Monday, February 02, 2009

Newspaper Apolcalypse: Don't Cry for Me Altie Blogoshphere

Last week's post about weekly newspapers tragically deciding to eliminate cartoons got a lot of play as news this weekend in the altie universe, mostly thanks to Tom Tomorrow (all links lead to him) and Max Cannon's enormous gif image editorial. Reminder: be careful what you write in your blog! Sometimes you'll get quoted! Don't use words like "shit-canned." Something called Meta Filter is funny example, mostly for the comment thread. Us precious, money-grubbing alternative cartoonists receive little sympathy from the thoughtful and unintentionally hilarious posters there; it's impossible to pick a favorite but I loved this one:
“If cartoonists would look at this more as an art than as a part time job or a get-rich-quick scheme, I think comics overall would be better."

What I learned from Tom Tomorrow's blog, and what caused the sudden interest in the altie cartoonists' plight, is not that a few independent weeklies gave up syndicated features to save $20 here and there, but that the big weekly kahuna, Village Voice Media, formerly New Times, suspended all cartoons across their entire empire. I didn't even know about this, since I only had one VVM paper in my syndication, the OC (Orange County) Weekly, who must've forgotten to send me the memo. They discontinued Troubletown, which had been running there since 1995. (Was my best source for rabid right-wing hate mail)
My first thought was, free papers with no cartoons? What's next: Cracker Jack suspends little prizes? Grocery stores eliminate gumball machines and the little horsey rides? Porn sites suspend free two-second teasers? (Not that I would know anything about that.)
Second, I was thinking again about The Great Depression II, and how it will be so different from The Great Depression I. My dad told me when he was a kid they got by on cheap thrills: for a nickel you'd go to the movies and see a newsreel, double-feature, and sometimes a live band. You could get bleacher seats at a ballgame for practically nothing. They'd ride the streetcar for something to do. But this time there's no such thing as free entertainment. Your internet connection and cable TV cost money, even if your mom pays for it. David Pogue who normally writes about the newest electronic gadgets for the NY Times, started off the year with an interesting article on how to cut back on tech expenses as you go broke.

What'll you do when you're down and out and you turn to the free paper for a quick diversion? Read letters to the editor? The table of contents? This week's theater review? Look at the thinly-disguised prostitution ads?

I want to make sure, dear Troubletown readers, that you don't think I'm whining about this! Deadlines, rabid hate-mailers, and gaining and losing papers is what my life's all about. It's just preferable, when you have to lose one, that it be for insulting an entire community, not for some penny-ante, Depression-era cost-cutting measure. I may have grown fat and soft in this present occupation, but underneath I'm still mean and resilient, and beware: if there's only food for one in the life raft, I won't be the one to die! Once you've lived this long as a cartoonist you're prepared for anything.


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