Des Moines Register fires country's last front-page political cartoonist

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.

Tags: Brian Duffy, david yepsen, Des Moines register, Economy, Gannett, jobs, layoffs, Media, newspapers (all tags)

Comments

5 Comments

Kansas City Star - did the same...

...last month:

The Kansas City Star: getting rid of even more content

by Michael Bersin 2008-12-05 06:54AM | 0 recs
the chaos and decline...

of The Los Angeles Times as a national newspaper is sad.  This is a paper that had clawed it's way up to preeminence with The New York Times, The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.  Today, it has the fastest declining circulation of any of the top 10 newspapers in the country (from 1.1 million to .739 million).  This decline started before the Sam Zell reign.  It lacks a distinctive national voice and web page (supplanted by huffingtonpost.com which is LA and salon.com which is SF and IMO, the best overall web site around) although it still is a good California paper.  The recent ownerships have nearly emaculated it down to the level of The Chicago Tribune.

by mboehm 2008-12-05 07:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Des Moines Register fires country's last front

With all the poor-mouthing, the Des Moines Register had a 24.58% profit margin in the first three months of 2007, with ad revenue of $71 million, according to figures leaked to gannettblog.blogspot.com (for the profit margins of more than 80 Gannett Newspapers see http://gannettblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/ documents-reveal-double-digit-profit.htm l).

by jcullen 2008-12-05 07:46AM | 0 recs
last front-page political cartoonist

The Indianapolis Star, another Gannett paper, also announced significant layoffs on its news staff.

I think newspapers are becoming less relevant by the day, that's why their circulation is dropping.  People are utilizing television and the Internet more and more.

I've read before that several college newspapers are going to an entirely online format, and so did the Christian Science Monitor.  I expect to see this happen a lot more in the coming years.

by Vox Populi 2008-12-05 08:04AM | 0 recs
Gannet doing the same everywhere

Big cuts in Delaware and New Jersey, for example, where I'm at.

by John DE 2008-12-05 08:22AM | 0 recs

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