June 15, 2009

Tickling the funny bone: Staff cuts and the future of newspapers

Sometimes, the most political thing happening takes place in your newsroom. Just ask Dan Wasserman, who recently illustrated cuts at the Boston Globe in an editorial cartoon.

You can click on the cartoon to see the rest of this artwork.

Or you can catch up with some of the insights of why he drew it through an interview posted on the Washington Post. Don't worry, the cartoon is there too.

Making a mistake

The political cartoonist, at the Globe since 1985, also shared what he sees as a mistake many newspapers are making:
"Newspapers are really shortsighted in letting go of people who are distinct commentators. Because that's one of the few things [newspapers] have to offer that you can't get off of a CNN Web site or a Google news update. We have a connection to the community. We have accessibility. We have an unpredictability that is not reproducible by any of these news aggregators."
I agree that news organizations shouldn't let go of distinct voices. That's what makes a news organization different from others.

I agree with the unpredictability statement.

But I disagree with his reasoning that only newspapers have distinct personalities, community connections and accessibility. Any good media organization should claim those attributes.

Still the interview in The Comic Riff is worth a read. Then, consider going to Wasserman's Out of Line blog with its tagline of "A notebook of graphic disobedience" to see some of his other work.

Snip, snip, snip

Another cartoon also reminded me of a distinct advantage newspapers have over some media. That cartoon shows a woman speaking to her husband as she cuts out a newspaper. It's not easy to cut out the TV or radio story, so print does reign sometimes.

But I wonder if newspapers are leaving enough in for folks to cut out as they scramble to cut expenses. I miss reading about the top graduates, newly engaged and wed, and the just-opened businesses.

When William Haefeli published his cartoon in The New Yorker on May 11, 2009, the worry was how long the newspaper would be around to cut. But with enough cuts it won't matter, will it.

Another cartoonist, another viewpoint

clip of malard filmore cartoonWasserman isn't the only cartoonist talking about the future of newspapers. Bruce Tinsley, who left the newsroom to create Mallard Filmore, also touched on the subject in a Wall Street Journal article, Mallard cartoonist touts web, mourns newspapers.

He says he's doing well, partly because of the web.
“I’m online only for more newspapers’ websites and in more papers that only have an online presence now, the most recent being the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and it’s weird — but I’m still here.”
He's somewhat optimistic about newspapers:
“I think newspapers are always going to be needed; I just don’t know in what form they’ll still exist.

“The best case for the need for newspapers in an electronic age that I’ve read is a Leonard Pitts column in the Miami Herald where he essentially lays out what each medium does best. He specifically points to state and local news coverage — stories that readers rely on to know how to vote, what to think about scandals in their local state house — that no other medium covers as well, and probably could or would want to.”
Tingley was in the Wall Street Journal and on the O'Reilly show last week because the comic was launched in June 1994. By the way, Michigan's Muskegon Chronicle's decision in April 2008 to drop the duck had editor Paul Keep tasting duck, not crow. That makes it into Tingley's Wikepedia entry.


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