Ed Hall loses another client

Ed Hall, who I reported last week as losing one of his client newspapers due to a cartoon that criticized the local school district, has lost St. Augustine Record permanently as a client (before the relationship was “temporarily” suspended). Ed reports on his blog that the paper ran a semi-apologetic letter to sooth the locals as well as a letter that condemned the cartoon as offensive.

Ed sums up the insanity of the situation.

At the same time, this weekend, a local online publication wrote a short column praising my work, and asking why I should be let go for doing my job. The irony here of course is that I’m not even a staffer at this paper. I provide them with INEXPENSIVE, quality local commentary that they can’t get from any syndicate.

In other Ed Hall news, he’s lost another paper – The Times Union due to budget cuts. Regarding this he writes,

This is as bad as I’ve ever seen things, and I know it’s not easy for my editors. They have to let go photographers, reporters, cartoonists, et al. My question is, who’s gonna put the paper together when everybody is gone? The janitor? The editor? Alone? There’s no one left. But they all say they’re going to do what they have to to keep the papers published.

36 thoughts on “Ed Hall loses another client

  1. I was joking with a journalist friend about the continuing cutbacks in newspaper staff and observed that the bean counters who run newspapers these days won’t be happy until the entire staff consisted of 1 editor and 1 other guy who takes pictures.

    My friend said that arrangement would only last until management figured out how to teach that editor to take pictures.

    Its a pretty sad scene at most newspapers these days. Those who have survived the cutbacks thus far are now expected to assume the workload of those who have been let go.

  2. In order for media conglomerates to stop firing editorial cartoonists, there has to be a repercussion of some sort. When they think about letting a staff editorial cartoonist go, there has to be something that makes them pause for a moment, because they know X could happen. There is no X.

    What X could be?

  3. Do the corporations make the decision to layoff the editorial cartoonists, or do they make a decision to cut staff, and let the editors work it out how they want? They can cut the staff cartoonist job and still have plenty of editorial cartoons in the paper.
    This is an area, like the lineup of comic strips, where the lack of newspaper competition in a town has affected the makeup of the paper. If one paper had an editorial cartoonist, the other paper, or papers, wanted one.
    I think a popular motivation to hire an editorial cartoonist on the staff these days, is to try to win a Pulitzer prize for the paper.
    I think Turbulent Ted may have it backward. X won’t happen if they don’t run local cartoons, but X (a different X) could happen if they DO run local cartoons. The truth is, people are pretty clueless about the politics in their own community. It’s easier to get a point across with a cartoon than it is with a series of articles.
    I think a high profile award for local editorial cartooning might help. Maybe the Fischetti Award would fit that bill.

  4. The lack of cross-town competition is at the heart of the decline of editorial cartooning, as well as the issues on the comics page. It’s not even the arrogance of a monopoly — it’s not “So what if we have Ann Landers instead of Dear Abby? We’re the only paper in town!”

    The days of slugging it out are so far behind us that today’s editors have no sense of that competition. The few places that have two papers are, for the most part, either locked in JOAs or so massive that they don’t really feel the competitive urge. And Boston and Washington aren’t competitive — they’re runaways.

    Chuck Asay was a tremendous asset for the Colorado Springs Sun in the late 70s and early 80s, not just for his local cartoons but for the other illustrations he provided throughout the paper. Plus he was always willing to go to public events and sketch for people. He really branded the Sun. Which failed anyway, but that’s life — I think Chuck remained their greatest asset right to the end. Like the Boston Herald or the Washington Times, the Sun just never achieved traction against the Big Established Paper in town.

    And that’s the problem — even with an asset like Chuck, the competitive advantage doesn’t kick in if you’re down by a 3-to-1 margin. Until you’re really toe-to-toe, there aren’t a lot of individual things you can do to shift the basic inequalities, which is what advertisers look at. (I’m not saying you shouldn’t try. Just stating how it works.)

  5. This is all a mute point when they’re not just getting rid of the cartoonists, but the photographers, columnists, receptionists, et al. I was released with a photographer in one of these instances,and a columnist in another; and I asked the editor, point blank “who is going to put this thing together now?” And he said, quote, “I’ve kept our star reporter, we’ll manage; but we’re counting every penny that goes out the door.” Looks like advertising might be drying up now as well. And, that’ll kill it for sure.
    I didn’t think that this would hapen so suddenly at the local level, but it has. Having been in the trenches of local editooning for 17 years, I’ve never seen things this bad.

  6. Excellent points, Bill.

    I would disagree about cartoons on local issues making a difference in saving one’s job, though. It’s almost like laying off editorial cartoonists is the trendy thing, and publishers get together and say, “Hey, dude, you fire your cartoonist yet? Everybody’s doing it!”

