The following is a copy of my letter I submitted to the editor for the “Letters to the Editor” page of my newspaper following the disappointing set of circumstances which lead to me departing from the organization. For those unfamiliar with the players in question, Daniel Dunkle is the “News Director”, Stephanie Grinnell is the editor, Brian Gess is the publisher, and Reade Brower is the owner.
So long and thanks for all the fish
For six years I’ve submitted a cartoon to the Journal each week without fail or lapse despite pursuing an undergraduate degree, a marriage, a career as a photographer, educator, and carpenter, and various extended travels across the country and abroad.
At the beginning, most of my contributions favored the benignly amusing, the oddities of life, or playful pokes at small local news items. My cartoons were safe and non threatening. As my style evolved into something less reminiscent of chicken scratching, I felt compelled to explore more serious topics of consideration. The slow demise of our state and country struck me as a good place to start.
Though disappointing, it wasn’t surprising to me this departure brought with it the first series of cartoon rejections from my editor and the news director. I suspect the newspaper leadership longed for the simpler days of puns and humorous asides concerning the weather. I chalked the rejections up to an as yet unrefined technique and message. However, as my capabilities crystallized and I found my voice, direct and precise, the rejections continued.
My editor and I had entered into a dance where each side attempted to gently influence the other towards the others’ position. With little leverage, the best I could do was appeal to the better nature of my gatekeepers by calling into question the seeming lack of filter other contributors enjoyed, as witnessed in Tom Seymour’s objectively partisan and vitriolic biweekly contribution.
To my editor’s great credit, over the years, several cartoons were allowed through which caught even me by surprise. However, at the end, with pressure from Dan Dunkle, the cartoon intended as my penultimate submission to the newspaper, before a farewell illustration, was rejected. The topic of the cartoon was the state of modern journalism and how far it has fallen. The intent was to call attention to a crucially important institution in our country—one which I and many of my family have been a part of. The press has been maligned by our president and his cronies for the better part of two years but however destructive an effect this has had it is nothing to the level of destruction rendered by the prevailing ideology which contemporary news organizations adopt. The Journal’s leadership expressed confusion at the meaning of a cartoon which called into question the role of contemporary journalism as steward of the status quo and so they rejected it. The irony is not lost on me.
Dunkle betrayed both his poor understanding of the history of journalism and its intended function with his inane remarks in a recent editorial defending his decision to censor Lawrence Reichard. Never forget Mr. Dooley’s admonition concerning the role of a newspaper, namely, to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
I’ve enjoyed my time with the paper and though I’m sorry it ended the way it did I wish them well. The body of my work, including the rejected cartoons, can be found on my website: http://www.TaberCartoons.com
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