Editorial Cartoonist Kirk Anderson Laid Off
Publisher kills his farewell cartoon; Knight Ridder cares more for fancy plants than newspaper staffers
So the pool of daily newspapers with actual local cartoonists shrinks yet again (less than 100, and counting). Despite union and staff protests, The St. Paul Pioneer Press refuses to reinstate fantastic lefty cartoonist Kirk Anderson. The following is from his goodbye memo ("People not plants!") at Poynter.org:
Getting canned sucks. But I understand that difficult business decisions must be made in difficult times, and I'm glad I'm not the one who has to make those difficult decisions. But if I was... I'd probably cut the private service that comes in to water and dust and turn the plants in the publisher's office, before I'd cut a local cartoonist. In other words, I'd cut something only the privileged few who enter the publisher's office see, before I'd cut something 190,000 readers see. Is the position of local cartoonist really valued less than office plants? I could've watered 'em, and I don't even have a PhD in horticulture.To add insult to injury, the publisher not only killed Anderson's farewell cartoon, they didn't even run a note to say he was leaving.
I hope seeing my rolling bloody head bobble down the stairs doesn't frighten anyone, I hope it just makes you cheesed off about the mess it leaves behind. I hope job cuts don't make anyone feel resigned to their fate and lucky merely to have a job; they should make us all fight harder for what we've got, and fight harder to build on it. Strong journalism doesn't come from frightened workers. Strong journalism comes from empowered employees who believe in themselves, in their mission, and who know that their company supports and cares about them and their mission too.
I know a few folks are nervous about guild activism. I know it's easy for me to talk, I've already lost my job. But I think about this the same way I thought about posting this e-mail: I don't want to live in a world where someone's money keeps me from talking openly. I won't live as if my silence can be bought. My principles do not have a price. I will say what I believe. Our profession believes in the freedom of speech more than any other; our industry prides itself on protecting the right to free speech. Let us follow in that honorable tradition and speak freely, speak often, speak loudly, speak, shout, sing, laugh, knowing it's not just what our gut calls us to do, it's what our business' highest principles of protecting free speech call us to do. Do it for Tony [Ridder]!
Our business demands openness of others, smells their dirty laundry and expects quotes on it. Were we not hypocrites, we would honorably hold ourselves to the same standard. Instead, when the media ask our publisher for facts about my departure, he responds with "No comment." When the media ask Tony Ridder about a quote of mine regarding his stewardship, he responds by trying to get the article killed. I believe our company can do better. I believe our company can better reflect our public principles. I believe our company doesn't need to lower employee value to increase shareholder value. PEOPLE NOT PLANTS! PEOPLE NOT PLANTS!
This isn't just mean and greedy--it's stupid. From Editor and Publisher:
In a statement, Association of American Editorial Cartoonists President Bruce Plante said: "We at the AAEC are aware of the financial realities of the newspaper industry, but our industry leaders must realize that by laying off an editorial cartoonist of Kirk Anderson's stature, they are contradicting their own stated goals. Readership surveys have told us readers want more local content, more local commentary, and more visual elements. Editorial cartoonists provide all three. If our industry leaders are truly concerned about readership, laying off cartoonists like Kirk Anderson is the last thing they should do." Plante, editorial cartoonist at the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press, added that the AAEC intends to "pursue" the Anderson situation in some way.Sigh... Anyway, I was going to send him an email thanking him for speaking up, but I don't really know how much of a comfort I can be. And since his email address was at pioneerpress.com, I doubt he'd even receive the message.
Update! Found a different email address for Kirk Anderson. Please send him your condolences and such, he really rocks.