Bob Staake: Future of Newspapers Belongs to Visual Artists

Article excerpt

Watch out, all you ink-stained wretches who went to journalism school!

Your day for calling the editorial shots will soon be at an end. Your day of bossing cartoonists and graphic artists around is waning. The future in news is for the visually enabled, not for those who think in column inches of black, mind-numbing type.

So proclaims St. Louis artist and newspaper cartoonist Bob Staake, who is riding happily down the information age to greater and greater visual glory.

Staake insists that as the Internet becomes more powerful, and the electronic newspaper finds its way onto American TV screens, it's going to become apparent that images really matter. They may come to matter - dare we say it - more than words.

"The ink-stained wretches are going to have to realize that print is not the future," says Staake. "It's already obvious as we look at the newspapers on the Internet. You can't just put a bunch of words up on the screen. There has to be plenty of illustrations, graphics and pictures.

"What's going to happen is more and more artists are going to be brought into the electronic news process," declares Staake. "Artists are going to be pad of the decision process. And, we are not going to have to answer to editors who tell us to change our images because it doesn't quite work with their copy."

Staake says he already senses a new respect for his work, and his role as an information artist, from such clients as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.

According to Staake, these big city dailies will give him some copy and details by e-mail for an editorial cartoon assignment and then let him "have at it." He says there are few hassles over his finished product and he can turn such assignments around in as few as three hours.

Staake says more than 90 percent of his work is done for clients in New York City, although he still does some artwork and cartooning for local firms, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"The Post-Dispatch offered me a job when I came to St. Louis 12 years ago," recalls Staake. "But I had my mind made up that I wanted to stay free-lance and diversify. They set up a free-lance budget for cartooning and they are still paying me at the freelance rates they established 12 years ago.

"Recently they asked me if their pay was comparable to what I receive from the Washington Post," adds Staake. "I told them not to ask me that question unless they were serious about doing something with their rates. They didn't pursue the matter.

"I think The New York Times and the Washington Post see the writing on the wall," continues Staake. "I think they value cartoonists and graphic artists and see the future and the importance of the visual. I'm not sure the Post-Dispatch gets it."

Staake may be irked by some Post policies, but he doesn't just have a handful of raspberries for the St. Louis daily. He has words of praise for some of the paper's recent visual experimentation as well as for "Sam The Dog" cartoon feature in the Saturday tabloid.

"I don't know the cartoonist who draws 'Sam The Dog,' and I do know that a lot of people are critical of it," says Staake. "But I believe it's a healthy departure for the Post. It doesn't lay everything out there for readers. Readers have to do a little work and bring their own experience to figure it out. And if they don't figure it out, that's okay, too."

"Out there"

Staake concedes that his own work is not always readily accessible or easy to figure out. His own cartooning has been described as odd and quirky - and "out there."

That's how Hallmark Cards used to describe the artistry of Bob Staake. The greeting card giant examined the Kirkwood artist's work for possible use in the Hallmark product line and simply pronounced it as: "Out there."

"Year after year they invited me to submit some sketches, and year after year their artists and creative directors would tell me how much they liked my work, but that it was just 'too crazy, too out there for us," laughs Staake. …