Workplace Columnists and Cartoonists React to Recession

By Astor, Dave | Editor & Publisher, May 14, 2008 | Go to article overview

Workplace Columnists and Cartoonists React to Recession


Astor, Dave, Editor & Publisher


When "Working Wounded" was retitled "workplace911" in March, the faltering U.S. economy was one reason for the new moniker. "It did play a part in changing the column name," says Sherrie Campbell, who recently joined Bob Rosner in co-bylining the feature.

"People are scared," adds Rosner, who began the United Media column 13 years ago. "They don't feel confident in their jobs. I'm continually struck by how dispirited the workforce seems to be."

Rosner and Campbell are trying to help worried readers not only with their regular "workplace911" columns and polls, but with a special 10-week series about the recession and how people can deal with it. The print/online series launched in mid-April and will last well into June.

Other work-related columnists and cartoonists are also offering (or planning to offer) more content about the recession and its various manifestations -- such as outsourcing, layoffs, heavier workloads in understaffed offices, the slashing of benefits, and the increased difficulty in finding jobs.

Mildred Culp, whose features include the 1982-launched "WorkWise" and 2004-launched "WorkWise Interactive," definitely has some readers with employment woes. "They seem very concerned," she tells E&P. "They say, 'I've been hunting and hunting, but can't find anything.'"

The independent syndicator does note that job-seekers don't necessarily blame the recession for their employment woes. They could be looking for work in the wrong way, says Culp, and the columnist tries to point them in the right direction.

Copley News Service columnist Michael Kinsman, who covers the workplace from a rank-and-file perspective, began his feature in 1986. He says this was around the time when job security was starting to decrease, and employers began switching pensions to 401(k) plans. But Kinsman says things have grown even worse during the past couple of years.

"Before, if you lost a job, you often could find a similar one," he observes. "Now, you may get similar money but less benefits, or $15 an hour instead of the $30 an hour you were making, or the job might be temporary. It's not easy to replicate what you had."

Kinsman adds that some people, including those who have used up unemployment benefits, "are just plain desperate."

He also notes that job insecurity, once mostly faced by blue-collar workers, is now having a "big impact" on white-collar professionals, too. "People realize they're vulnerable," he says.

The Copley writer -- who discusses all of the above in his column -- has experienced some of the work challenges he discusses. Kinsman accepted a buyout from The San Diego Union-Tribune late last year, and now makes a living writing his column, doing freelance stories, and running a public-art project in San Diego.

Culp multitasks not only with her various "WorkWise" features (including a streaming-audio one) but by freelancing for such papers as New York's Daily News.

Charlos Gary is another syndicated creator who, like many Americans in this economy, earns money at more than one thing. He's a graphic artist for the St. Petersburg Times, a freelance illustrator, and the creator of two comics: the 2007-launched "Cafe Con Leche" and the 2002-launched "Working It Out."

The latter feature focuses on the workplace, and Gary says he plans to increasingly portray the effects of the recession in that humor comic. "That's something readers want to see," says the Creators Syndicate cartoonist.

Gary adds that the economy is "really bleak. You just have to listen to people to know that. It's sad to listen, but you get all kinds of fodder." He also recalls visiting New York City recently, and seeing a huge line for a job fair snaking around the block. …

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