Ted Rall laid off from United Media

Ted Rall, who worked as the Editor of Acquisitions and Development at United Media has been laid off last Thursday. Ted tells me that eight other individuals were also let go and that his responsibilities would probably be reassigned to other people. Ted was brought in for the position back in 2006. During his term he helped United Media launch Diesel Sweeties, Secret Asian Man, Family Tree, The Knight Life and Rip Haywire.

On his blog, Ted writes

I am proud of what I accomplished. Not only did I bring some smart, cool cartoons to wider audiences, I also breathed some life into the daily comics pages, which most readers agree are horribly moribund. I found that I am made to be an editor, helping creators realize their own voices more efficiently and effectively.

77 thoughts on “Ted Rall laid off from United Media

  1. This really comes as quite a glancing blow. Ted’s accomplishments at United Media really stand out and in my opinion he’s one of the driving forces keeping the comics industry relevant. One only needs to go back and read his posts on the myriad of topics here at TDC to realize what an important influence he is.

    Ted, I wish you nothing but the best!

  2. I think a lot of people see Ted as “just” a provocateur, but he’s a very talented guy who is not given to biting his tongue…we need more like him! Best of luck in your next endeavors, Ted!

  3. Say it ain’t so!!!

    Ted has been a great friend for a long time and is one of the brightest, gutsiest individuals I have ever met. His editorial cartoons and syndicated columns pull no punches and always tell it like it is.

  4. Well, there goes the last visible hope that the comics page will be dragged into the 21st century.

    Oh, and Mr. McCoy, he lost his gig as editor, not as cartoonist (at a competing syndicate, no less). But I’d be interesting in your comparison of Rall’s work as a cartoonist to that of, say, Scott Adams.

  5. Quoting my grandmother -when her loser ex husband passed away (ironically his first name was Theodore)

    “Ted who?”

    Really, other than folks pointing out the flame crap, I had no clue who the guy is.

  6. Wait, so people are happy that a source for bringing some really good, fresh new cartoons to the comics page has been eliminated because they don’t like a person unrelated to those cartoonists?

    The stuff that some of the pettier folks here dislike Ted for- mainly his cartoons and columns- isn’t what was eliminated here. What was eliminated was Ted’s position to actually help other cartoonists. Why you’re cheering the removal of the latter because you somehow think it’ll bring you glee about the former is a really great example of why we’ll all be looking for work in the next few years.

  7. Even though it was a pretty bad time to be syndicated from a financial standpoint, Ted was always an extremely helpful editor. Having a good brain to talk to about writing made the experiment worthwhile.

    August is right- anyone happy about this better either have their own business plan, a day job, or not aspire to syndication.

  8. An imaginative cartoonist loses his job while the unimaginative win Pulitzers. De rigeur.

    He should have kept his mouth shut about marriage being between a man and a woman.

  9. I would humbly recommend not aspiring to syndication. Newspapers are looking for things to cut, not to add.

  10. How many of you still think that t-shirt saying “I’m killing newspapers by reading web comics” is still funny? If so, perhaps you can explain it to Ted (and all those journalists, pressmen, editors, janitors, etc., etc., in places like Denver and Seattle who are out of work) just how cute and funny it is.

  11. I think one can aspire to syndication as long as that person is aware that they are not going to be able to support themselves or their families on that endeavor. But rather just looking at it as one possibility out of many options out there to get more eyes on your work.

    With rare exception, I’d say the days of a cartoonist supporting him or her self on syndication are long gone.

  12. I’ve never met a stronger advocate for cartooning than Ted. He deserves a lot of credit for bringing the likes of R. Stevens, Keith Knight, McCloud and others on board, even if they didn’t all work out. Syndicates are long overdue in bringing this kind of material to the forefront.

  13. Good luck on future endevours, Ted! Everyone is getting “let go” right now, so I wouldn’t feel too disappointed about it. When one door closes, another one opens!

  14. Ted, I am sorry to hear this news.

    What everyone seems to be missing is the extremely voracious appetite of Hollywood (and overseas markets) for new animated feature ideas. There are still a ton of kids in the world who love cartoons. Every animated film over the last 15 years seemingly has made money, even the bad ones. One has to find a print/internet model for cartooning that has the chance of becoming a licensable property.

    Newspapers will still be around in ten years, and they will have comics in them.

