Observer cuts job of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist
A move away from editorial cartooning; 'difficult decision'
Good evening. This is a Charlotte Ledger ONLINE EXTRA for Tuesday, July 11, 2023.
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Kevin Siers, recognized for ‘sharp wit and bold artistic style,’ hung on longer than many fellow newspaper editorial cartoonists; union slams layoff
Kevin Siers accepting the Pulitzer Prize in 2014. (Photo: The Pulitzer Prizes, Columbia University)
by Tony Mecia
The Charlotte Observer is parting ways with its Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Kevin Siers — part of a larger strategy by parent company McClatchy and the newspaper industry to move away from daily editorial cartoons.
In an internal memo Tuesday afternoon, McClatchy opinion editor Peter St. Onge wrote that the newspaper chain would no longer publish daily opinion cartoons: “We made this decision based on changing reader habits and our relentless focus on providing the communities we serve with local news and information they can’t get elsewhere.”
In the memo, which was shared with Observer staff and obtained by The Ledger, St. Onge called the move a “difficult decision” that affects Siers and another Pulitzer Prize-winner, Jack Ohman of The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee. “Each has provided readers with sharp, artful and insightful commentary that holds officials and institutions accountable,” St. Onge wrote. “We are grateful for their important contributions to journalism and their commitment to excellence.”
Siers and St. Onge declined to comment to The Ledger on Tuesday. On Wednesday, after a version of this article appeared online, Siers posted on Facebook that he had been laid off and said:
Being able to work at the same newspaper for almost 36 years has been an incredible run in this business. … I’m thankful for the great support I’ve had over the years from my editors, my Observer colleagues, and from our readership.
He said he plans to “continue to cartoon in some capacity” and will continue to have his national work syndicated, as well as to “do more fishing.” [previous three paragraphs added 7/12/23 at 8:08 p.m., to reflect Siers Facebook post]
Siers, who is from Minnesota, started drawing cartoons for The Observer in 1987. In 2014, he won the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s most cherished award, for “his thought provoking cartoons drawn with a sharp wit and bold artistic style.” Like The Observer’s editorial page, many of Siers’ cartoons lean to the left politically. Over the years, though, his cartoons have skewered national and local politicians of both major parties.
The Observer has had a share of five Pulitzers in its history. Siers’ is the most recent.
‘Frustrated and disappointed’: The Charlotte Observer News Guild, which represents Observer newsroom workers, said on Twitter that it was “frustrated and disappointed to learn that @McClatchy has chosen to lay off one of our most veteran staffers” and that it was “extremely upsetting to see McClatchy treat an employee so callously.” It said that “many positions have been sitting vacant for months” and that “McClatchy doesn’t value local news if it doesn’t value the people who produce it.”
As part of cutbacks in the newspaper industry, many national and local publications have eliminated staff cartoonists in recent years. Siers was the only local cartoonist in the Carolinas producing daily cartoons, according to his Wikipedia page.
In addition, longtime Observer reporter and editor Mike Gordon is retiring around Aug. 1 after 31 years at the paper, Observer managing editor Taylor Batten wrote on Facebook later in the day on Tuesday. The Observer has a newsroom of about 45 journalists, staffers have said. [paragraph added 7/11/23 at 8:45 p.m.]
Tony Mecia is The Ledger’s executive editor. He worked at The Charlotte Observer as a reporter and an editor from 1998-2009.
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project