Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Sole Black Daily Editorial Cartoonist Laid Off

Send by email
Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ron Rogers Leaves Newspaper in South Bend, Ind.

. . . Social Critic Recalls Ollie Harrington's "Signature Wit"

AP Instructs Staff: "Combat in Iraq Is Not Over"

Positive Stories About the Economy on the Increase

700 Blacks Confront Buffalo News Over Post-Slaying Piece

Internet Protest Forces Change in Same-Sex Wedding Policy

AOL Hired 900 Over the Summer, Half for Patch

Short Takes

Ron Rogers drew four or five editorial cartoons weekly for the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune

Ron Rogers Leaves Newspaper in South Bend, Ind.

Ron Rogers, who is believed to be the only African American full-time editorial cartoonist at a daily newspaper, has been laid off at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune. He told Journal-isms he turned in his last cartoon on Thursday - on the false "Obama is a Muslim" claims - and attended to personnel matters on Friday.

Rogers said he had known since July that he would be leaving. Friday was also the day that his supervisor, Editorial Page Editor Gayle Dantzler, planned to retire, and management said it would be a good time for him to leave, too, Rogers said. Other layoffs also took place.

As with newspapers themselves, newspaper editorial cartooning is no longer a growth area. When a newspaper gets rid of its editorial cartoonist, "it's like the canary in the coal mine," Rex Babin of the Sacramento Bee, outgoing president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, told Journal-isms. "It's symptomatic of a newspaper in trouble."

Still, Babin said, he had taken comfort in the Chicago Tribune's hiring last year of Scott Stantis as its first staff cartoonist since the June 2000 death of Jeff MacNelly, and the Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal's July hiring of veteran editorial cartoonist Robert Ariail after Ariail's layoff from the State in Columbia, S.C.

Even so, daily newspaper cartoonists used to outnumber others in Babin's organization of about 300 by about 2-to-1, he said. Now, it's 2-to-1 in favor of freelancers and cartoonists for weekly and Internet publications.

Rogers said he planned to go on vacation and did not know what he would do next.

He already had branched out from drawing his four or five editorial cartoons a week. Rogers produced a half-page series for Sundays, "Rewind: The Week in Review," a compilation of editorial cartoons about the week that was; and an "online sketchbook" in which Rogers illustrated an event he had attended, such as a visit to South Bend by a national public official.

"I wanted to be the first black editorial cartoonist on the country since I was 14," Rogers told Rob Tornoe, a cartoonist for Editor & Publisher and other publications. "I just hope my departure doesn't discourage somebody else who might want to do this."

Asked what he would tell a young African American, he told Journal-isms, "They need to look at a lot of alternatives and branch out a little more."

While Rogers was not the first African American editorial cartoonist for a mainstream newspaper - Rob King, now editor-in-chief at comes to mind - he was the only one during his time at the Tribune.

Rogers will say only that he is in his 50s. He was hired by the Tribune in 2005 after having freelanced for the paper since 2002. His wife, Donna Whitaker Rogers, is the Tribune's 24/7 news editor.

Just as other journalism organizations this summer offered their members cross-training in related work, so did the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, Babin said.

They did not need the reminder, but the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning went this year not to a newspaper cartoonist, but to the self-syndicated Mark Fiore for his animated cartoons appearing on, the San Francisco Chronicle website.

. . . Social Critic Recalls Ollie Harrington's "Signature Wit"

The caption reads, 'My daddy said they didn't seem to mind serving him on the Anzio Beach-head, but I guess they wasn't gettin' along so good with them Nazis then!'When Rex Babin of the Sacramento Bee, outgoing president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, told Journal-isms of the organization's interest in diversity, he mentioned that "one of my favorite cartoonists of all time " was Ollie Harrington.

Harrington, who died in 1995 at age 83, was best known for his "Dark Laughter” series that first ran in the New York Amsterdam News, the Harlem weekly.

Duke professor Mark Anthony Neal wrote about Harrington last month on

"The Cartoon Network recently broadcast the finale of the third and purportedly last season of Aaron McGruder’s 'The Boondocks.' With the series and the now-defunct comic strip, McGruder offered a contrarian view of Blackness through the lens of 1960s-style cultural nationalism, ghettocentric (faux) realism, and just old-school common sense," Neal wrote. "At [its] best the show never lost sight of the complexity of Black identity, taking equal opportunity shots at both the Pookies and Baracks of the world.

"But well before McGruder elevated 'The Boondocks' to the level of social criticism in the tradition of Garry Trudeau’s 'Doonesbury' and Berke Breathed’s 'Bloom County' (albeit with a hip-hop edge), cartoonist and essayist Oliver W. Harrington set a standard for Black readers throughout the 20th century, combining his signature wit with incisive critiques and observations about Black life in America.

". . . Though Harrington could never have hoped to have a cartoon placed in the New York Times, the Black Press offered both the kinds of audiences he desired as well as the opportunity to sharpen his skills. Indeed more than seventy years later, the critical need for black owned and black run publications that reflect the nuance and diversity of Black life remains present, as evidenced by the public reaction to a recent editorial hire at Essence Magazine."

AP Instructs Staff: "Combat in Iraq Is Not Over"

"An internal memo sent to global staff from Tom Kent, AP standards editor — and obtained by Media Matters — declares," Joe Strupp reported Friday for Media Matters, referring to the Associated Press:

" 'To begin with, combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. Iraqi security forces are still fighting Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents. Many Iraqis remain very concerned for their country's future despite a dramatic improvement in security, the economy and living conditions in many areas.'

"It also adds:

" 'As for U.S. involvement, it also goes too far to say that the U.S. part in the conflict in Iraq is over. President Obama said Monday night that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country."

