The demise of editorial cartoons?

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You can’t please anyone. Travels With Farley from June 23, 1977.

The Washington Post has an article about the slow demise of editorial cartoons and cartoonists, because they are offending some readers and I guess in this day and age, newspapers need to hold on to all the subscribers they can.

join-or-dieIronically, the first cartoons in newspapers were editorial cartoons from way back – in fact the first one ran in, 1754! Yup, in Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette. You may have seen it over the years, it’s right here, the “join or die” image, regarding the colonies.

I’m often concerned about losing followers or readers, not by what I post, but sometimes what they say – in the comments sections, mostly on Facebook and Instagram. I keep my mouth shut, but at times I want to argue. I have been known to delete some comments that are racist or stupid.

But it is interesting that a couple of complaints over a cartoon and newspapers would rather dump the whole editorial cartoon department rather than a subscriber or two. Which often makes me wonder since there isn’t the competition there was years ago. Most cities only have one newspaper, so there is nowhere else for a reader to go if they are in the daily newspaper reading habit.

I feel they are spiting themselves by unsubscribing to a daily habit that they have probably had most of their lives. It’s just so easy to just turn the page – sort of like turning the tv channel if you don’t like something, rather than complaining to the network.

The World, The Sun, The Herald . . .

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I recently came upon this old photo of the New York Herald, which looks to be in the 1920s because the park is there in front of it and originally the park wasn’t there and the dress of the man in the photo looks to be that era. It’s one of the best photos I’ve seen of the old Herald, it’s the closest image I’ve surely seen, most are from a block away, which show all of Herald Square, but this – this is a nice, up close photo of the New York Herald.

It reminded me of this story I did last spring on the old newspapers of New York.

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Images via Library of Congress

pulitzerI saw a great documentary on Joseph Pulitzer (left) the other night which of course was a lot about the New York World, which he published from 1860 until his death in 1911, after that his sons ran the paper (into the ground) and then in 1931, it merged with the New York Telegram to become the World-Telegram and then years later, in 1950, became the World-Telegram and Sun. You can see the Pulitzer documentary in full at PBS’s American Masters here. The story is great along with the images of the old newspapers and offices and of course, old black and white movies of street scenes and society at the time.

What was interesting about The World was that it seemed to have everything, especially on Sundays. It would print dress patterns, color comics, cut outs that kids could play with and had stories that were not breaking news, but features. Pulitzer and his staff would seek out human interest stories, which was a first for its time. He also designed interesting layouts and pages which were completely different than what was standard at the time – rows and rows of columns.

The World was one of the first newspapers to run comic strips and it started with the Yellow Kid which was stolen by Hearst his New York Journal (later the Journal-American).

One interesting item the documentary talks about was timing. When Pulitzer began publishing The World, New Yorkers started taking public transportation more often and the newspapers at the time were a perfect diversion on city transit.

I always loved old photos of the World building down on Park Row, across from city Hall. It’s gone as of 1955, and I found out from the Pulitzer documentary that it was due to Robert Moses, who seemed to destroy a lot of NYC in the name of progress, including the demise of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to which my father has not forgiven him to this day. Moses demolished the World and Times to build another ramp for the Brooklyn Bridge.

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These clocks can still be seen on the Sun Building today at 280 Broadway.

The Sun building was next door, but eventually moved to 280 Broadway, on the other side of City Hall,  where the is still today. Clocks on each corner show the name – “The Sun – It shines for all.” The Sun came back in the early 2000s but is only online now.

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Beautiful newspaper row.

The New York Tribune building was demolished in 1966 and is now Pace University.

The New York Times building at 41 Park Row is still there today. People mistakenly have claimed over the years that it was demolished for the Brooklyn Bridge entrance, too, but that is not the case. It is also part of Pace University today.

Of course, one of my favorites was the Herald, up on Herald Square, which is now an ugly box building housing Santander Bank and CVS, catty corner to Macy’s.

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The New York Herald.

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Outside the Tribune Building.

The World Newspaper

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Newspapers – a cultural reckoning

spideyThe Daily Cartoonist talks about the demise of local newspapers and asks Who’s Killing Your Local Newspaper? They say, “In the face of layoffs, the coronavirus, and private equity firms like Alden Capital trying to strip it for parts, the news industry is on the verge of collapse.”

