was a reaction to the facts as he interpreted them.
#2. Ed’s cartoon was OK’d for publication by somebody whose job it was to ensure that it was factually based opinion.
AND
#3. Ed has lost his platform to visually express himself due to only one reason …his publisher is a bigger believer in censorship than the market place of ideas.

#19 Mike Peterson
December/1/2008
@ 4:43 am

#2 is pretty compelling.

I remember at one paper where I was a reporter and they wrote an editorial about a murder that was so divorced from the facts of the case, and the mood of the community, that the bureau reporter who covered the story drove 50 miles to the office to scream at the editor about how much goodwill he had destroyed with his unfounded pontificating.

As the Perfesser said, “Doesn’t anybody here know how to play this game?”

#20 Milt Priggee
December/1/2008
@ 9:24 am

(only) #2 is compelling…..????

well that explains a lot.

#21 Ed Slavin
December/11/2008
@ 2:24 pm

The St. Augustine Wreckord has made a serious mistake — there should be articles in national publications like the NY Times, Editor & Publisher, and CJR. I’ve been reading Ed Hall’s cartoons since we moved here in 1999 and I have just purchased three of them, including the causus belli and two on our Mosquito Control Commission (which was going to purchase a $2 million luxury Bell Jet Long Ranger Helicopter without competitive bidding). Thanks to Ed Hall’s skills as a cartoonist in skewering government corruption, the helicopter deal fell through (and taxpayers got a refund of more than $81,000 on our deposit). As to the cartoon in quo, I understood it to be of a generic school administrator, not aimed at St. Johns County.

#22 Ed Slavin
December/11/2008
@ 2:46 pm

Those who support Ed Hall might wish to:
1. Lambaste St. Johns County (Florida) Cultural Council Chairman PHILIP A. McDANIEL, who wrote the indescribably self-righteous and up-tight 11/30/08 OpEd piece that helped get Ed Hall fired.
Call PHILIP A.McDANIEL (904) 826-4116
2. Call the St. Augustine Record Publisher, DEREK MAY, 904-819-3421,who wrote me that he ignores E-mails sent to a group of people, deleting concerted protected activity.
3. Draw cartoons and start a continuing picket line to satirize Morris Communications as “Scrooge,” singing “We Shall Overcome” and making the publisher and editors wince every single day! Cheers!
http://cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com/2008/12/phil-mcdaniels-column-attacks.html

#23 Ed Slavin
December/11/2008
@ 3:23 pm

http://www.cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com/2008/12/blog-post.html

http://www.cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com/2008/12/blog-post_02.html

http://www.cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com/2008/12/phil-mcdaniels-column-attacks.html

http://www.cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com/2008/12/san-francisco-chronicle-killed-cartoons.html

http://www.cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com/

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