By: Dave Astor
There are two unusual things about editorial cartoonist Paul Combs’ impending departure from The Tampa Tribune. He’s leaving voluntarily — a risky move at a time when the number of jobs in his field is shrinking. And the Tribune — unlike cartoonist-shedding papers such as the Los Angeles Times and The Sun of Baltimore — is trying to find a replacement for him.
“The company recognizes the value a cartoonist can bring to a local market,” said Tribune Editorial Page Editor Rosemary Goudreau, when reached by E&P. “And when they’re hot, like Paul, they can communicate a message unlike any other part of the paper.”
Combs, who joined the Tribune in October 2004, could not be reached for comment. Goudreau said the cartoonist is leaving the paper effective May 26 “for family reasons,” and will move back to Ohio. “Florida wasn’t their favorite place,” she added, referring to the Combs household.
The departing Combs did send a message to Daryl Cagle’s editorial cartoon blog in which he wrote: “Though I have enjoyed my stay with the Tribune and have learned much from their staff of writers, it is time to move on in my career as a cartoonist. For the moment, I’m not at liberty to discuss my plans, however it does include editorial cartooning and I’m excited about a new set of challenges, goals, and the opportunity to express myself freely.
“I understand the Tribune is planning to replace my spot at the drawing board, which is great news in the current job climate. Rosemary Goudreau is an advocate for our profession and should be applauded for her willingness to battle corporate pressure so a local cartoon presence can remain on the page. We need more like her!”
Goudreau did note that the full-time cartoonist she hopes will replace Combs might not be hired until several months after May 26. “I expect it to be this year — hopefully by the beginning of school,” she said, adding that it’s too early in the search process to know how many cartoonists will apply.
The editorial page editor called Combs “a wonderful cartoonist with a big heart that shows through in his cartoons. He’s got a wonderful style, and a sense of whimsy and the absurd. We’re real sorry to see him go.”
Combs’ predecessor at the Tribune was Wayne Stayskal, whose cartoons continue to be syndicated by Tribune Media Services.