  15. Re: Wiley. Okay, I will.

    It’s funny because, for years now, we’ve had print (almost exclusively daily cartoonists, or people hoping to be syndicated) cartoonists accuse us of hurting their industry and slowly taking it apart by daring to give away our content – usually ignoring that the syndicates do just what we do with their content on their own sites (ie available to the public for free with ad revenues supporting the site).

    It’s hilarious to us because, frankly, we have nothing to do with the syndicates collapsing. They’re falling apart because newspapers are falling apart and the ones surviving have become more and more just copies of each other, trying to stay as uniform as possible. This includes the comics page, which many companies want to be the exact same in each market. Realistically, with or without webcomics, syndication would be in the trouble it’s in. But many of us – myself included – have been accused of dealing a death blow to a dying animal we weren’t even involved in the hunt for.

    Re: Mr. McCoy, Ms. Jacobs, Charles Q. Smith: How was that necessary? Have you ever been laid off? It’s harrowing and agonizing, especially from something you love. There’s no reason to step on a man’s neck when he’s down. Ted being laid off does NO ONE any good and there’s no reason to take joy in or toss salt in his wounds.

  16. I think Garey’s right. I’ve been creating Scary Gary for a year, and while the royalties provide a nice second income for me, I certainly could not support myself with them. It’s difficult trying to juggle a day job and a daily strip, but I love it. If I didn’t have constant deadlines to spur me on, I’d be far too lazy to get anything done.

  17. Quick sidebar: Seriously, Wiley, Ted gets fired and you can’t think of anything better to do then be on record as the FIRST person to bring up webcomics? And for pretty much no reason at that.

    There’s no Kurtz here “picking fights”, there’s no one else asking an otherwise benign question about the medium of webcomics, there’s no other cause for you to bring up the subject except to stir the embers and then take pride in the fact you get to be the big hero that warns us of the coming tsunami de flame war. Get your strip off of GoComics and then you can be taken seriously when you talk about not giving it away.

    Meanwhile, despite the current state of the industry, Ted was a champion of the artform and despite his rather, um, strong personality, he did great things in his time in the big chair. He will be missed.

    Here’s hoping he lands on his feet. Maybe he can start a webcomic. Oh, snap! See what I did there? See?

    But seriously, good luck, Ted.

  18. Hey, Ted, sorry to hear the news! I always enjoy your posts on here and I thank you for bringing Rip Haywire to the comic pages. Dan’s a huge talent and I’m glad you recognized it. Good luck in your future endeavors!

  19. Bummer, sorry to hear that Ted.

    Maybe the next venture is an online ‘syndicate’ that helps people actually find webcomics’ websites. Most of us are still talking to an empty room.

  20. So Barb Jacobs, are you telling us you’re clueless? ; )
    It’s like someone in the music industry saying they’ve never heard of REM.
    I’ve gone at it with Ted on this blog in the past over drawing styles and other stuff. We clearly have different tastes and political views-especially when it comes to the treatment of 9/11 widows.
    But the fact is Ted Rall is a pioneer in alternative cartooning and taking it mainstream. He’s been a champion of the industry who’s zeal for it is undeniable. ( just go on the S.D. Tribune web page and read what he had to say about out Steve Breens win and the industry} He’s exceeded my expectations as president of the AAEC and his name and work will likely be remembered and noted when many of the rest of ours will be long forgotten.
    Give the man his due.

  21. That’s too bad about Ted losing that gig; he’s a real good dude. If every syndicate acquisitions editor were more like him the newspaper comics landscape would be a far different and much better place.

  22. It’s both surprising and not surprising to hear about this. Sure the papers are slowly falling apart and looking for ways to cut costs, but to see Ted Rall as the next one to get laid off is a bit of a shock. I hope that Ted will make the best of this, possibly with the web, as Bill said. Good luck, Ted.

    Wiley: It’s like an editorial cartoon in itself. It makes a straightforward, hard-hitting point that could cause some controversy, but in the end, has truth to it. However, webcomics by themselves didn’t kill newspapers. The comics section is only one small part of the paper, and most people aren’t picking up their local news to see Garfield. I think the news blogs, CNN.com, and the idea of free information on the internet all contributed to “killing newspapers,” but a shirt that says “I’m killing newspapers by reading stuff online” wouldn’t work as well. Besides, with all the comments that have been said before about webcomics, it’s no surprise that someone would fight back one day. The fact that it’s a t-shirt makes me laugh, because webcomic artists are “T-shirt salesmen,” right?

    But I’m sure in a hundred years there will be a shirt that says “I’m killing the internet with holographic projections,” and the same argument will go on.

