Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Papers 'Pick a Pair' of Political Persons; Several Dailies Employ Two Staff Editorial Cartoonists - an Arrangement That Has Advantages and Disadvantages

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Papers 'Pick a Pair' of Political Persons; Several Dailies Employ Two Staff Editorial Cartoonists - an Arrangement That Has Advantages and Disadvantages

Article excerpt

AT LEAST NINE major newspapers are wielding a double-edged sword in these recessionary days, but it has nothing to do with cutting employees. They employ a pair of staff editorial cartoonists.

Some papers, including the Boston Globe, began taking a two-fisted cartoon approach years ago. Others, such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, did so after the recent closings of second papers in their markets.

Post-Gazette editorial page editor Michael McGough said there was little question that his paper would hire Rob Rogers from the late Pittsburgh Press this past January.

"We wanted to pick up features that really had a following," said McGough. "Rob was clearly in that category."

While Rogers knew late last year that the Post-Gazette might take him on, there was no guarantee until he was actually hired.

"I definitely had some doubts," said Rogers, who noted that some editorial cartoonists from closing papers have not been hired by the surviving daily.

Keeping only one cartoonist was something the Times-Dispatch considered before last year's demise of the Richmond News Leader.

"In the beginning, when we were talking about the merger, we assumed one cartoonist would have to go," said Times-Dispatch editorial board chairman Edward Grimsley.

However, with a significant expansion in editorial/op-ed space, the paper felt there would be enough work to keep both the Times-Dispatch's Gary Brookins and the defunct News Leader's Bob Gorrell busy.

"So far, we've been right," said Grimsley, who noted that the two are now drawing op-ed illustrations in addition to their editorial cartoons. The paper's use of color editorial cartoons and computer-generated art also adds to the workload for Brookins and Gorrell.

"Gary and I joke that we're now art resource technicians (ARTs)," said Gorrell.

Because of their friendship, the Times-Dispatch duo had little trouble accepting the fact that they would no longer be their paper's sole editorial cartoonist.

"I've been a friend and fan of Gary's for a long time," said Gorrell. "We put out a book of cartoons together last year and worked on the |Cobwebs' comic strip in the mid-1980s."

It's great working with Bob," added Brookins. "My only complaint is that he's constantly nagging me about my messy office!"

Brookins recalled that he recommended Gorrell for the News Leader cartoonist spot in 1983 while adding that he had "no influence" on the Times-Dispatch keeping Gorrell last year. Brookins came to the Times-Dispatch in 1979 and met Gorrell at a cartoonist convention in 1980.

Now that they are on the same paper, Gorrell said he and Brookins give each other moral support as well as help with cartoon ideas. "We have even collaborated on illustrations," mentioned Brookins.

Gorrell, 38, did note that it took a while for Times-Dispatch readers to get used to his work. While he and the 42-year-old Brookins share a mostly conservative philosophy, Gorrell's cartoons obviously have a somewhat different approach and look.

"Bob's probably a little more detailed," said Brookins. "My drawing is more loose and fluid."

Tim Menees, who joined the Post-Gazette in 1976, said he believes readers welcomed the addition of Rogers to the paper.

"We're in the business of serving readers, and I think most people were glad to see that neither of us ended up on the street," said Menees.

But Menees was not thrilled about the Post-Gazette's decision to employ two editorial cartoonists.

"I told Rob I didn't like it, but that it wasn't my decision to make" recalled Menees. "It was nothing personal against him. Rob said he would have felt the same way. I also told Rob that I wasn't going to be a jerk about it and sit around in a snit."

Menees, 49, said one problem for him after Rogers' arrival was getting used to doing four cartoons a week instead of five. …

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