Cartoonists’ Group Backs Measures To Save Jobs

By: Dave Astor

Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) members voted Saturday to pursue several ideas suggested at a Thursday convention session that focused on the future of the profession.

The suggestions are designed to help stave off job losses and raise the profile of editorial cartooning. Among them are:

— Conduct a survey that the AAEC expects would show that editorial cartoons are one of the most-read parts of newspapers.

— Have more public events like the July 3 “Cartoonapalooza” in Washington to raise money for AAEC education and publicity efforts — and to demonstrate the popularity of cartoonists.

— Try to increase the low prices many syndicates charge and many newspapers pay for editorial cartoons.

— Offer more resources for freelancers, who make up an increasing percentage of AAEC members. This could involve providing information about finding editorial cartooning work and perhaps starting a health-insurance plan for AAECers who don’t have staff jobs.

“We’ll try to get at least one or two of these projects off the ground in a couple of months,” said AAEC Vice President/Universal Press Syndicate cartoonist Ted Rall, who’s coordinating the future-of-cartooning effort with Paul Fell (a Nebraska-based cartoonist syndicated by Artizans) and Milt Priggee (who does cartoons for the Skagit Valley Herald of Washington state).

Priggee said the AAEC should have a similar future-of-cartooning “Town Hall” at future conventions, and attendees agreed.

Prior to voting on their plan of action, AAECers discussed various suggestions and made other comments and recommendations.

For instance, Ed Stein of the Denver Rocky Mountain News and United Media said the AAEC’s Editorial Cartooning Initiative would raise money to partly fund some of the suggestions voted on. The AAEC is currently seeking 501(c)3 nonprofit status for an ECI endowment.

Clay Bennett of The Christian Science Monitor and Christian Science Monitor News Service said one important statistic a poll could provide would be a comparison of the readership of syndicated editorial cartoons in a newspaper with readership of a staffer’s editorial cartoons in that same paper. Bennett thinks the staffer’s work would be more popular.

Speaking of comparisons, Malcolm Mayes of the Edmonton Journal said Canadian editorial cartoonists tend to get paid more for their work than American editorial cartoonists do. Mayes’ comment was the impetus for the vote to look into the possibility of higher U.S. pricing.

“Syndicates are selling us for too little,” said Matt Wuerker of Politico.com.

Walt Handelsman of Newsday in Melville, N.Y., and Tribune Media Services reiterated his Thursday suggestion that staff editorial cartoonists meet with their publishers to find out what more they can do for their newspaper.

“I started a local comic for my newspaper 10 years ago,” added Stein. “I might not still have my job if I hadn’t done that.”

Fell urged more AAECers to send their work for posting on the organization’s EditorialCartoonists.com site. “It seems like we always have the same 30 or 35 people [uploading cartoons],” he said.

And attendees discussed whether the late-2005 “Black Ink Monday” was a success or failure. On that day, many cartoonists did drawings protesting the loss of cartoon jobs at newspapers.

Priggee suggested that if there’s another “Black Ink Monday”-type effort, perhaps all cartoonists should do only local cartoons for a week to show how effective that approach can be.

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