Cartoon Group Nominates New Officers and Grapples With Today’s Tough Economic Times

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By: Dave Astor

As the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists nominated 2008-9 officers Saturday, convention attendees also discussed ways to reduce AAEC and member expenses during the tough economic times facing the newspaper biz.

When new AAEC officers take over in September, Ted Rall of Universal Press Syndicate will automatically move from president-elect to president — succeeding Nick Anderson of the Houston Chronicle and Washington Post Writers Group.

Other 2008-9 officers will be voted on this summer by AAEC members. Nominated for president-elect Saturday was current vice president Rex Babin of The Sacramento Bee and King Features Syndicate.

For vice president, AAEC members will choose between Steve Kelley of The Times-Picayune of New Orleans and Creators Syndicate, and Jimmy Margulies of The Record in Hackensack, N.J., and King.

Longtime AAEC secretary-treasurer V. Cullum Rogers of The Independent Weekly in Durham, N.C., was nominated for another term in that position.

The six people nominated for three AAEC director spots include Clay Jones of The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., and Creators; Mikhaela Reid of self-syndication; Tim Jackson of The Chicago Defender and self-syndication; Jeff Parker of Florida Today and Cagle Cartoons; Mike Lester of the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune and CC; and John Branch of The San Antonio Express-News and King. Branch is hosting the current AAEC convention in San Antonio.

AAEC members also picked a five-member nominating committee (which will suggest future officers) that has the rare distinction of containing five AAEC ex-presidents. They include Joel Pett of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader and New York Times Syndicate/CartoonArts International, Ben Sargent of the Austin American-Statesman and Universal, Bruce Plante of the Tulsa (Okla.) World, Ed Stein of the Denver Rocky Mountain News and United Media, and Rob Rogers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and United.

The AAEC plans to meet next year in Seattle, with the host being David Horsey of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Tribune Media Services.

Discussion then ensued about saving money and raising funds — issues most journalism organizations are facing these days as the recession continues to worsen and the newspaper industry continues to contract. For one thing, fewer newspapers pay for their cartoonists and other personnel to attend conventions. And newspapers in cities where a convention is held are often paying less — or nothing at all — to help underwrite a meeting one of their staffers may be hosting.

Among the suggestions offered by AAEC officers and members Saturday were: scheduling future conventions in smaller, less-expensive cities; holding three-day rather than four-day conventions; meeting jointly or semi-jointly with the National Cartoonists Society or National Conference of Editorial Writers; finding new convention sponsors, such as the software and computer-equipment companies whose products cartoonists often use; holding more fundraisers such as online cartoon auctions; and getting more AAECers to attend conventions despite the difficult economic times.

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