To Bee Or Not To Bee

The editorial cartooning world was shocked a few weeks ago when McClatchy Newspapers announced the layoffs of three Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonists. Jack Ohman of The Sacramento Bee, Joel Pett of the Lexington Herald-Leader (Kentucky) and Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer were blindsided by the firings, which took effect immediately.

To those of us who follow the business end of cartooning, it wasn’t a complete surprise. There are barely twenty full time editorial cartoonists left in a field that boasted almost two thousand at the turn of the twentieth century. Newspapers in general are a dying concern in the digital age we now inhabit.

I met up with Jack Ohman back in 2019 at The Bee office in Sacramento. Jack says I was probably the last visitor he had before the pandemic shut off any human contact, and a year or so later the office itself was abandoned to cut costs. He’s been working from home since then, so at least he didn’t have to endure being escorted to the exit by McClatchy security guards.

There’s a certain amount of irony in the Bee’s abandonment of cartoons. Their logo, a newspaper hawking insect named “Scoopy” was specifically created for McClatchy by Walt Disney in 1943. (Well, actually it was created by animator Hank Porter, but like everything that passed through the gates of Disney studios, only Walt’s name would appear on the logo.)

Maybe McClatchy should replace Scoopy with another block of printed prose. After all, the paper is so thin now there’s barely room for any substantial journalism.  Today its cartoons, but the way things are going they’ll probably have to eliminate adjectives and adverbs next.

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3 Responses to To Bee Or Not To Bee

  1. I’m sure The Bee canned Ohman to free up money for more articles like the one on the least appreciated item at the Costco food court that appeared online earlier today. Newspapers are producing more and more of the non-stories you find in places like Yahoo and AOL Otherwise, they’d have to spend money on real news.

    Ohman is the best cartoonist I’ve seen in several years because his work actually had some bite. Most of the ones left today avoid controversy and just recycle safe cliches. Gone are the likes of Herbert Block, whose work caused Nixon to ban the Washington Post from the living quarters of the White House so his daughters wouldn’t see Herblock cartoons, and Paul Conrad of the L.A. Times, who did my favorite cartoon of all time: When voters rejected a proposition to send more water south because of overwhelming NorCal opposition, Conrad did a cartoon of a guy standing on NorCal while peeing on SoCal.

    Those were the days, my friend.

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