I’m going to assume that Francesco Marciulano’s Ted Talk is for social media and not an Official Sally Forth Strip, but so much the better and good for him.
I’ll go a step further and say the only good thing about Lee Enterprise’s announcement that they are shoving their local comic pages into the corporate cookie cutter is that they held the announcement until just after the National Cartoonists Society held its annual convention, else the thing might have resembled the Masque of the Red Death, a glorious festival of doomed celebration amid a surrounding pall of death.
But this is no joke: There are cartoonists who will now have to put their pens aside and provide for their families.
How many? I don’t know. For some, the foremost, it will mean cutting back to a more middleclass, perhaps even workingclass, lifestyle, and that’s a shame but so it goes.
However, I remember back when 100 papers was the breakpoint, and, specifically, I remember a cartoonist telling me he had finally hit 100 papers and could now quit his day job and focus on cartooning.
Those people will be gone. Solid gone.
There won’t be a sudden avalanche of disappearances, but, over the next year, you can expect to see some cartoonists give up the struggle. Strips that you like will cease to exist.
What can you do about it?
First of all, stop acting surprised. Pearls Before Swine called this back in 2006, and my favorite part of this strip is how Rat the Owner blames readers for not appreciating what he’s done.
Which ties into Ted’s advice that you contact your local paper. Certainly, he’s right, and if you are a subscriber to a Lee newspaper — here’s the list — you need to let them know you are not happy.
Note, by the way, that they call them “brands” and “platforms,” not newspapers. It’s an indication of how much they value the concept of the local newspaper.
Ted Rall was more specific in his criticism and his assessment of how much the corporate vultures care about the actual product and the people who buy it.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort to let them know you are unhappy, and I’d add this: If you’ve been wondering why you pay so much for what was once a newspaper and is now reduced to a brochure, maybe this is the tipping point that makes you finally cancel.
Complaints matter, but cancellations go into spread sheets, and spread sheets carry more weight at corporate headquarters. Well, sometimes, which is better than never.
Here’s what makes no difference: Silence.
Now, then, what gives me the right to speak up?
For one thing, it’s nothing new for me. When I was about 20, my dad and I took a walk around the lake at home, and he told me how a “leveraged buyout” meant that the company’s new owners had debts to face right away, which meant they would take the richest vein of iron in our mines, leave the middle-grade stuff behind, and close down our town in about 10 years instead of maybe 30 or 40.
Leveraged buyouts were a big deal 50 year ago. Today, it’s assumed that new owners are incurring massive debt that will be visited upon the hapless workers. My dad had the courage and chutzpah to step up and resign rather than participate in the murder of our town, but they found others and so it happened anyway.
Which left me well situated to contemplate the cookie-cutter management that I encountered in the newspaper business, once the vulture capitalists had begun to circle.
The product doesn’t matter. Whether it’s iron ore or newspapers or toothpaste or chewing gum doesn’t matter. It’s the stock price. Nobody tries, anymore, to leave their children a successful business. The goal is to leave them a valuable stock portfolio.
The businesses involved are irrelevant.
Someone commented the other day that businesses are expected to show a profit, and so editorial decisions should be aimed in that direction.
First of all, duh.
Second, however, is that the editorial department knows f***-all about marketing, and their decisions have more do with split infinitives than with getting people to buy the damn newspaper.
I say that as someone with half a century in media, about half in editorial and half in marketing, including having completely redone a comics page, dailies and Sundays.
I’ve seen every aspect, worked every department in the industry. I have dwelt in the belly of the beast.
Those who come to the AAEC Convention in Columbus next week can find out more. I prefer porter or stout, and if you keep them coming, I’ll keep the stories coming, because, boy-jayzus, can I lay out the details when the lawyers aren’t eavesdropping.
I don’t know how cartoonists will deal with an industry that despises its readers.
But I do know this: If you claim to like comics, you need to support two websites:
Comics Kingdom, home of King Features’ syndicate, which is currently offering a free month, after which it’s $29.95 a year.
And GoComics, which also has a special on, and is only $19.95 a year, which I mention second because they’re technically my bosses.
Now, let’s be honest: Ain’t nobody gonna get rich from this.
But, on the other, hand, cartoonists won’t get anything from you subscribing to some sad-ass paper that doesn’t carry their work at all. So plan your spending accordingly.
Also, that five dollar cappuccino half-caf whatever every morning adds up to one helluva lot more than 50 bucks over a year. If you consider yourself a coffee lover — or a monkey lover — good on you.
But if you consider yourself a comics lover and you’re still copping your comics for free, maybe you don’t love them all that much. Or maybe you haven’t given things a whole lot of thought.
Drop that note off to the people at your local paper. Now. Not tomorrow. Not later. Now. Today. Now.
And if it includes a cancellation, so much the better. Get their attention.
Meanwhile, if you like comics, if you’re not just bullshitting us and yourself, sign up for both Comics Kingdom and GoComics and then pick out a couple of cartoonists whose patreons you are willing to support and support them, too.
But, otherwise, don’t insult us by telling us how much you love comics.
Nobody wants to hear that half-assed, weak-kneed Freddy shit anymore.