  23. What about the overall success rate of new features? Hasn’t it always been pitifully low? In the last 20 years I can’t think of more than 10 big hits even when papers had healthy bottom lines. The only difference seems to be that the reason offered by a paper in the past was “we like our comics the way they are and see no reason to pick up this new feature until it proves itself” and now it’s “we aren’t spending any new money right now so we aren’t interested in this new feature”.

    I’m not trying to be provocative, I just don’t see a big difference in papers’ lack of willingness to try new features, they’re just using different excuses. Did Ted’s features have any higher a failure rate than usual?

    And there ARE strips that are picking up new papers, even if it’s slow going.

    And haven’t Lio and Cul de Sac done amazingly well regardless of the bad market?

  24. Glenn McCoy accusing Ted Rall of not being able to draw, whether or not that’s true, is beyond precious.

  25. Well, at least Ted managed to get Keith Knight into the funny pages. He deserves kudos for that. Hope you’ll do okay.

    Are there any more acquisitions that Ted picked up that’s not launched yet?

  26. Actually, I enjoy both Glenn McCoy’s drawing and most of his writing, even though I disagree with his politics. So I was very disappointed to see him take a potshot like that at Ted Rall.

    It amazes me the amount of sniping, snarking and name-calling that goes on here at a site that’s ostensibly a resource for cartoonists. I understand that the anonymity of the internet brings out the worst in people, but here they aren’t (for the most part) even anonymous. It just looks really crappy and reflects negatively on the industry.

  27. I find it hard to believe that you could be surprised that McCoy is a snarky manchild.

  28. Jesus, can we NOT have the webcomics argument this time around? This has NOTHING to do with webcomics. NOTHING.
    For godssakes, Ted did more to get webtoonists and print cartoonists on the same page than anyone- Diesel Sweeties, Secret Asian Man, and K Chronicles were all comics that had a huge online success first.

    Wiley, I love your stuff but that comment does nothing but tweak webcartoonists to make the same kind of gloating comments as seen in the Kurtz shirt we all got irritated by, and that’s not really productive at all.

  29. Aww look, the dinosaurs are dying and their unadaptable parasites are throwing a hissy. Adorable

  30. To Ted – best of luck getting a new gig. Done the laid off route, and it’s a bummer.

    As far as the comment that “we” lost someone getting good comics into the papers – I’m not sure if that was written from the POV of the readers or creators (maybe both?)

    It does seem that Ted was able to get some fresh content into papers, but unfortunately, it didn’t seem to make any difference. Readership is still down, papers are still folding, comics are still being cut – more now than ever.

    Are there any other acquisitions guys out there doing what Ted did? (looking for fresher, interesting content) Even if there are – does it matter?

    Someone made the comment that papers will still be around in 10 years and will still have comics in them. I don’t know about that – not a bet I would make. If papers are still around in 10 years, they will be vastly different from what they are now.

    10 years in “internet time” is like 50 years too. Think of the technology and innovation that has exploded online in 10 years. We have technology around the curve that can do things like give us “electronic paper” – TV screens millimeters in width – all kinds of interesting stuff. Meanwhile paper gets more expensive and people have less and less a need for a daily paper, which has become stale in the face of instant information on more than one media front.

    Meanwhile, webcomics are still in their infancy. In the last year we’ve seen more higher profile artists (Norm Feuti comes to mind) look to the web as something they can no longer ignore.

    10 years… I say it will be very interesting to see what happens in 2 years.

  31. re: reading webcartoons and killing newspapers

    I have to agree that the two are mostly unrelated. The reason I stopped reading newspapers had zero to do with the comics section. I merely found newspapers to be old news – and this was 5 years ago.

    And the types of comics on the web are for the most part VASTLY different from print comics. My own comic would never make it in print simply due to the format alone. Many comics I read and enjoy online are too big, too dark, too creative, too “gagless” or too whatever for print. It’s an extremely narrow and regimented medium.

    The audiences that love Garfield and Wizard of Id aren’t really looking to read the stuff I read – and vice versa. Wonderful things online like Gunnerkrigg Court, Rice Boy, One Fell Swoop, Kukuburi – these things simply can’t exist in the newspapers. And they aren’t the reason newspapers are failing – not even close.

    Webcomics exist because there are people who both want to create and consume content that is outside the “norm” of a newspaper comic. To me the two are 98% mutually exclusive.

