Ax falls on Register's political cartoonist

Across the country, newspapers are trying to save money by cutting experienced staff and relying more on syndicated material. The Des Moines Register continued the trend by announcing dozens of layoffs this week. Brian Duffy, who has been the newspaper’s political cartoonist for 25 years, was among those let go.

A brief story in the Register’s business section on Thursday noted,

The Register was said to be the only newspaper in the United States with an editorial cartoon on the front page. The tradition extended back to at least the early 20th century, according to Register archives. Ted Rall, the president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, estimated that about 20 editorial cartoonists have been laid off or retired in the last three years without being replaced.

Meanwhile, the Register’s chief political columnist, David Yepsen, interviewed this week for the position of director of Southern Illinois University’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. You can’t blame him for looking around. After several rounds of layoffs, the atmosphere in the Register’s newsroom must be quite depressing.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen also announced job cuts today.

My sympathies go out to all those whose jobs were eliminated. I was “downsized” myself once (two days before Thanksgiving), and even with a good severance package it is a very demoralizing experience.

UPDATE: I was with friends tonight who were outraged that the Register turned its back on a long history of featuring political cartoons prominently. They are old enough to remember the work of “Ding” Darling, who drew cartoons for the Register for much of the first half of the 20th century, and Frank Miller, who was the Register’s cartoonist from 1953 to 1983.

SECOND UPDATE: Blogger Ron Maly, who worked at the Register during the 1980s, lists others who got laid off this week at the Register. They include outdoor writer Julie Probasco-Sowers. Maly agrees with an unnamed acquaintance who predicts that firing Duffy “will cost the Register a lot more than they’ll save with his salary.”

THIRD UPDATE: Jason Hancock reports that the Register will also reduce or eliminate various special sections. The annual RAGBRAI preview will be among the discontinued publications.

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