Lurking Danger for Editorial Cartoonists


The Tucson Sentinel is reporting…

A list of household names on the Arizona Daily Star staff must soon decide if they’ll stay on the job — the newspaper’s corporate owners have offered buyouts for older workers, with the veiled threat of potential layoffs pending if not enough staffers accept.

At least a dozen journalists have been given 45 days to decide if they’ll accept six months of salary to walk away from their jobs as part of a cost-cutting effort by Lee Enterprises, the Iowa-based media chain that runs Tucson’s daily newspaper.

The latest Lee Enterprises action may affect Daily Star cartoonist David Fitzsimmons.

On the list — and possibly soon no longer appearing on the morning daily’s roster of journalists — are Greg Hansen, sports columnist, arts reporter Kathy Allen and environmental reporter Tony Davis, sources at the Star and others familiar with the situation said.

David Fitzsimmons, the outspoken editorial cartoonist and columnist, faces leaving his pen on his drawing board. Reporter Carmen Duarte has been at the Star since 1981. Other names familiar to even casual readers of the paper are on the list: Ernesto Portillo. Carol Ann Alaimo. Doug Kreutz. Alfredo Araiza and Ron Medvescek have photographed untold numbers of Tucsonans at thousands of news events. And behind the scenes, local news editor Norma Coile and copy editor George Campbell have worked to keep the news coming our way.


There is a connection to the last layoffs that made the news:

The South Park operation under which the Arizona Daily Star is held is a partnership between massive national newspaper chains Gannett Inc. and Lee, with each holding a 50 percent share.

Editorial cartoonist Steve Benson was recently among a group laid off at the Arizona Republic after he declined a buyout and Gannett did not meet its target for cutting salaries at the Phoenix newspaper.

Apparently David mentioned it on Facebook (though I can’t find it):

Fitzsimmons posted on Facebook, because “I believe in transparency. And crushing rumors.”

“To say I’m inclined to decline the offer and stay as long as The Arizona Daily Star endures is an understatement,” he said. “If enough employees across Lee Enterprises take the bait I will survive yet another rough and tumble year for journalism. If not enough take the company-wide buyouts, then future layoffs are inevitable.”

“I will remain a proud employee of The Arizona Daily Star as long as the presses run,” he said.

What I did find on Fitz’s Facebook was kind of ironic in light of the present situation. In discussing the David Wiley Miller FUBAR, less than a week ago, Fitz said:

To those who would suggest I may share “Wiley’s fate” I would tell them to calm down. I am blessed that Lee Enterprises supports this cartoonist. They’ve vigorously defended me, time and time again, when critics have called for this artist to be drawn and quartered. In this era when many cartoonists are losing their jobs, like Rob Rogers, or my friend Steve Benson, my employer continues to believe their two cartoonists — myself and Phil Hands at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, Wisconsin — play an important role in community journalism. In a time when there are fewer than 25 editorial cartoonists left working in America today, the position of Lee Enterprises management is extraordinary and commendable.

And yes, Phil Hands, at Lee Enterprises’ Wisconsin State Journal, may be on shaky ground:

This round of buyouts is taking place across Lee’s chain of nearly 50 newspapers, sources said.


I share Fitz’s hope that both he and Phil will survive.

“If enough employees across Lee Enterprises take the bait I will survive yet another rough and tumble year for journalism.”










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