Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Transition Time for Cartoonists' Group

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Transition Time for Cartoonists' Group

Article excerpt

Present and future AAEC chiefs discuss state of the profession

The outgoing and incoming presidents of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) work in Alabama and Tennessee, but they're trying to make sure the profession doesn't "go south." This means they want to counter trends such as the decrease in staff cartoonists at daily papers, where some editors and publishers seem to feel local cartoonists aren't worth having.

Scott Stantis, whose 2001-02 term as AAEC president ends Sept. 15, helped take the AAEC in a stronger advocacy direction. For instance, a letter was sent to The Buffalo (N.Y.) News in June criticizing the newspaper for not replacing The Washington Post-bound Tom Toles.

"Thank goodness Washington and New Orleans pulled the trigger," said Stantis, referring to the Post replacing Herblock and The Times- Picayune hiring Steve Kelley to succeed Walt Handelsman.

But a number of other papers -- most notably the Chicago Tribune, where the job left vacant by Jeff MacNelly's death two years ago remains unfilled -- aren't hiring or are hiring very slowly.

Budget considerations are a factor. Papers can buy syndicated cartoons for as little as $5 or $10 a week rather than pay a full-time salary. And some editors and publishers prefer to run a national cartoon over a local one that might anger readers, advertisers, and government officials.

But even if some people get aggravated, surveys indicate visual commentary is noticed. "Editorial cartoons bring readers into newspapers and keep them coming back," said Stantis, 43, who's with The Birmingham (Ala.) News and Copley News Service. He added that local cartoons can help "define" a politician in the eyes of the electorate, giving a newspaper "enormous power."

Stantis' AAEC successor is Bruce Plante, 48, of the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press, who self-syndicates his cartoons to 80 other papers. During his 2002-03 term, Plante plans to continue AAEC advocacy efforts and also increase the visibility of cartoonists by having them attend various journalism conventions. …

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