    Furthermore, I should mention that I *still* read the comics I used to read in the paper – I just now read them online – because they are, in fact, available. I get Monty delivered in my e-mail, I read Peanuts in the form of calendars and books, and I read a couple others here and there on Yahoo!

  32. John Robertson,

    Here’s what I’m talking about. Now you need to get snarky with me? I know nothing about Glenn McCoy other than his work. Through his work, I’d assumed he was a professional. That’s why I was disappointed (not “surprised”) by his comment.

  33. Ted: Sorry to hear the bad news. Good luck finding new work, hopefully sooner rather than later.

    all: See? Was that so hard?

  34. Ted, I’m very sorry both for your sake and for what this means for newspaper comics. You’re the most passionate advocate for the cartooning profession that I’ve encountered, and it’s United’s loss. I’m looking forward to seeing all the additional great work you’ll do combining your extraordinary talent and creativity with the extra free time you’ll now have.

  35. Lester, I hope you’re talking about Ramirez winning the Pulitzer over someone that deserved it.

  36. wow, sorry to hear it Ted. Knight Life is one of my fave print strips. I know with your talent and dedication you’ll continue to impact the cartooning industry (print or otherwise, imho) in good ways.

  37. Are we sure that’s actually Glenn McCoy posting? I haven’t seen him comment on here in the past, and despite how much his politics differ from Ted’s, that doesn’t seem like his style. Something about that seems fishy to me.

  38. Anyone who doubts Ted’s genius should read his graphic novels “My War With Brian” and “The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done.”

    They’re brilliant. So is he.

  39. It’s never nice to hear about anyone involved in the funnies being canned.

    Thanks for sifting through the piles of submissions and best of luck with your future endeavours, Ted.

  40. “Someone made the comment that papers will still be around in 10 years and will still have comics in them. I donâ??t know about that – not a bet I would make. If papers are still around in 10 years, they will be vastly different from what they are now.”

    I think the papers that will survive will be hyperlocal. I’m not sure how much wire copy they will run, never mind how much canned feature copy they’ll bother with.

    As a hyperlocal editor, I would be more inclined to use a local cartoonist than a syndicated artist… and I wouldn’t have much money to offer him. Sorry. Harsh but true.

  41. Mike Lester- Are you talking about Thee Thomas Kinkade- Master of Light and Marketing- Forget the Pulitzer- he should have won the NOBEL- He’s the MASTER OF LIGHT

  42. Maybe we can find away to slowly morph the print vs. webcomic argument into a Kirk vs. Picard argument, since it would be just about as sophisticated…

  43. “Glenn McCoy accusing Ted Rall of not being able to draw, whether or not thatâ??s true, is beyond precious.”

    I guess you don’t know the McCoy brother very well…I am pretty sure that was a JOKE.

  44. So, that is to say, Kinkade doesn’t deserve to win a Pulitzer at all? That’s kind of a mean thing to say.

  45. Peter Murphey:
    My voteâ??s for Kirk.

    That’s all very well, Peter, but you’re just closing your eyes to Picard’s superior business model.

  46. As someone who was working with Ted closely on my own comics, I can say that his editing skills are impeccable and insightful. I am a webcomic artist and was working with Ted on bringing my comic “Bellen!” to UFS. Luckily, though the contract had been laid out, I didn’t receive the actual document yet. With Ted’s leaving UFS, I have decided not to continue pursuing syndication. The main benefits that I saw in moving strips to comics.com were as follows:

    1) Working on a new project for a slightly different audience
    2) Working with an excellent editor.

    Now that Ted is gone it’s definitely not worth the jump.

    Sadly, IF UFS let Ted completely have the reigns of their comics he could have saved them. He understands which comics have worn out their welcome (let’s face it EVERY legacy comic and many others) and he has an excellent eye for talent. He understands how comics work and is a staunch advocate for comics.

    You’ll land on your feet, Ted!

  47. I’m really sad to hear about Ted. Whatever you think of him or his work, it can only taken as a sign of the industry’s further decline. It’s true–the traditional syndication model is doomed. But don’t blame web comics for the collapse of the newspaper industry–blame Craigslist.

  48. “So, that is to say, Kinkade doesnâ??t deserve to win a Pulitzer at all? Thatâ??s kind of a mean thing to say.” Liam Donovan

    Of course he does and so do you. And everybody’s kid should be an honor student and all soccer games should end in a tie.

