Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Job Losses Bother Man of Many Jobs

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Job Losses Bother Man of Many Jobs

Article excerpt

Milt Priggee, who's juggling the AAEC presidency and two cartoon gigs, discusses a shrinking profession

MILT PRIGGEE WENT to bed at 2:30 a.m. the night before he was interviewed.

That's because he's doing five editorial cartoons a week for the Spokane Spokesman-Review, illustrations for the Washington paper, and half of the "Us & Them" comic for Universal Press Syndicate. He's also serving as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, which will hold its 40th annual convention this week in Orlando.

"I feel like I'm on the Ed Sullivan Show spinning plates -- and they're spinning real fast," said the 43-year-old creator.

Exactly how many hours a week is this man working? "No time to count that," replied Priggee.

But the editorial cartoonist has found the time, as AAEC president, to think about the state of his profession -- and he doesn't like some of what he sees.

One thing that especially bothers him is the way staff jobs are disappearing as more dailies opt not to fill their editorial cartoon slots after a creator dies, quits or is fired.

These newspapers are instead running only syndicated editorial cartoons, Priggee said, despite studies showing the importance of local content in papers.

"It's scary, to see newspapers abdicating their monopoly," he declared, noting that local editorial cartooning is an art virtually unique to newspapers.

Why are papers doing this? Priggee cited several possible reasons, including a desire to save money and not "rock the boat" with hard-hitting cartoons. But the AAEC head said advertisers want to reach the largest audience possible, and a paper with lively local cartoons will attract more readers.

The latest job-loss scenario involves Jules Feiffer, the Pulitzer Prize winner who quit New York City's Village Voice last month after the alternative weekly tried to eliminate his salary and just buy his cartoons from Universal.

Priggee reported that a letter commenting on the Feiffer situation and the importance of staff cartoonists will be circulated at the June 25-28 AAEC convention for attendees to sign. It will then be sent to the Voice and other media.

Will the letter have any more impact than the AAEC's 1995 job-loss-decrying resolution that most papers seem to have ignored? Priggee isn't sure, but he stressed that the AAEC has to keep trying.

Priggee did note that some papers seem to realize how important staff editorial cartoonists can be. He said the Columbus Dispatch even added a second one recently, and that several other dailies already employ two.

Priggee added that a number of AAECers work for publishers and editors who appreciate the role a local editorial cartoonist plays in journalism.

Newspapers who don't think a local cartoonist is worth having will just help hasten the rise of the Internet as a competitive force in graphic commentary, said Priggee. He noted that more and more artists who can't find a print position are doing work for the Web.

While Priggee is a self-described "print fan," he's also well aware of the importance of -- and opportunities in -- cyberspace. He's proud that the AAEC, on the last morning of its convention, is devoting a four-hour block of time to computers. There will be a discussion of the future of graphic commentary, a demonstration of Web-page construction, hands-on opportunities, and more.

Priggee's cartoons (which can be seen at http://www. …

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