Syndicated cartoonist and American Association of Editorial Cartoonists president Ted Rall has devoted his column this week to the newest endangered species facing possible extinction – editorial cartoonists.
“Never has the profession been as ideologically, stylistically or demographically diverse. Never has the art been as daring or ambitious. Never have cartoons been as popular or, thanks to the Internet, as widely read,” Rall writes in his column.
“Yet American editorial cartooning is in danger of disappearing entirely–murdered by editors and publishers at the major magazines and newspapers.”
The industry has certainly been hit hard over the last year. Last week alone, three long-time staff cartoonists lost their jobs, including two at the Rocky Mountain News, which published its last newspaper on Friday.
In addition, according to Rall, syndicated cartoonists have seen their income drop by 50 percent or more in recent years. Discouraged by this distributing trend, many young cartoonists are abandoning the field all together.
Tom Spurgeon, on his blog The Comics Reporter, doubts that editorials like this by Rall will do anything to change the minds of editors who have decided to save money and use syndicated material to bridge the profitability gap that many newspapers face.
“The decline of staffed editorial cartooning positions is beyond the point where a bunch of strong assertions cleverly made and presented with passion will convince newspapers that what they’re doing isn’t necessary,” Spurgeon said.
Spurgeon also challenges Rall to come up with five models of newspaper-cartoonist relationships that work for those newspapers, state why they work, and how newspapers can develop that within their own publications.
“Having not one but two skilled cartoonists sure didn’t save the Rocky Mountain News,” Spurgeon said. “Fair or not, that’s the tenor of the conversation right now.”