    By X, I had in mind not repercussions from readers and the like, but something like an angry mob of united editorial cartoonists who go on Good Morning America… or by now there would probably be a bigger mob of laid-off editorial cartoonists. What about people who have professed themselves leaders of the group? There doesn’t seem to be much leadership.

    In my view, this is a crisis situation. It’s not like we are wondering IF any more editorial cartoonists will lose their jobs, but WHEN… and how long till there are ONLY syndicated cartoonists? It seems like a time to take drastic measures.

    What would the cartoonists who have been let go in the past two years have done, if they had known for sure? That’s what everybody who is currently an editorial cartoonist should do, as it seems likely another dozen or more will be gone soon.

    All this carnage without a fight. I don’t understand it.

  7. I disagree. My points weren’t excellentâ??average, really. I will, however, stand by them.

    I see no point in a cartoonist in a mid-size city newspaper, even some large city papers, making a comment about national politics unless it relates to that city somehow. An example of why can be seen at Daryl Cagle’s web site where he posts themes with the takes of editorial cartoonists from around the country. Sure, some are clever, but many are redundant. I doubt if the reader cares where the cartoonist lives who is making comments about national news and politics. Also, it’s easy to make comments about national politics. Local politics requires doing homework.

    But I would like to watch that episode of Good Morning America. It has a sort of Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney, “Let’s put a on show in the barn, and raise the money to get our parents out of jail!” feel to it. Those were innocent times. Putting on a show in the barn sounds completely different today. Sigh

  8. There was actually an editorial cartoonist who got in trouble for “putting on a show in the barn,” but we should let bygones be bygones…

    For me, one of the things that is frustrating about the cartooning fields is that logic doesn’t apply much anymore. I would think that concentrating on local issues would be an important way to secure one’s job. Yet we’ve seen cartoonists who do just that, and they get fired just the same. The layoffs don’t have anything to do with job performance.

    We all wonder if the specific decision is coming from corporate or the local editor. That bit of information seems paramount to dealing with this situation. Somebody should have figured that out by now.

    Even newspaper carriers represent themselves better than cartoonists. Editorial cartoonists are generally very intelligent and creative people. They have strong opinions and stand behind their beliefs and their cartoons. But as long as I’ve been a cartoonist, I’ve never seen cartoonists pull together on any issue. The only thing that comes to mind at all, is Neal Adams standing up for poverty-stricken Seigel and Schuster, but that was mostly Adams and not the community of cartoonists.

    Several years ago the NCS came up with the lovely idea of establishing Cartoonist Appreciation Day. That quickly bombed. But comic book cartoonists took it and turned it into something positive: Free Comic Book Day, which has been a very effective and expanding promotion. I think there’s something to learn from things like this.

  9. “Logic doesnâ??t apply much anymore.” That pretty much says it for everything in the world these days.

  10. From my last post, I meant to say “moot” point (damn you spell checker!) But, since I’m here, I’ll also mention that regardless of everything else, when advertising revenue starts dropping, due to a soured economy, the axe is gonna swing on local papers. It’s inevitable and because we’ve got people with little or no experience making these decisions, it’s indiscriminate.
    As for cartoonists putting up a fight – there’s no one left to fight. In one of these cases an editor was let go with me, and the paper was absorbed by another periodical. Who am I gonna complain to when the paper goes away? This thing is drying up before our eyes (and it’s in slow motion – which makes it worse).

  11. We could sure use more Mute points around here! :^)

    Ed, it seems to me the fight needs to take place on the corporate level, with the handful of companies that together own hundreds of periodicals. The scenario is different with different papers, to be sure. Some are actually hurting financially; some are independently owned and value cartoonists (like the Tulsa World); but many are owned by media conglomerates who can and do affect the entire newspaper industry.

  12. TDD wrote: “but many are owned by media conglomerates who can and do affect the entire newspaper industry.”

    You think you’re gonna fight those guys, I’ve got some property to sell you. The days of The Hearsts are loooong gone. We’ve got to stop thinking like they’re here or that they are going to come back. The paradigm was changed completely with rise of the internet.

  13. Here’s a thought. Regional self-syndication. If an editorial cartoonist could resist showing how perceptive he is about national politics, and try to sell regional cartoons to a number of newspapers, they might buy them. Just because they can’t afford a staff cartoonist doesn’t mean they don’t want to run cartoons. And I think cartoons with a regional (state or multi-state depending on the size) focus would be attractive to an editor. I don’t think it would take long to figure out it wasn’t working.

