As More Cartoonists Draw Severance, Honor Them While You Can
We're talking with ED STEIN, longtime political cartoonist for the Rocky Mountain News.
Make that the dearly departed Rocky Mountain News.
After 31 years in his position, Stein learned yesterday that the Denver newspaper would print its final edition today, after E.W. Scripps couldn't find a buyer. And that he -- pens, paper and cartoons in tow -- would be out of a job. So in honor of Stein and his newspaper-cartooning brethren who potentially face similar fates, Comic Riffs officially declares today Political Cartoonist Appreciation Day.
More than a dozen staff cartoonists have been pink-slipped in the past year or so. Elsewhere, the Pulitzer-winning David Horsey faces an uncertain future because the fate of his paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, hangs imminently in the balance (its owner, Hearst Corp., announced last month that the P-I was up for sale with a 60-day deadline to find a buyer). And Tom Meyer, who draws for the San Francisco Chronicle, is waiting to see what Hearst decides to do with the Chron.
We're appreciating them now because at this rate, honoring the Newspaper Political Cartoonist could soon feel more like eulogy.
"The whole economy of this business has changed so dramatically," says Stein by phone, hours after hearing of his paper's demise. "It's probably not a smart move to look for your next job in newspaper. All of us who draw cartoons are pretty good at writing, too. ... But I've been looking for what's next for quite a while."
Asked what he faces next, Stein jokes: "Abject poverty. Slow starvation." He adds: "I'll continue drawing for the syndicate [Newspaper Enterprise Association]. But that's certainly not enough to afford me the fine scotches I'm used to." Stein pours a little more dry humor. Amid bad news, a cartoonist can be counted on, it seems, to summon the sardonic punchline.
After decades as a Denver fixture, Stein says he'll miss the people, the paper -- and his reading public. The Mountain News had "a phenomenonal staff," he says. "So many very, very good journalists are thrown out of work. And it's devastating to the community. It's a wonderful place to come to work." (For his newsroom colleague Drew Litton's reaction to the news, read our first post today.)
"Cartoons play very well on the Internet," Stein says. "The problem is, nobody [in cartooning] has figured out how to make money from it. It doesn't pay your health benefits. ... I'll build a Web site, but that's not much of a way to raise revenue."
As Stein and Litton look for new opportunities, today Comic Riffs offers samples of their work as a tip of the cap, as well as the work of Horsey and Meyer. Good luck, gentlemen. As it changes and transforms, the cartooning industry still needs your talents.
While we're honoring talented editorial cartoonists, Comic Riffs offers our kudos to PAT BAGLEY of the Salt Lake Tribune, who it has been announced is the winner of the prestigious 2009 Herblock Award. The jurors included Garry Trudeau and Jules Feiffer, who -- according to the Tribune -- was Bagley's earliest cartoon hero.
Heartfelt congrats, Pat. And with any luck, the award will keep your job safer than most.
| February 27, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories: The Political Cartoon
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