    You have checks with Thomas Kinkade cottages on them, don’t you? Either way, you’re obviously qualified to judge next years Pulitzers.

  49. Clearly this Kirk, Picard, and, uh, Janeway argument is ridiculous… everyone knows Sisko was the dude!

  50. LOL, I knew as soon as I saw the comment count from the headline page that this had turned into a print vs web debate. Is there any news item that is safe from this discussion?

  51. I wonder what the comment section would be like with a news story on PVP or Non sequitur? Popcorn anybody?

  52. I don’t believe that was really Fred Flinstone posting- It’s not the Fred I know. Sounds more like Barney posting as Fred

  53. “Thatâ??s all very well, Peter, but youâ??re just closing your eyes to Picardâ??s superior business model.”

    Yeah, well I challenge Picard to show us his tax returns. The Borg don’t buy that many T-shirts.

  54. That’s really too bad. Sorry to hear that. What were they thinking? I once emailed Ted and asked him for a critique of my work. What I got was good constructive criticism. What he told me has made me a better cartoonist.

    As for the money angle, if you’re in it just for that you are already screwed. You’d better do it because you love it. The money should be gravy. That’s why I keep my 40 hour week job (but then again it’s at a newspaper, drat)

  55. Personally speaking, it’s a crushing blow. Ted was in the midst of getting my cartoon strip in front of the editorial review board. We’re losing Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonists, Ted and here in Washington, the state, Dave Horsey and new goofs like me.

  56. â??My voteâ??s for Kirkâ?

    â??Thatâ??s all very well, Peter, but youâ??re just closing your eyes to Picardâ??s superior business model.â?

    â??Janeway! Janeway! Janeway! *grins, ducks and runs like the wind*â?

    â??Clearly this Kirk, Picard, and, uh, Janeway argument is ridiculousâ?¦ everyone knows Sisko was the dude!â?

    â??Yeah, well I challenge Picard to show us his tax returns. The Borg donâ??t buy that many T-shirts.â?

    â??Kirk got more ladies than Picard did. Maybe if Picard wasnâ??t so closed-minded, he could have picked up some tips from Kirk.â?

    My God Bones…what have I done?

  57. Hey Ted, now that you have a more flexible schedule, let’s you and me dig up Nixon and kick him around all over again.

    If ever there were a canny survivor in this game it’s you, mister.

  58. >>>As for the money angle, if youâ??re in it just for that you are already screwed. Youâ??d better do it because you love it. The money should be gravy.


  59. I wish Ted all the best in everything he does. Our love of comics, and also vinyl recording over cds, etc,bridged any differences we had in politics. We became friends.
    Ted, you were great to work with, and I’ll miss you at United. Thanks for your help in guiding one young cartoonist I brought to you. Your help there shows me that you did the same, I’m sure, for so many others during your time overseeing new talent.

    Guy Gilchrist

  60. >>>As for the money angle, if youâ??re in it just for that you are already screwed. Youâ??d better do it because you love it. The money should be gravy.

    Beth your website says you are a cartoonist/illustrator, just like me. This is my CAREER. I have been at it for 25 years. If I can’t make money at it, then I am hosed.

    First thing, collectively, we need to erase it from our mindset that this is and can be nothing more than a hobby. To me, it has always been my profession. Somedays are better than others.

  61. Ted not only helped me track down a missing submission to United, he also helped me find my way back to the Golden Gate Bridge when I took a wrong turn in San Francisco and ended up somewhere in San Diego (or so it seemed… I love that city, but dadgum, you need a GPS to get around it!).

    Thanks for the help, Ted. I did eventually make it to the Schulz Museum that day… and good luck in the future.

  62. Sorry to hear Ted. I was hoping you’d get my hands on my submission I was sending off soon 🙁

    In regards to the topic of faltering papers:

    There is no changing the impact the internet has on the news. It is immediate and by the time my Sunday paper comes, almost everything in it is old news, sometimes DAYS old. I consider the Sunday a week in review.

    But…the reason I still get the Sunday paper is for the Funnies. Yes, I still love to get the funnies (as boring as they almost are) and if some forward thinking comics editor would expand the funnies section, I would dare to wager that readership would either maintain or even increase. But the funnies section would have to break new ground. Bring back strips that are half pages, with wonderfully drawn and well written.

    Yes, I read some comics online, but I still like to hold them in my hands. Nothing will take the place of the smell of fresh ink on paper and having it rub off on your fingers and I am 45!

    Now I believe that would save the newspaper industry.

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