By: Rob Tornoe
The editorial cartoonist has become something of an endangered species these days, but one newspaper in South Carolina is bucking the industry trend of shedding its cartoonists and actually adding cartoons to its offerings.
Veteran editorial cartoonist Robert Ariail, who spent 25 years at The State newspaper before taking a buyout, has joined the 49,000-circulation Spartanburg Herald-Journal in a relationship that could lead to a new staff cartooning job.
Ariail, a two-time Pulitzer prize finalist and the first American to win the United Nations Ranan Lurie Political Cartoon Award, will draw five cartoons a week for the Herald-Journal as a contractor for the paper. Moving forward, both sides expect to make it an official full-time position as things improve in the economy.
“They already subscribe to my cartoons via United Features and like my other South Carolina clients they get all my South Carolina cartoons as a bonus,” Ariail said. “So this shows how much they value having a staff cartoonist, particularly in this newspaper climate of dwindling cartoonist positions.”
Ariail will also draw cartoons on Spartanburg-related issues, something about which Herald-Journal Executive Editor Mike Smith is excited to bring to the newspaper’s readers.
“Most of our readers are familiar with his award-winning work on national issues,” Smith said. “But adding his graphic perspective on Spartanburg issues will bring a new level of commentary to our pages and generate additional interest in the Herald-Journal and GoUpstate.com. We’re enthusiastic about this partnership.”
Ariail left the State after drawing editorial cartoons at the paper for nearly 25 years. After refusing an offer to have his hours cut in half as part of a company-wide cost-cutting program by McClatchy, he choose to take a buyout and pursue a freelance career that led to him self-syndicating his South Carolina cartoons throughout the state.
Nevertheless, Ariail just feels fortunate to have a home again in an industry decimated by cutbacks. “Editorial cartooning must be the hardest job to be looking for in this economy,” he said. “I think the Herald-Journal is showing a lot of faith in the future of newspapers and of editorial cartooning.”