Monday, December 12, 2005

Black Ink Monday

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists has declared today "Black Ink Monday":
Over the last 20 years, the number of cartoonists on the staff of daily newspapers nationwide has been cut in half. In the last month alone, the Tribune Company (owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and a half-dozen other prominent papers), has forced out well-known and award-winning cartoonists at the LA Times and Baltimore Sun, eliminating their positions entirely. [...]
In an open letter to Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons, AAEC President Clay Bennett recently wrote: "There are few journalists in a newsroom who can define the tone and identity of a publication like an editorial cartoonist does. By discarding those who make a newspaper unique, you rob it of its character. By robbing a newspaper of its character, you steal its spirit."

You can view 100 editorial cartoon protests at this page of the AAEC website.

Why should you care about this? Some might put it this way: "It's the First Ammendment, Stupid." Others might note that this "downsizing" trend is happening throughout America; as corporations continue their absorptions, mergers and monoplies, lining their CEOs' pockets by demandinge more work from fewer workers for less cash, the next position to be eliminated could be your own. Still others might take an historical approach, noting that editorial cartooning played an important role in the founding of this very country:

That, of course, is Benjamin Franklin's famous "Join, or Die" cartoon from the May 9, 1754 edition of Franklin's newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette. It's considered the first editorial cartoon in what would eventually become the United States. By trampling on the editorial cartoon tradition, the Tribune Comany tramples on a fundamental piece of what makes America, America.

Here's a story about the recent acquisition of an original print of this cartoon by none other than Steve Geppi, President and Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Comic Distributors. Insert your own joke about monopolization here...

Update: Curiously, there's nary a mention of Black Ink Monday in today's Houston Chronicle; after all the complaints I've heard in Houston about how "liberal" the Chronicle is, I was hoping to see some coverage. They didn't forget to include the Editorial Page's daily "Bible Verse," though. (Curiously, the Bible Verse seems to be just about the only portion of the paper not reproduced on its website. Hmmmm...)

Update Nummer Zwei: For more background on the reasons for Black Ink Monday - and to learn that editorial cartoonist Paul Revere understood the power of revision - check out this animated editorial cartoon by past AAEC President Milt Priggee. It takes a few minutes to watch/read, but it's worth it to get a sort of panoramic view of the current situation. And be sure also to read the enlightening essay "In Defense of Editorial Cartooning" by Chris Lamb (entry for December 9 at Daryl Cagle's blog). Thanks to the Ever-Amazing Elena Steier for telling Milt Priggee about the Blog Machine!

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Blogger C. Margery Kempe said...

Yeah, the Houston Chronicle is so liberal they've supported Bush in the last two elections. Maybe we're just too backward looking as actual print readers, but this monopolization has already had a deleterious effect on the "news" we get -- in what ever format.

Like the supposed "War on Christmas" the powers-that-be promote, the general public gets treated to sleight-of-hand tricks which ask them to concentrate on non-issues while real power and real money gets looted from their pockets. Ask people in New Orleands (or Darfur, for that matter) how that's going for them.

12/12/2005 9:09 AM  
Blogger eirwenes said...

Gene, I read this just before I left for LA, and it's been on my mind ever since. Over lunch, a few of us uninformed idly wondered just how much a role comics play in newspaper sales. The only reason my husband and I get the newspaper is to read the Sunday funnies. Yet they shrink in size and get less interesting. And now the depletion of editorial cartoons comes to light. Why *do* people read newspapers? Maybe there's a place for editorial animators on the 24-hour cable channels, which are a snore and a half. Maybe some editorial animation would perk them up!

1/04/2006 8:32 AM  

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