E&P was tipped off to the firing this morning, and Curtis confirmed it. The cartoonist said he was given the bad news Thursday, and escorted out of the office.
Curtis, 34, who believes he was let go in a cost-cutting move, expressed surprise at the decision. "The newspaper pushed 'local, local, local' all the time, so I felt my job was pretty secure," he told E&P. "Ninety-eight percent of the cartoons I did were local."
This local approach "probably bought me some time," added Curtis, but ultimately didn't save his job.
William Nangle, executive editor of the Munster, Ind.-based Times, could not be reached for comment.
Curtis drew five to seven cartoons a week for The Times, and the drawings appeared in 11 different editions of the paper. He joined the Times in July 1996, and had been working with the paper on a 10th-anniversary book prior to the firing.
The cartoonist may still put out a book, and pursue other things there wasn't time to do as a staff cartoonist. These might include children's books, a comic, and online work.
Curtis, who plans to continue drawing editorial cartoons, is not optimistic about finding another full-time job doing that. "This profession has 'Titanic' painted on the side of it," he said, referring to the shrinking number of editorial cartooning positions. "It's very depressing."
Papers eliminating staff cartoonist slots during the past few months included The Los Angeles Times and The Sun of Baltimore. There are now only about 80 full-time editorial cartooning jobs left in the entire country.