Oddly enough, today’s comic is newspaper related as you can see.

Recently I signed a petition to save the Miami Herald from equity firms taking over the newspaper. That is who is owning the newspapers these days – they are also buying up my little village – everything that was once mom and pop, including the newspapers are now owned by corporations or retirement funds.

For the past few years I wondered why newspapers don’t turn themselves into a commodity, something people want – and what I mean is when a newspaper has a story or feature, say destined for Sunday’s paper – a big feature – they post it online on Tuesday. Why? What would be the point of me buying the Sunday paper then? I will read a story online Tuesday that later appears in the Thursday or Friday print edition. It’s old news by then. The stories are written and posted at that moment rather than wait for it to be printed. That’s great if the newspapers weren’t trying to save their print editions.

I can’t tell you how many times my father says to me, “Did you see such and such in the paper today?” And I’ll say, “Yes, but I read it three days ago online.”  If the newspapers published the stories and features in the printed paper first, and then after that, posted them online, it might work out better than the way they do it now. I’m not talking about news, I know they want to publish news as soon as possible, but features and stories – print them first, then place them online.

To be honest, I only get daily delivery of our local paper so I can support them. Most days I don’t even open it. I’ve read it all before it even arrives on my doorstep.

There was a time when I read so many newspapers in a day and now I read even more because I read papers from out of state and there lies the rub (I love saying that) – circulation is up due to online publication, but newspapers need to find a way to make money online – and not through a pay wall. There has to be a way for them to make money through ads. People can read newspapers from all over the world, so the audience is there.

When I published the daily news online here in town, I sold ads – I made money – it was not my main goal and I saw it more as a community service so I didn’t push for ads – but if I wanted to, I probably could have supported myself. Why can’t the daily newspapers do that? I see ads every five seconds on social media – why not the online newspapers?

The Travel Examiner

My sister-in-law mentioned something from years ago – a travel newspaper I used to publish called The Travel Examiner. I did it for two years. I can’t believe that she remembered it and remembered the name, it was so long ago.

I was thinking of my old boss Ron Miller just last week. He got me started in the newspaper and comics business. He was an insistent man. I remember I got a call early one summer morning, I think I was off from college, he wanted to meet me, he asked me to come into the newspaper that day. I had sent him my comics and was all excited that I would get my comics published in his newspaper – actually newspapers – he owned a slew of them.

I went in and it turned out he wanted me to design ads in the production department. He sat me down and gave me a small ad to create, it was probably the size of a business card. I had never done this before and it took me quite awhile. He said to me, “It’s costing me more to pay you than the ad is worth!” And I told him I wasn’t there for that!  But I ended up getting the job and that put me on my start.

headlinesI remember years ago he told us about the newspaper pages come out as one piece, something called pagination. We stood there in wonderment at what he was saying. Back then we used razor blades and big large Compugraphic and Varityper typesetting machines. There was even just one machine that made headlines. That’s the machine that did headlines in the photo. We did everything separately and pasted it all together, using a waxer, or waxing machine. Where the photos went is where we placed red boxes and the camera-man and stripper would strip in the photos separately. So we could not imagine a page coming out as one whole piece when he explained that to us.

I published many comics in the newspapers, I learned the printing and newspaper business from Ron and it gave me a good life all these years as I started my own business and printed many publications and other things for people over the years, including school newspapers and such.

I was thinking about The Travel Examiner and remembering that after two years I had to shut it down because Ron and others at the newspaper plant gave me a hard time. I felt it was jealousy at the time – you know, that they didn’t want competition, but now I am remembering what happened – for two years – once a month, they printed the paper for me, which was actually a sort of travel magazine on newsprint –  and I never once paid for that! I had like 20,000 or 25,000 issues a month printed for free. He never billed me, and me being a stupid kid, never expected to be billed. I guess I thought it was a perk of the job, you know, working at the newspaper plant. But I don’t think he ever explained what happened and he just stopped printing. I ended up sending the stuff to the Naples Star on the west coast of Florida for a bit, but that got old and I ended the newspaper.

