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Doug MacGregor laid off from News-Press

When word came yesterday that Gannett was laying off upwards of 700 employees across their chain, it had potential to impact a staff cartoonist. As far as I can tell, Doug MacGregor of the Ft. Myers News-Press was the only cartoonist casualty this round. Doug has been with the News-Press since 1988 and has been a fixture in his community. I’ve noticed as I’ve talked to cartoonists after they’ve lost their jobs is that their attitudes are remarkably positive. Perhaps it’s a facade, but I’ve felt they were genuine. Doug is no exception and as you’ll read below, he’s already planning on using this opportunity to improve those around him.

Alan: Let’s get some of the preliminary questions out of the way regarding the layoff. What kind of notice were you given? Was this anticipated or was this more of a shock?

Doug: I had lunch with my boss a couple of weeks prior and at that time he let me know cuts were coming and I would probably be on the list of layoffs. It surprised me somewhat, having absorbed another round of furloughs in Q1. Although there were no assurances things were safe, I believed (wrongly believed) things would get better financially. I’m an optimist.

So when this past Tuesday came around, the dreaded knock on the door happened about 2pm. I went into a conference room where the official termination proceedings began. It went cordially. I was ready emotionally. Unfortunately, I hadn’t done my cartoon for the next day and my deadline was 5:15 pm. I was going to finish my job as a professional should. I had an idea for one but hadn’t drawn it. I was thinking about summer camps and kids. And I thought what do kids learn at summer camp; arts and crafts, music, computer etc. Then I thought the punchline should be the biggest kids of all, the GOP and Dems on the Hill who need to go to camp to “learn to play well with others”. There was a staff meeting planned for 4 pm where an announcement would be made of those let go from the cuts. I planned to be out the door by then. So I quickly started to draw my last cartoon. I kept telling myself this is for the readers, not so much for the folks who just let me go. It motivated me to draw fast, clean, good. I hate to rush, never did all 31 years (unless it was election night and I had no choice but to make a hurried live deadline as the election results trickled in). I inked in what I could and looking at the clock I left the building just before 4pm, forfeiting my key to my office and front door security card. I wasn’t finished with my toon. I left through the front door passing the Walk of Fame (customer Service Walk of Fame with honored employees names on walkway bricks). I passed my name on a brick from 1995 and all I could say was “where did the good ‘ol days go?” Luckily, I live 10 minutes away. I finished inking at home, scanned the large original in two parts, joined them together, photoshopped it, did a b & w and color version and e-mailed them to my boss right at 5:15 pm! And I got a say, the cartoon came out pretty darn good considering I had just lost my job. It ran on Wednesday.

Alan: After the way Brian Duffy was let go, I gotta ask – were you treated well?

Doug: Yes, my boss and executive editor treated me very well, as did our HR department head. They always have. They felt horrible too, you could see it on their faces. They were dreading this “handed down from Gannett High” decision but were very kind and compassionate throughout. I wasn’t there to see Brian’s departure. I heard it was horrible, I’m just fortunate mine was different.

Alan: Will you still be contributing to the paper in any way and if is, how many?

Doug: No plans at the moment.

Alan: You self-syndicate your cartoons to other papers in Florida. Are you still doing that and if so, do you plan to continue?

Doug: I am weighing my options on that at the moment. Can’t tell you more.

Alan: Has there been any kind of reaction from the community to the lay-offs?

Doug: There has been a terrific outpouring of support, encouragement from colleagues, co-workers, community leaders, friends and and even political opposites. They are saddened, hurt, disgusted, feel betrayed as regular readers and all share positive confidence that many new doors will open for me. And they will. I’m very fortunate to have a lot of supportive friends in the area.

Alan: As far as your career, you worked for the News-Press since 1988. In that time, what issues do you think you made a difference or impacted in your community?

Doug: Daily, I hammered home local environmental protection issues, preserving land from greedy developers, strengthening teacher pay and protecting classroom quality from Tallahassee budget cutters. Local leaders who needed chastising got the tough cartoon ink treatment they deserved. Local leaders who contributed to the well-being of the community received tribute ink while living or when they passed on. Many of my cartoons generating mailbag letters. Cartoons were often put into powerpoint presentations to generate discussions around town, used in classrooms, put on office walls and on refrigerator doors. They were literally the talk of the town and at water coolers on many days

Alan: What will you miss most about working for the News-Press?

Doug: Getting out in the community sharing my skills, cartoons, humor, insights and listening to the reader’s life stories, their challenges, and their joys in daily life. Then returning to the News-Press to temper a thoughtful cartoon that hits home with readers based on what I learned.

Alan: Have you had a chance to think about what’s next? What’s in store for the next chapter in your life?

Doug: I hope to use my drawing and writing skills to get kids to read more books, my books, to get parents to share more creative moments with their kids, use my art and humor to help heal those with special needs, young and old. I also plan to teach art/cartooning, lecture and do workshops on creativity and healthy humor. I hope to freelance where I can, find new venues for my cartoon art, pay my bills on time, spend time with friends and family and enjoy creating in my house/studio. Most importantly, I’m going to do my best to stay happy, healthy with this new expensive health care coverage.

