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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  • Newspapers Need to "Go Green"

    Well, it is always sad when people lose their job…the fact is that the newspaper industry is not a green industry.  Think of all the paper that is used every day – even if it is recycled paper.

    I don’t read hard copies of the paper and I am always angered when I read an editorial from a newspaper person about “going green” when I think…this newspaper has no credibility.

    The Christian Science Monitor recently went to “online only” and it is time every newspaper did because otherwise we’re wasting lots of paper and killing trees.

    Any of you that still read a hard copy of the newspaper are promoting global warming.  Sorry but the truth hurts.

    If there is a bright spot here – hopefully the Register will start realizing the truth.

    • Just Curious, Bill

      But what would you say to my elderly parents who don’t have internet access but are very well read and well informed about current events thanks, in no small part, to the daily paper they receive and read faithfully?

      “Get rid of all the hard copies or you’re promoting global warming,” seems like a rather harsh over-generalization, wouldn’t you agree?

      • Truth hurts

        Your parents are promoting global warming.

        I’m in my 60’s and I figured out the Internet.

        • I wish I could see the world so simply.

          It would make so many of those pesky gray areas disappear.

          For the record, my parents live on a limited income so can’t afford a) high-speed internet or b) a computer that would support it.  Have you tried to look at a newspaper website with dial-up service lately?  They use my brother’s hand-me-down Dell which barely allows my mom to download e-mail without jamming up.  They’re a good 15-20 years older than you are and, while I agree that people of all ages are capable of learning new skills, including ones that are technology-related, applying the “Well, I can do it, so they should too!” approach seems to be not only over-generalizing but a bit nasty as well.

          Okay, so my parents are “promoting global warming.”  Feel free to e-mail them with your guilt trip.  Just don’t send any attachments or include any pictures.  You’ll bog down their computer for a week.

          Good grief.

  • newspapers

    A couple of months ago I was in New Orleans and had the pleasure to read the Times-Picaune. That is an excellent newspaper.  It was full of news.  The had an add one day that showed that 54% of New Orleans residents read the daily down there.  The Omaha World Herald was second with over 50% of Omaha citizens reading the hometown paper.  The Des Moines Register wasn’t even listed in the top 50 listings of people readin the local daily.

    The Register is just a shell of its former self.  They started to go down in the 70s with Claudia Waterloo writing fiction as feature stories.

    The death blow came when Gannett bought it and corp profits was a greater priority than local service.  If newspapers in New Orleans and Omaha can attract and maintain over 50% readership.  Then they must be doing something right.  In the case of the New Orleans paper it is providing a first class newspaper that is full of news.  The daily Register only takes about 20 minutes to read and that is everything front to last page.  If the Register want to continue cutting the volume of news in its daily rag.  The subscriptions will continue to decline.  I have subscribed to the paper for about thirty years.  Many more cuts in the level of news and I will drop my subscription.

    • Gannett sucks

      My parents have taken the Sunday Register as long as they’ve lived in Iowa, which is going on 20 years now. We had it when I was growing up, and I can remember having it back when the sports section was still The Big Peach and I thought Garfield was the coolest thing ever.

      But they’re done with it now. Mom started getting the glossy shopping sections e-mailed to her a year ago, and Dad’s mad about cutting Duffy–so they’re going to cancel the subscription after the first of the year.

      Gannett is destroying print journalism. Here in eastern Iowa, one need only look as far as the difference in quality between the locally owned Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Gannett owned Iowa City Press-Citizen. Even our college newspaper, the Daily Iowan, is more substantial and hard-hitting than the PC!