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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 11/11/2010

Pink-slipping the Pulitzer: Editorial cartoonists are cut in Election Day's wake

By Michael Cavna

davieswar.jpg (cartoon courtesy of Matt Davies)

So much of the spectacle of elections involves watching political parties gain and lose seats, yet within hours of every Election Day, there is one seat that's grievously lost for good: the one in the corner, belonging to the political cartoonist.

Within days of the polls closing this year, one Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist has been pink-slipped and a two-time Pulitzer finalist has been demoted to part-time status.

Matt Davies, cartoonist for The Journal News in the Lower Hudson Valley (N.Y.), tells Comic Riffs that the Gannett-owned newspaper has laid him off.


"I am crestfallen and angry, but also exhilarated," says the London-born cartoonist [right], emphasizing that he's poised to find new professional opportunities. " 'Matt Davies 2.0' is way overdue, in my opinion."

This isn't the first time the Journal News has let go of Davies, a past AAEC president whose major awards include the 2004 Pulitzer and the inaugural 2004 Herblock Prize. The paper cut his position in 2009 amid a round of layoffs, only to reverse its decision and resuscitate his role.

ramseyeagle.jpg(courtesy of Marshall Ramsey)

Another gifted Gannett cartoonist, Marshall Ramsey of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., confirmed just days after the election that his newspaper is reducing his duties amid more than a dozen staff cuts.


"I'm very lucky to have a very loyal following here who has been very vocal about what happened," says Ramsey [right], a Georgia native and Pulitzer finalist for 2002 and 2006. "I have a huge fan base. ... What happened to me ... is a temporary bad thing that will turn into a long-term blessing."

Ramsey, who is also a children's book illustrator, notes that he will be starting a business. "In the meantime," he tells Comic Riffs, "I will be speaking, drawing, laughing and inspiring my way across Mississippi and the Southeast. This sort of thing is happening to people everywhere. I'm determined to show that this isn't the end of the world. It's just a new one." (Ramsey, like Davies, is in his 40s.)

Gannett, it must be noted, has recently cut about 200 jobs, according to the Gannett Blog -- a total that excludes about 130 layoffs in August at USA Today.

Getting downsized or downgraded before the ballots are even cold in still-contested races can be a doubly unkind cut for political cartoonists. But Steve Greenberg, a former Ventura County Star (Calif.) editorial cartoonist who was laid off by the newspaper two days after Election Day 2008, says that such timing only underscores the relevance and importance of his profession.

"The fact that newspapers tend to lay off editorial cartoonists right after big elections ironically proves the value of the cartoonists," Greenberg tells Comic Riffs. "Editors know the cartoons help shape the issues, give weight to election endorsements, make the case for or against candidates and issues more effectively than written editorials, and resonate with readers.

"They know the cartoons are too valuable to cut when big things are on the line. Once those [big] things are past, the bean-counters immediately forget and go back into their cartoonists-are-a-luxury fog."

As the number of full-time staff positions for newspaper cartoonists dwindles into the dozens, some editorial artists say they're baffled by the reasoning behind the reductions. Why, they ask, does the drawing board so often become the chopping block?

"Again and again, newspapers cut the very people who make their publications unique and attract readers," says Greenberg, whose freelance cartoon clients now include, the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles and the Ventura County Reporter.

Newspapers, he says, "especially stupidly cut the visual, quick-impact, irreverent people who can most appeal to younger online readers the newspapers urgently need. It's shortsighted and counterproductive."


THE RANT: Just How Much Is a Political Cartoonist Worth?

MATT DAVIES: Political cartoonist named in candidate's multimillion-dollar lawsuit

STEVE GREENBERG: Life as a Pink-Slipped Political Cartoonist

2004 Herblock Prize acceptance speech:

By Michael Cavna  | November 11, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Political Cartoon  | Tags:  Marshall Ramsey, Matt Davies, Steve Greenberg  
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Next: VETERANS DAY GAFFE: 'Garfield' creator Jim Davis apologizes for 'Stupid Day' gag


The Post's Garfield cartoon on Veteran's Day is utterly offensive. On another day, no problem. But on Veteran's Day, it is unconscionable.

Posted by: justkiddingdc | November 11, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Don't tell me Garfield is becoming controversial just as more good editorial cartoonists are losing their positions! They'll have to invent a new and more bitter word for "irony."

Posted by: rhompson | November 11, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I saw this elsewhere:
Garfield’s Director of Public Relations says the following is about to be posted on


Dear Friends, Fans, and Veterans:

In what has to be the worst timing ever, the strip that runs in today ‘s paper seems to be making a statement about Veteran’s. It absolutely, positively has nothing to do with this important day of remembrance.

Regarding today’s Garfield comic strip , it was written almost a year ago and I had no idea when writing it that it would appear today — of all days. I do not use a calendar that lists holidays and other notable days so when this strip was put in the queue, I had no idea it would run on Veteran’s Day. What are the odds? You can bet I’ll have a calendar that lists EVERYTHING by my side in the future.

My brother Dave served in Vietnam. My son James is a Marine who has had two tours of duty, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. You’d have to go a long way to find someone who was more proud and grateful for what our Veteran’s have done for all of us.

Please accept my apologies for any offense today’s Garfield may have created. It was unintentional and regrettable.

Jim Davis

Posted by: justdroppedby | November 11, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

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