‘Pioneer Press’ to Union: Cartoonist’s Layoff Stands

By: Dave Astor

The Minnesota Newspaper Guild-Typographical Union’s request that the St. Paul Pioneer Press rescind the layoff of editorial cartoonist Kirk Anderson was denied, according to Mike Sweeney, the union’s executive officer.

Sweeney said the union may file a grievance against the Knight Ridder paper for letting go Anderson, a thrice-weekly staffer whose eight-year tenure at the Pioneer Press ended Thursday.

Meanwhile, a petition urging Anderson’s reinstatement was signed by about 250 Pioneer Press staffers. “An overwhelming number — maybe 98% of the people we approached — were willing to sign,” said Pioneer Press reporter Chuck Laszewski, who will try to present the petition as soon as possible to Harold Higgins, the paper’s president and publisher. Higgins has declined to be interviewed by E&P Online, saying he cannot discuss personnel matters.

“I truly believe this [Anderson’s layoff] needs to be reconsidered,” said Laszewski. “It’s a mistake both journalistically and in a marketing sense. We’re just hoping that Harold Higgins will reinstate the position.”

Anderson, in a goodbye memo posted on the Romenesko site (http://www.poynter.org), said: “Getting canned sucks. But I understand that difficult business decisions must be made in difficult times, and I’m glad I’m not the one who has to make those difficult decisions. But if I was … I’d probably cut the private service that comes in to water and dust and turn the plants in the publisher’s office before I’d cut a local cartoonist. In other words, I’d cut something only the privileged few who enter the publisher’s office see, before I’d cut something 190,000 readers see. Is the position of local cartoonist really valued less than office plants? I could’ve watered ’em, and I don’t even have a Ph.D. in horticulture.”

Previous stories about Anderson’s layoff appeared on this site April 18 and April 21.

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