" 'However, 50,000 American troops remain in [the] country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on.' "

Positive Stories About the Economy on the Increase

"Should we blame newspapers for talking down the U.S. economy, maybe even to the cusp of a double dip?" Alen Mattich asked Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal.

"That’s the contention of equity bulls. They argue that, despite reasonably solid fundamentals, the media’s unrelenting gloominess about the state of the world is proving a drag on sentiment. Declining consumer and business confidence will then cause a drop in activity, which, in turn, will trigger another recession. But it’s not true.

"The balance of positive to negative news stories about the U.S. economy in the U.S. press in August was the highest it has been since the recession started in December 2007, according to the latest monthly survey of media sentiment, the Dow Jones Economic Sentiment Indicator.

"Indeed, the indicator has been rising steadily since April, which marked the end of a broadly flat six-month period. OK, so the indicator’s level in August was, at 43.2, still low and considerably below the 50-plus readings that characterize normal expansions. But it is solidly above the threshold that tends to identify the start of recessions.

"So why does the news seem to have been so gloomy?"


An animated community member, Aaron Jackson, asks Buffalo News Editor Margaret Sullivan whether the newspaper explored the criminal backgrounds of suburban victims. (Video)

700 Blacks Confront Buffalo News Over Post-Slaying Piece

"About 700 members of Buffalo's African-American community tonight shared their grievances with Buffalo News Editor Margaret Sullivan over an Aug. 22 article on the criminal backgrounds of victims of the shooting at the City Grill three weeks ago," Harold McNeil reported Wednesday for the Buffalo News.

"The forum, held in True Bethel Baptist Church, 907 E. Ferry St., was one that Sullivan had requested following negative reaction to the report.

"Many in the crowd expressed outrage that the police records of the shooting victims were reported at all. They called the report a gross departure from how The News traditionally treats crime victims and that it was disrespectful to the victims, their families and the African-American community.

" 'I feel that we were victimized twice,' said Cheryl Stevens, mother-in-law of Danyelle Mackin, one four victims who was killed in the shooting.

"She was one of four family members of the victims invited to address Sullivan during the forum.

" 'What you did to us was you poured salt on the wounds that had not even healed. So, I'm asking — and this is for all the families — we want an apology,' added Stevens."

Sullivan said she was there to listen and said, "I also hope that we can now start a healing process where we can move this conversation forward, and I think that we've actually taken some steps to do that by agreeing to have some meetings and to do some research about what The Buffalo News prints about the African-American community."

The Sunday front-page article, published less than a day after the final funeral in the massacre, began:

"Eight young people who grew up on Buffalo's streets were gunned down in a hail of bullets last weekend outside City Grill downtown, four of them fatally.

"They left grieving families. Mournful friends.

"And arrest and conviction records.

"Their records indicating past or present associations with crime begets a certain lifestyle risk, law enforcement and criminology experts say."

Internet Protest Forces Change in Same-Sex Wedding Policy

"The Omaha World-Herald, under fire from gay rights advocates who led an Internet-based campaign to protest the paper’s policy to not run same-sex paid wedding announcements, has changed its mind," Jeremy W. Peters wrote Tuesday in the New York Times.

"The paper, Nebraska’s largest, said on Tuesday that it would print all wedding and engagement announcements regardless of the couple’s sex. It said it would continue a policy of running announcements only for legal marriages — not civil unions or commitment ceremonies.

"In a statement published on Tuesday, the paper’s publisher seemed taken aback at the protest that the initial policy provoked from gay rights supporters.

" 'What has transpired over recent days has included some reasoned discussions with us about our practices, but mostly it has been a stream of vitriol against The World-Herald,' said the publisher, Terry Kroeger. 'This news organization is not guilty of hating gays and lesbians. Should we have seen this issue more clearly? Probably. Have we been too slow in reacting to this matter? Maybe. But hateful? Never.' "

AOL Hired 900 Over the Summer, Half for Patch

Joe Grimm"AOL made 900 hires over the summer with 50% of the new people going to local blogs network Patch, CEO Tim Armstrong just told employees in a company wide meeting," Nicholas Carlson reported Thursday for Business Insider.

"Figure all-in costs for each new employee is $100,000 per year, and AOL is set to spend $45 million per year on its new Patch employees.

"That's right in line with AOL's previously announced plans to invest $50 million in Patch this year.

"At the all-hands meeting, Tim justified the investment by explaining that the local ad market is growing much faster than the overall industry."

As reported last week, AOL's Patch network of hyperlocal news sites expects to be "the largest hirer of full-time journalists in the United States this year." It has finished hiring a top news management with little racial diversity and declared, "We do not focus on race or ethnicity in the hiring process, but rather finding the best person for each job opening."

However, some of its recruiters have long recognized the importance of diversity.

"One of the things that persuaded me to help Patch recruit is that it has high hiring standards, it is hiring some very good people and it has early on placed a priority on diversity," Joe Grimm, formerly a recruiter for the Detroit Free Press, told Journal-isms via e-mail. "I hope we can build a national network of community-centered Websites that reflect the diversity of the nation. That will help ensure success and be a model for other media companies."

Short Takes

Follow Richard Prince on Twitter

Facebook users: Sign up for the "Richard Prince's Journal-isms" fan page.

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince.

To be notified of new columns, contact and tell us who you are.

About Richard Prince

View previous columns.



T.I.'s Arrest

Wow. When you see a successful multi-talent person wind up in this kind of situation, the first thing that comes to mind is: didn't anybody tell him what he should or should not do that would compromise the rest of his life? It takes a lot of money, wasted money to get the "social gorilla" off his back. If his pattern is to continue deying the law, at least develop some self-paranoia.

Only those who understand, will understand!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.