For more than a quarter century, political cartoonist Jesse Springer has parodied and highlighted the uniqueness that is Oregon. His work has appeared in many regional newspapers across the state. Springer’s latest book, “Only in Oregon” is a compilation of several hundred cartoons taking on everything from climate change to COVID-19 to gerrymandering.
Jesse Springer is interviewed by Brian Bull for KLCC (NPR for Oregon).
The interview starts with the difficulty of staying in financially struggling newspapers:
Yes, absolutely, that’s, that’s definitely the backstory here since 1995 up until the present. The advent of people getting news online for free, basically has really dealt a serious blow to traditional news sources in particular, newspapers. And one sign of that is that I haven’t raised the rates of my cartoons since I started in 1995. Because I can see that newspapers, they’re cutting back. They’re looking for excuses to cut back in a way, and so if I said to them, “Okay, well, you know, inflation, I’m gonna raise my rates,” I worry that they’re gonna drop me. So that’s a huge thing, there’s a lot of turnover with editors.
Then there’s the problem of his Oregon-centric cartoons being dropped
by financial officers of a chain living on the other side of the country:
I was running in the Salem paper for years and years and years. I got email from a person in Nashville, who said, “Yeah, we’re no longer running your cartoon and you know, this person’s title was, “Senior Executive Vice President of Customer Experience” or something like that. This is where the decisions are getting made. It’s no longer a local kind of situation and decision cost cutting decisions are getting made, you know, in the central locations. And so, that’s been a huge thing for me.
About Jesse’s new book:
So the title is “Only in Oregon.” I wanted that title to really say this is this is, first of all, all cartoons about Oregon. But I also wanted to say, these things, these events that I’m drawing cartoons about could have happened only in Oregon, it’s a very unique state.
The Bundys taking over the wildlife refuge. The laws that we have like The Kicker. Things that we have like we have PERS. We have vote-by-mail that we pioneered. We’ve also pioneered death with dignity. So there are all these issues that are very unique to Oregon.
… [I]n the book, each cartoon is accompanied by a little kind of true fact but dramatized newspaper headline. And so it actually gives you all the context you need to understand the cartoon.
I’ll mention that one thing I started a couple of years ago was a Patreon account. And that is a way for creative folks to monetize what they’re doing. So it’s sort of a subscription model as opposed to the classic model where I would sell my cartoons, newspapers, which I still do, but it’s becoming less and less of a reliable source of income as far as that goes.