In TV Spot, Illinois Newspaper Brags About Cartoonist It Laid Off

By: E&P Staff

An Illinois newspaper ran a TV ad touting an award won by an editorial cartoonist it laid off last October, according to a Friday piece in the Chicago Reader.

The paper is the Crystal Lake Northwest Herald, and the cartoonist is Scott Nychay — who worked for the daily eight years before being let go.

Michael Miner of the Reader wrote that the ad was a 15-second spot running early in the morning on WBBM-TV, the Northwest Herald’s “news partner.” The spot said: “More than 60 awards in 2005, including: best-overall newspaper, AP top-ten sports section, and Fischetti editorial-cartoonist honor. …” Nychay’s “Intelligent Design” cartoon, which tied for second in the Fischetti contest, appeared briefly in the Northwest Herald ad.

Northwest Herald Editor Chris Krug told Miner the ad was created in 2005, and an updated version began airing last July. “This was clearly an oversight on our part and not an attempt to gain ground through the work of a former employee,” Krug said, adding that the TV spot has been pulled.

Nychay, in a letter sent to various people, asked: “Is this ethical to run an ad with someone who no longer is employed at the company …? He also said the TV-spot snafu “speaks to the larger issue of the demise of the editorial cartoonist in a nation that prides itself on freedom of the press.”

Andy Schotz, chair of the Society of Profressional Journalists’ ethics committee, told Miner in a statement: “The paper only flashed Nychay’s work briefly on the screen and didn’t show or mention him specifically, so maybe there was some thought about being sensitive. But proudly trumpeting the excellent work of someone whose job you recently eliminated takes nerve. …”

Schotz added: “It’s a shame that the editorial cartoonist is often the first to go when a newspaper makes cuts. How amazing it is that in an era of quick-hit short stories and graphics to accommodate short attention spans, newspapers chop out editorial cartoons — unique, visual stories, with instant, powerful messages.”

And Nick Anderson, the Houston Chronicle/Washington Post Writers Group cartoonist who’s also president-elect of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, told E&P: “It’s pretty low-class for a paper to attempt to trade on the achievements of an employee that it forced out.”

Nychay was laid off despite winning several other cartooning awards besides the Fischetti one, publishing two books of work, and raising about $50,000 for Hurricane Katrina and tsunami victims via cartoon reprints purchased by readers.

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