    And I honestly don’t think cartoonists would be hired because they went on TV and complained.

  14. Bill:

    The idea of a cartoonist self-syndicating local/regional cartoons has been tried before, and indeed, some are doing this as we speak. However, if you think you’re going to make a living at it, think again. When I self-syndicated, I decided to peddle my cartoons on Nebraska subjects to papers around the state. I charged them $25 per month, regardless of circulation size and they received 3 cartoons each week.
    Our state has something like 125 papers if you count all the weeklies, bi-weeklies, and dailies. The most I ever had was about 20 client papers, and that didn’t last more than a couple of years. Even $25 per month was way more than many of these guys were willing to spend for editorial cartoons. Many of the smaller papers don’t even bother to have an editorial page. Peddling the cartoons on a per-use basis just wasn’t worth the time and effort. I finally gave up and went on to other things that paid better.

  15. Paul, I appreciate your experience, but when you were doing that had so many cartoonist jobs been eliminated? Maybe there are more potential clients now.

    I’m glad you’ve found things that paid better.

  16. Bill wrote: “Maybe there are more potential clients now.”

    There are less. And it’s shrinking as we speak. I can attest to this. I’m currently trying to fill the holes that were just opened up in my little self-syndicate, and there’s just nothing there. No budget, no money – anywhere.

    BTW, I was making substantially more than $25 per toon. Paul, you were giving it away. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why they canned me. DOH!

  17. Bill, my point wasn’t that editorial cartoonists would be hired because they went on TV and complained, but that there are currently NO repurcussions felt by the media conglomerates when they let go editorial cartoonists. I’m saying there is currently no reason for them to have them think twice before axing cartoonists. There needs to be at least some reason, that makes sense to corporate board members, to reconsider firing cartoonists.

    I have no idea what would cause them to do so. It could be public attention on national TV. It could be a study conducted by the AAEC showing real effects on newspaper readership by editorial cartoonists. Bags of flaming doggie poop on their porches after each firing. Cartoonists buying up shares of the media conglomerates. Throwing a barbeque for the stockholders and schmoozing them with malt liquor. I don’t know.

    I’m sure editorial cartoonists have done many things to try to improve the situation. I just haven’t heard of any of them because I’m not in the loop. All I see is lots of editorial cartoonists being laid off with no end in sight.

  18. Ted, you keep saying that you haven’t heard of editorial cartoonists trying to do anything in the face of continuing job cuts. If you’ve got some great ideas as to what should be done, feel free to share them with the rest of us.

    Part of why everyone in journalism, not just cartoonists, feels so powerless to fight these personnel reductions is that newspapers are no longer run by newspapermen. Now they are run by investors and “businessmen”. When they have finally sucked every drop of money from newspapers they will simply discard the husk and move on, as parasites do, to find another victim to feed on.

    On a related note, in the online version of Editor and Publisher there’s a story about how it is expected that newspapers will continue to struggle with decreasing ad revenue in 2009 and then in 2010, some cities could start to see daily papers disappear altogether.

    Finally, I just heard that longtime Des Moines Register cartoonist Brian Duffy has become the latest to join the ranks of ex-staff cartoonists.

  19. I’m uncomfortable w/ any artificial demand for any service and I can’t think of any occupation where it’s been successful. I’m all ears.

  20. “Now they are run by investors and â??businessmenâ?. ”

    This is the problem in virtually every industry today, including the auto industry being discussed in the other thread. In a bygone era, CEO’s came from within the industry and in many cases had spent 20 or 30 years in the company. They had a vested, personal interest in the company and felt responsibility to the long term health of the company and the welfare of the employees. Not today. There is a detachment by today’s CEO’s who are only interested in garnering as much personal wealth as possible. They have little or no understanding of the industry they’re presiding over, only looking at the bottom line… their bottom line… giving themselves bonuses as the corporation they’re running goes bankrupt. Any wonder why all these industries are going down the tubes?

  21. As indicated by Paul, E&P is reporting that Brian Duffy is out. I’ve been trying to get a hold of him through the newspaper (the only contact information I have for him) and it’s getting me no where.

    If you have any contact information for Brian that you can share with me, I’d like to talk to him and get his story for the blog. Please email me if you have a phone number/email for him. editor@dailycartoonist.com.


  22. “What person would editorial cartoonists rally around if he or she came out and said, â??This is what we need to do. Are you with me?â?

    The guy tapping the keg.

  23. I think there is a danger of a lot of publicity about these layoffs creating a momentum. Editors might follow what they perceive as a trend.
    I imagine a few of editors read the Daily Cartoonist.

