Des Moines Register fires country's last front-page political cartoonist
by desmoinesdem, Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 06:31:49 AM EST
Across the country, newspapers are trying to save money by cutting experienced staff and relying more on syndicated material. The Des Moines Register, part of the Gannett chain, has had several rounds of layoffs in recent years and continued the trend by announcing dozens of job cuts this week.
Brian Duffy, who has been the newspaper's political cartoonist for 25 years, was among those let go.
A brief story in the Register's business section on Thursday noted,
The Register was said to be the only newspaper in the United States with an editorial cartoon on the front page. The tradition extended back to at least the early 20th century, according to Register archives. Ted Rall, the president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, estimated that about 20 editorial cartoonists have been laid off or retired in the last three years without being replaced.
For several decades in the first half of the 20th century, the Register's front-page cartoonist was Jay "Ding" Darling, who won two Pulitzers and was the founding president of the National Wildlife Federation. From 1953 to 1983, the Register's cartoonist was Frank Miller, who also won a Pulitzer.
Duffy never won a Pulitzer, but he was highly regarded, and I spoke with several politically-engaged Iowans yesterday who were shocked to hear he had been fired.
Meanwhile, the Register's chief political columnist, David Yepsen, interviewed this week for the position of director of Southern Illinois University's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Yepsen hasn't gotten a pink slip, but you can't blame him for looking around. Morale in the Register's newsroom must be horrendous.
The Register's stature and quality has never been the same since Gannett bought the paper in the 1980s. Its circulation has dropped significantly as well, especially during the past decade. I don't know if anything can be done to halt the vicious cycle of newspapers cutting budgets for newsgathering and original content, then losing circulation, leading to more cuts. In this tough economy, businesses are reducing spending on advertising too.
Post any thoughts on the decline of once-great newspapers in this thread.