I remember one time Ron called me over to his house.  I went over and he took me out back. He was so proud, out in his backyard, surrounding the pool, sitting against the hedges was THE MIAMI NEWS – the actual blue 10 foot high letters! It must have been 1990 because if I remember right, The Miami News stopped publishing at the end of 1989. So there they were – the actual letters from the building! He loved newspapers that much, and so did I.

Ron is gone now, but I still know his kids who are my age, they still run the newspapers today.

I have all the issues of The Travel Examiner somewhere, I think in my spare room and also I think there are issues at my parents’ house.

A sense of normalcy

tv

I’ve noticed one semblance of normalcy – tv an tv commercials. All of our tv shows are on and the commercials are running with them – KFC, McDonalds, Perrier, cars, computers, JC Penney, Macys – they are all still running commercials. Makes me feel like things will be all right.

And the newspaper is delivered every day. I know many of you don’t read the printed paper, but trust me – it’s there on the doorstep every morning.

But I am enjoying the sense of solitude. I know many aren’t, but I am usually home alone in the day working anyway. My only concern is lack of business – and money coming in. I applied for a deferral of mortgage payments and hopefully the state or country will just automatically do that like they did in New York state. Also I’m hearing good things about 0% small business loans, so I am applying for that.

I do agree with Trump on one thing – the only thing I’ve ever agreed with Trump on – is that the economy will come roaring back when this virus mess is over. When people start making money again and people are “let out” of their houses, they’ll want to spend, not so much spend for the sake of spending, but they’ll want to go out to restaurants; go to the movies, travel – they’ll feel like birds let out of  cage and I think the economy will roar back sooner than later.

Still reading the printed newspaper

miami-herald

Sunday’s newspaper.

I still subscribe to the printed newspaper – The Miami Herald. Do you subscribe to a printed newspaper?

I only do it for the tv listings, which I know I can get online, so maybe it’s really to support the printed paper. I always want to support the printed newspaper.

One problem with the printed newspaper is that the news is always old when you receive it. By the time it’s on your doorstep the news has been posted all over social media. And I understand that, the news is fresh, if you can post it the second it’s fresh, why not do that?

But what about the features? Most times I’ll read a Sunday feature on a Tuesday, when the feature is completed. It won’t be printed for five days, but there it is for all to read on Tuesday. I think that is part of what’s killing the printed papers. Why not save the features so that they are seen in the printed version first? Then they can be shared on social media or wherever after they make their debut in print.

A lot of times my father tells me something, “You know what I read in today’s paper? Blah, blah, blah …. and blah, blah, blah,” and I have to tell him I read those stories days ago online.

The comics are a lost cause in the paper because I don’t like most of them and they are too small to read, I showed a photo here one time of how small they really are – smaller than some postage stamps! I read the comics online. They are big, colorful, bright and right out there in your face.

The Daily cartoonist showed some samples of newspaper comics from 1954 the other day, that is how comics should be run – large and respected!

When I was a kid, my parents subscribed to the Miami Herald and the South Dade News Leader and I would sometimes buy the afternoon Miami News. When I got older and would traverse South Florida, I would sometimes buy the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and the Ft. Lauderdale News and I loved the Hollywood Sun-Tattler, probably for the name mostly.  You could also go further north and get the Palm Beach Post and Boca Raton News or go south and get the Key West Citizen, three of them still printed today. But these were all daily newspapers easily accessible. I loved that they all had different comics, and did not like when the Ft. Lauderdale papers combined the comics page and ran the same one every day – I sort of felt cheated.

On the west coast of Florida there are still many papers like the Ft. Myers News Press and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Bradenton Herald, and I love the Naples Daily News – mostly because it doesn’t seem to be part of a chain on the west coast of Florida and it’s still large in page size and sort of does its own thing. It’s the last newspaper I buy on my way back to Miami whenever I’m on Florida’s west coast and I stop and pick it up on my way home.

Today is Tom Falco Day!

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So this happened – February 14 is now Tom Falco Day in the City of Miami.  I received a proclamation that says so. It may be just today, but I am claiming it in perpetuity so every February 14 is Tom Falco Day! That’s me at left with one of our City Commissioners Ken Russell.

For 15 years I published the news and was an activist in our little village and I decided to end the publication this month. So many of my friends and townspeople came out, such memories. It was bittersweet. It was so nice to see so many faces.