  24. Yes, quite a few editors follow the blog, but I don’t think there is a herd mentality among editors regarding their cartoonists. It’s economics pure and simple. The profession has been in a slow decline since the 80s – mostly through attrition. Recently, the pressure to maintain high level of profits in a loss of advertising revenue environment has pushed bean counters to throwing everything over board.

    Here’s an interesting read about just how profitable Gannett is. As of last year Green Bay Press had a profit margin of 42.5%. Most papers in the chain have a healthy 2 digit margins.

    It’s beyond imaginable that the bean counters are pillaging the newspaper industry and leaving it in ruins. There’s a report over at E&P that says that if certain newspaper chains don’t resolve their debt load, several CITIES will be without a newspaper.

    What a @#$@! depressing day.

  25. I haven’t seen TRall’s letter on this topic from his lofty perch as Pres of the AAEC posted here but, hey Batman, if you’re out there, it was a very uplifting, informative and quite a capitalistic and gung ho missive. You should share it.

  26. OK, we all have heard the Cassandra cries. Plenty of truth, there. We know what drives newspaper profits, and it’s not circulation. It’s advertising…and in particular, auto ads. Car sales were down an average 40% last month, all brands. Check your neighborhood. I live in an affluent small city. Three auto lots CLOSED in the last month. There’s no credit. NONE!

    Solutions? Time to close ranks, form co-operatives. We are stronger together than separate.
    Unity in the face of adversity!

  27. I think if some cities did lose their newspapers, that could be a great thing, because most cities tend to have a locally owned free newspaper that could step in… and further, during recessions, advertising tends to go UP. There either would be SOMEBODY out there to start up a new paper, or the existing local papers would grow.

    Big companies have been convincing legislators that if they go out of business, it will be devastating to the community. In the newspaper biz, it would mainly be devastating to stockholders. If a paper folds, it folds. Someone else starts up a new one. We don’t need JOAs and television companies owning newspapers.

    Newspapers are indispensable in many ways, and still very profitable. Let somebody run a paper who actually is part of the community.

  28. “I think if some cities did lose their newspapers, that could be a great thing, because most cities tend to have a locally owned free newspaper that could step inâ?¦ and further, during recessions, advertising tends to go UP.”

    1. Most of those free papers are printed at the daily. If the local daily goes out of business, the presses will be sold for far more than the local community paper could afford.

    2. The biggest cost for papers is the newsprint itself. As dailies collapse — either go dark or go to weekly schedules — consumption and thus production of newsprint will go down. When newsprint becomes a boutique product, it will be priced out of reach of the small papers.

    3. I’d like to see advertising go up, but that’s not happening. The Saturn dealership that closed in our town is no longer advertising at all, but others are not increasing their ad budgets. And it’s not just newspapers — WCAX-TV, a family-owned CBS affiliate with huge reach in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Quebec, just announced layoffs due to decreasing revenues. It’s possible to increase your own share of the pie, but the pie is getting smaller. I’d be thrilled to have someone prove me wrong.

  29. If I was looking for a sound effect for this country it would be a great big turbine engine shutting down.
    I would suggest the editorial cartoonists play to their strength and do, as a group, cartoons about their dwindling profession as a publicity stunt (I like the idea of projecting them on the side of the Empire State Building), but the truth is all the people who lost their jobs at the Saturn dealership, all the other newspaper people who lost their jobs, and all the other folks out there facing a dim future aren’t going to care.
    It makes more sense to try find a way for cartoons to bring in revenue to a newspaper.
    The two ways I’m aware of are subscriptions and advertising.

    Maybe I should just worry about comic strips.

  30. FYI Alan:
    My sister works for the Green Bay Press Gazette and despite the profit margin they are still making more staff layoffs.

    We aren’t just witnessing the death of the staff editorial cartoonist. We are watching the demise of professional journalism a central pillar of our democratic society.

  31. This corrupt county needs a good political cartoonist. Our Republican County Commission Chair is under indictment for bribery and local “journalists” are part of Chain Gang Journalism, including GANNNETT (which owns two TV stations hitched together as “First Coast News) and MORRIS COMMUNICATIONS (which bought the St. Augustine Wreckord and Jacksonville Times-Union for $200 million in 1982). The timid souls who censor cartoonists need to be defenestrated from a building overlooking the San Sebastian River, which is polluted (but the Wreckord won’t cover the issues, preferring to coverup for the City of St. Augustine). Protest censorship, including the yokel Arts Council Chair, PHIL MCDANIEL — 904-826-4116. RECORD PUBLISHER DEREK MAY 904-819-3421

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