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CSotD EXTRA: Comic fans must now step up

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.

So anyway.

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.

 

 

Community Comments

#1 mark allen johnson
September/26/2022
@ 7:00 pm

The Kenosha News (Wisconsin) paper is owned by Lee Enterprise and did indeed slash a bunch of strips including 3 of the 5 I followed every day. I did complain but, we’ll see.
It was hard for me to see how the decisions were made. For instance, a strip featuring 25 year olds in the dating scene prevailed but Real Life Adventures ( Wise Aldrich) did not.
Seems unlikely to me that 25 year olds are subscribing to the paper. That’s been a problem for years. So what is the calculus? Was it inexpensive for the paper compared to others that were dropped?

#2 Mike Rhode
September/26/2022
@ 7:44 pm

You convinced me. I have *no* time to read more strips, but I’ve gotten your point and signed up for the 2 service, just like I get editorial webcomics and Counterpoint. Thanks for the hard push.

#3 Andréa Denninger
September/27/2022
@ 9:45 am

I’ve been reading The Kenosha News (formerly the morning news) since 1960, until I left WI in 2015. Talk about loyalty, thru thick and [eventually] thin. I sometimes access bits and pieces of it online. I know of several people who no longer subscribe to it, as the cost went up and the value went down, comics included.

#4 Mario500
September/27/2022
@ 11:19 am

(suggestion: no profanity or any form of vulgar language in any future article for this site)

#5 Mike Peterson
September/27/2022
@ 4:58 pm

(Suggestion: Start your own website and run it the way you think it should be run.)

#6 Christine A Denney
September/27/2022
@ 9:54 pm

I have subscribed to the Tampa Bay Times for over 40 years. I have always had subscriptions to the local papers no matter where I lived, through 4 different states. My grandfather took both St.Louis newspapers when I was growing up during the ’50’s. I have been very disappointed in all the changes at the Times over the last several years. A lot of my favorite columnists just disappeared from the pages, and the comics are spread out in all different sections. The print in the comics is so small it is barely readable. And a lot of the comics are not the least bit humorous.Half the comic section is overlapping partial pages that are ads, so one cannot turn the pages and fold them back. It is very disappointing and immensely aggravating. I have the only subscription they offer, Wednesday and Sunday. I may not even look at the paper for several days after it is delivered.
I relied on the Times for their comments and information on all the candidates at Election time.
I do look at it online, but I like the feel of a newspaper in my hands.
I miss my REAL NEWS papers.

#7 Geekoid
September/27/2022
@ 10:47 pm

Frankly, I’m surprised they lasted this long in print.

#8 Benjamin R. Baker JR
September/28/2022
@ 5:58 am

Buy a newspaper and get back to me.

I have lived in the same community for 28 years and I bought the local paper last year after running it since I got here.

We need ads to stay in business. Our community needs people who shop local, not online.

#9 Mike Peterson
September/28/2022
@ 6:32 am

Benjamin — I’ve worked for local papers and I’ve worked for the Wall Street papers. Local papers still matter and they are still a sustainable business.

Sell your paper to Lee or Alden and see how long you’re allowed to sit in the Big Chair, and how long your paper is permitted to respond to the needs and tastes of your community.

The chains have done this. Local ownership is the cure, not the problem.

#10 Ernest Molina Jr
September/28/2022
@ 3:41 pm

Been comic strip fan most of my 66 years. Always preferred the feel of a newsPAPER; not really an online reader. I remember have two rival newspapers here in San Antonio, just as in many other cities. After one took over the other, the one printed an eight section magazine size comics section. Just in the past three years, we’ve gone from a 3 page comic to just 1 now! And sections have gone from 4 or 3 constantly
shrinking sections to 2 recently. God knows I don’t know how to run a newspaper, & especially now in this internet age. But I do know I’m an unhappy newspaper customer, mainly due to the dearth of comics strip. A compadre canceled his subscription after many years. I have 2, 1 for my Mom, & me. I only subscribe for the comics. I haven’t canceled mine yet, til I may contact my 2 carriers at end of year to give cash tips- I do NOT trust any business to forward them. Paper office didn’t even forward my messages to both, to contact me to give them saved newspaper sleeves. I AM going to subscribe the the 2 websites now; although I don’t. But i wanna read all my comics, AND support all the cartoonists. Thanx for heads up & God keep all

#11 Lonny Groseed
September/28/2022
@ 4:10 pm

@Mike I got a hearty laugh from your response re the profanity suggestion.

IMFO, the concept of profanity is one of the most ridiculous things ever conjured up by humankind. Every verboten piece of profanity has a replacement that’s considered acceptably polite, even though it conveys *exactly* the same meaning.

P.S. Google says the F in IMFO stands for “freaking” — which is a load of horse sugar.

#12 Phil Phantom
September/30/2022
@ 8:03 am

You convinced me, i signed up for both of them. I DO love comics. THANK YOU for writing this.

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