Features Council Dies At Age 47

By: Dave Astor

The Newspaper Features Council (NFC) is closing down after 47 years.

Reasons for the demise include relatively low membership and meeting-attendance levels over the years — and the resulting financial difficulties. NFC leaders finally decided there wasn’t a strong enough reason for the council to continue.

“It came down to the question, ‘What is the mission of the group?’ We could not seem to come up with a viable mission,” said NFC President Sue Smith, deputy managing editor/recruiting and development at The Dallas Morning News.

During its history, the NFC discussed the shrinking size of comics, the kinds of syndicated features newspapers want, and many other issues of mutual concern to its roster of fewer than 100 members — who included syndicate executives, newspaper editors, cartoonists, columnists, etc. But other groups, such as the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors and the National Cartoonists Society, competed for the time of potential NFC members and provided forums to discuss similar topics.

Not Enough Newspaper Members

“The really important issues of the industry were going to be resolved elsewhere, not by us,” said Sid Goldberg, the NFC’s 1999-2001 president and United Media’s senior vice president/general manager. He said most major syndicates were involved in the NFC, but “not nearly enough” newspapers and creators to truly represent those parts of the business.

“All the members of the council are important, but the council could not have existed without the energy, money, and strong support of the member syndicates,” added NFC Executive Director Corinta Kotula.

The NFC canceled its meeting last fall after the bad economy and the Sept. 11 attacks lead to a low registration rate. But Goldberg said the organization would have “inevitably” died — though perhaps a little later — even if 2001 had been a better year.

Most NFC meetings drew fewer than 100 people, although attendance rose somewhat during the 1990s. Kotula said the top turnout was 146 in 1997, when Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke in Washington.

Kotula was the only staffer at the NFC, which began in 1955 as the Newspaper Comics Council and was renamed in the mid-1980s when columnists joined.

She, Smith, and Goldberg said the NFC did important work and that they’re sad to see it go. “We wanted to find a future for the council,” Smith said, “but it just didn’t seem to be there.”

The NFC — whose many projects included the 1995 “Your Career in the Comics” book by Lee Nordling — has scheduled a final board meeting for April 8 in Washington. Its archives are going to Ohio State University’s Cartoon Research Library.


Fast Death For Fast-Food Cartoon


Drawing Focused On Late Wendy’s Founder

Editorial cartooning sometimes means having to say you’re sorry.

When Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas died Jan. 8, Brian Fairrington drew a cartoon for The Arizona Republic in Phoenix showing a tombstone describing the burger maven as “another overweight American who ate a lifetime of junk.”

Fairrington, a contract contributor to the Republic, told E&P he did the cartoon after reading an early story indicating Thomas died from heart-related causes — and a biography saying Thomas ate a double cheeseburger and chili every day. When it was reported that Thomas died of liver cancer, the Republic killed the cartoon.

But Fairrington had also e-mailed the drawing to a major cartoon Web site (http://cagle.slate.msn.com), and he received about 300 angry e-mails before it was pulled six hours later.

An apologetic Fairrington said a cartoonist “has the right and obligation to go to the mat on a killed cartoon,” but in this case the Republic “made the correct decision.” He added: “Although I wholeheartedly agree that Americans are out of shape and that Dave Thomas did in fact sell junk food, any inference that he died from heart-related problems proved to be incorrect.”

The cartoonist concluded, “The irony of all this is I really love a good bacon double cheeseburger!”


Caribbean Wire Closing Down


Owner Says The Move Is ‘Temporary’

Caribbean Media Corp. (CMC) closed down the 25-year-old Caribbean News Agency (CANA) and laid off 50 of 54 staffers.

CMC contended the shutdown is “temporary” and necessary to financially restructure, according to a story on the Global Information Network site (http://www.globalinfo.org).

CANA, often cited as a Third World media success story, had a clientele that included papers in the United States.


Rare Latino-Themed Comic …


… Slated To End At End Of The Month

Peter Ramirez plans to end “Raising Hector” Jan. 31 if he can’t find a syndicate to represent the strip, which has been self-distributed for two years.

“Raising Hector,” which predated Universal Press Syndicate’s “Baldo,” was one of the few Latino-oriented comics to ever appear in mass-market newspapers.

“My family comes first,” said Ramirez, who noted that, without a syndicate to handle the business end of cartooning, he can’t spend enough time with his wife and son. Ramirez started his comic after an injury forced him to retire as a New York City police officer.


Et cetera …

The title character in “The Norm” comic strip by Michael Jantze of King Features Syndicate has married his best friend Reine Stark. Jantze asked readers who Norm should wed, and they chose Reine despite her not being on the ballot! …

Mark Miller was appointed editorial director, Mitchell Lederer director of sales and marketing, and Nedra Plonski director of technology at Tribune Media Services’ FluentMedia, the Web-based information service for the corporate market. …

King is distributing “Sports Illustrated For Kids,” the weekly column aimed at children 8 to 15 that appears in more than 75 newspapers. The feature was previously with Universal Press Syndicate.

To see the last 10 “Syndicate World” columns, click here. Previous columns may be purchased in our paid archives. Search for “Astor” in the “Author” field.

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