I am still living here, I’ll be around town, I just won’t be publishing the news every day, which is a big responsibility off my shoulders. I feel like it’s the last day of school. Forever!

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Can a comic strip have seasons?

 

hal-and-high-water

Drawing Hal.

I’m working on my comic strip Hal and High Water, and hopefully will start publishing daily, but I have an idea that I’ve been considering. And that’s taking breaks, sort of having seasons, with breaks in between.

I know, I didn’t even start yet and I’m talking about taking a break! But listen, seriously. What I mean is, cartoonists work 365 days a year, they never stop, they never get vacations and if they do they have to build up that time by working extra hard to get a backlog of comics so that they can take time off. But what if the comic ran for a month or two or three and then there was a break, sort of like a tv show. The comic runs, ends with a cliffhanger, takes a month off, and then comes back for a new “season.”

A webcomic can do that very easily not so much a newspaper comic. But why not?

What if a newspaper comic ran for three months, then took time off and in that time another comic ran? What if three or four comics took up one space in the newspaper – sort of like the old days with tv, when a show would take the summer off and there would be a summer replacement. Years ago, that was the norm on tv and these last few years it’s been like that where there are not many reruns, other shows take up the time slot and there are usually three tv seasons now in a year.

So a newspaper comic would run a few months, maybe three months or six months, then take a break and in that three or six months another comic would run, then perhaps another comic or the original comic would come back, but they would run on some sort of schedule.

I’m thinking of doing that with Hal and High Water as a webcomic – running it for a period of time and then taking a short period of time off. Hopefully the readers will be there upon its return, but a good cliffhanger may be needed for that – sort of like a “Who shot JR?” cliffhanger.

I had written once about switching up my own comics over the year – run a panel cartoon for a few months, then a comic strip, then something else, but that would defeat the purpose of having time off. It would allow me to publish my different ideas and features over time, but it would not give me time off.

So I’m toying with the idea of taking breaks during the year – yes, even before I started publishing.

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Living in the Roaring ’20s

newsies

Let’s bring back the newsies caps, but not the smoking.

Some of us were talking and we have a feeling that a lot of the 1920s will come back in the 2020s. I’m talking about maybe fashions and sayings and things like that. Maybe even  reprisal of silent films as a goof. It may all start as a goof.

I have so many of those newsboy/newsies caps, but I never wear them. Possibly some guys may start wearing them as a goof and they’ll catch on and become the fashion. Maybe sayings will come back like, “horse feathers,” and “Don’t take any wooden nickels,” and “four-flusher.” You can see a full list here.

Other fashion statements of the 1920s were beaded dresses, argyle socks, Cloche hats, art deco and flapper styles. Maybe guys will slick back their hair and wear straw hats.

Podcasts are sort of like old time radio, aren’t they? And maybe sepia toned photos could be a common thing on Instagram. And what about cars, people might drive more restored cars around as a common thing – Model T’s, Model A’s, The Hobnocker, Bugatti, etc.

Pez was invented in the 1920s and so was Pineapple upside down cake and Kool-Aid and sliced bread! Water skiing was invented and the dial telephone,  and the jukebox and sunglasses! And of course newspapers were at an all time high in circulation, every city had their fair share. And it was the Gatsby and the Charleston dance era. Who knows, even if just one or two things came back for a bit, it would be interesting.

I never liked when the years changed or the decades passed. I don’t know why, I guess I didn’t like the passage of time. But for some reason, I’m all into the 2020s. I’m looking forward to them.

Maintaining an institution

The Miami Herald, my daily newspapers, is dropping the Saturday edition this spring, they will only print six days a week.

A few years back, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans dropped a few printed editions during the week, but I think they publish six days a week now. And today I saw a story on tv about the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock’s daily newspaper going digital. It’s been published for 200 years or so and the current publisher Walter Hussma wants to keep it in business. Their new plan – give every paid subscriber an iPad so that they can read the paper online! His goal is just to pay the bills and to keep the institution going, not to make a killing in profits.

“It’s a lot more interactive. We have slide shows. We have video. You know, when the Arkansas River flooded a few weeks ago, we had ten videos on the front page,” said Hussma

When they first talked about going digital, someone asked, “But what if people don’t have an iPad?” So the newspaper invested $12 million in iPads and now every subscriber receives a free one!

These videos explain it all.