Ted Rall, the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists president, has written an open letter to the Overseas Press Club of America president, Mr. Allen Dodds Frank, over an increase in the awards entry fee from $150 to $175 and accuses the organization of using the fees as a “revenue enhancing” operation at the expense of “beleaguered cartoonists.” Ted also asks the organization to follow the Herb Block Foundation’s lead and waive or reduce the fee to support the profession.
His letter in its entirety:
OPEN LETTER RE: YOUR OUTRAGEOUS ENTRY FEES
Dear Mr. Frank,
As president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, I am writing to express our members’ outrage and disgust at the OPC’s decision to hike the contest fee for your annual journalism award from an already breathtaking $150â??by far the highest in the nationâ??to $175.
As you are aware, the journalism profession has been decimated by buyouts, layoffs, pay cuts, and job losses through attrition. No group has been hit harder than the editorial cartoonists who apply to OPC’s Thomas Nast Award in hopes of being recognized for their cartoons about world events. In the last few months alone, at least six full-time staff cartoonists have been fired by their newspapersâ??out of a total of fewer than 100.
As one Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist says: “There are now more contests than cartoonists, so the whole exercise is idiotic.” Thanks to its ridiculous fees, the OPC is in a class by itself.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Thomas Nast Award is a revenue-enhancing operation for OPC to make money at the expense of beleaguered cartoonists. The winner is required to travel to New York City to receive the prize of $1000. If he or she brings a spouse, they are charged a $150 dinner feeâ??not including costs of transportation to and lodging in New York, which must be borne by the winner. At a net output of $850, it only takes five entries for the Thomas Nast Award to make money for OPC. Seriouslyâ??do you think this is right? Do you think this honors the name of Thomas Nast?
An award with a $175 entry fee excludes so many people from entering as to render the winner essentially meaningless. Some of the political cartoonists who will not enter the Thomas Nast contest this year due to the high fee include both staff editorial cartoonists and those who work at alternative weekly newspapers: Chan Lowe of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Joe Heller of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Dana Summers of the Orlando Sentinel, Ed Gamble of the Florida Times Union, John Trevor of the Albuquerque Journal, Mikhaela Reid (“The Boiling Point”), Jen Sorensen (“Slowpoke”), Jim Siergey (“Cultural Jet Lag”), Terry Wise of the Ratland Ink Press, Ben Smith (“Fighting Words”), and Matt Wuerker of The Politico.com. Given all the people you have priced out of applying, perhaps you should change the name of the award to Best Cartoons on International Affairs by a Wealthy Cartoonist. Given the naked greed behind your fee structure, the Bernard Madoff Award might be even better.
We would greatly appreciate it if you would consider supporting the profession of journalism by following the example of the Herb Block Foundation, which has agreed to waive its annual entry fee for its annual Herblock Award. Alternatively, a more reasonable fee ($25 or $50, to cover your costs) would be acceptable.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Very truly yours,
Association of American Editorial Cartoonists