Alan: Is there anything you’d like to add, or say?

Doug: Be good to one another out there. Help where and when you can. The economy drives people in different directions some for good, some for bad, (and I know its trite) but things do happen for a reason. Discovering new opportunities will be a rough, but rewarding road ahead. I will find greener pastures. Long live editorial cartooning… keep the faith and stay strong at your drawing boards! Keep us thinking. Keep us laughing!

Community Comments

#1 Gary Varvel
@ 12:56 pm

The New-Press just cut off their nose to spite their face. Doug MacGregor is a great cartoonist and was a tremendous voice in his community. And he is one of the nicest guys in the AAEC. Ft. Myers readers just lost a big reason to buy the newspaper. Praying for you, Doug

#2 Stacy Curtis
@ 2:32 pm

Doug was very welcoming to me at my first AAEC convention. To echo Gary, he’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
The paper dealt themselves and their readers a huge loss.

Gary, I’m glad to see you survived the Gannett cuts. :)

#3 John Read
@ 4:17 pm

What an incredible attitude to have.

#4 Dave Stephens
@ 4:27 pm

Doug is all-pro all the time and it all starts with his great attitude… I wish him the best of luck!

#5 JW Wills
@ 12:58 am

Gannett lays off 700 more people as the upper management gave themselves $25+ M in bonuses last year. And people wonder why the newspaper industry is cratering. Greed by the top tier and crap on the lower tier. Disgusting.

#6 J.Jacobs
@ 2:05 pm

McGregor’s cartoons were the best reason, sometimes the only reason, to read the News-Press. He is one of the best. Poor judgement will come back to haunt those in power.

#7 Milt Priggee
@ 2:28 pm

Doug is a SUPER human being and an even better cartoonist…I’ve known him since my first AAEC convention in 1981.

The editors were dreading THEIR decision to say goodbye to their reader’s favorite institution because they knew they were probably lying straight to Doug’s face.

Do you really believe the Gannet corporation told the the FT Myers Press editors to get rid of their most visceral reader connection and only visual commentator…..?? Do you really believe the corporate suits singled out MacGregore….?

Most likely the corporate suits gave them a dollar number to work with and let the editors do whatever they had to (…of yeah you can go ahead and blame us suits…yeah, call it a corporate decision…hahahha (as they walked away with their bonuses)).

I don’t believe it was a corporate decision to get rid of MacGregore. More likely it was THE Ft.Myers Press editors who made the decision that they didn’t want anymore LOCAL cartoons.

The editors just decided to abdicate their monopoly on local visual commentary. They felt it was better to make print product more locally irrelevant by reprinting a nationally syndicated cartoon that has absolutely no connection (by issue or author) to Florida.

FT.Myers readers will now spend less time with their local community newspaper and more time on the Internet looking for their old friend MacGregor’s cartoons.

#8 J. Moguil
@ 10:29 am

Thank you Doug Macgregor for lifting our spirits and funny bone throughout your years with the NewsPress. I regret
there is no longer any reason for us to subscribe to the NewsPress – you were the catalyst for our doing so.
Look forward to your new adventures, be sure we will be
watching to see where your exceptional talents are exhibited.

#9 Doug MacGregor
@ 12:48 pm

Just wanted to thank Gary, Stacy, John, Dave, Milt and all the rest of the AAEC gang and well-wishers who have posted and sent kind thoughts of support. I hope to be in St. Pete next week and will get the chance to thank you in the AAEC in person. Your thoughts and prayers are a great boost. And a special thanks to Alan for spreading the word with a special Q & A.

Doug MacGregor

#10 Joann Lessard
@ 6:56 am

Doug Macgregor is one of the best cartoonist.
He did a wonderful job telling the truth in a professional way.

His sense of humor is wonderful,need some of that in the government.

Doug style and wit were what made the cartoons GREAT.

With sorrow.

Jo Lessard

#11 Bill Heim Nashville
@ 2:42 pm

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. If you have been blessed enough to know Doug’s Mom & Dad, brother and sister you aren’t in the least bit surprised by Doug’s class act. This is simply of an act in a many act Mac play. And I for one can’t wait to see what Dougger writes/draws in the next chapter!

Bill Heim
Nashville, TN

#12 Joan Howard(Student of Doug's)
@ 8:00 am

I just want it known that my sister and I have had the pleasure of taking creativity classes from Doug, and we will follow him wherever near Ft. Myers he is teaching.
His cartoons were THE ONLY REASON TO TAKE THE FT. MYERS NEWS PRESS, AND now we will cancel that for the winter. Nothing worth reading in that paper if Doug’s cartoon is gone.
Doug is an example to everyone of integrity, talent,creativity and his teaching is above and beyond what most teachers accomplish. He brings out the best, even in 70 and over people.
Doug, this is probably just the opening of new doors, so be good with it as we know you will.


#13 Joan Rusch
@ 8:21 am

Just arrived from Wisconsin and missed Doug’s cartoons immensely so had to go on line to find out what happened.
Keep us posted on where you will be seen.

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