Pink-slipping the Pulitzer: Editorial cartoonists are cut in Election Day's wake
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.
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.)
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 LAObserved.com, 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 RELATED READ:
2004 Herblock Prize acceptance speech:
| November 11, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: The Political Cartoon | Tags: Marshall Ramsey, Matt Davies, Steve Greenberg
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