Editor: Comics help keep print readers loyal


In response to the recent Austin Chronicle story in which I was interviewed about the future of alt-weekly comics, an editor who publishes my work wrote me this noteworthy email:

Jen,

I read the article about the decline in political cartoons in the alternative press, and as usual, there’s a tragic flaw in the reasoning for getting rid of comics to cut costs.

By dumbing down the print side of their publications, publishers everywhere are destroying their own industry.  If anything, the logical response to online competition would be to add *more* comics, columns and thought-provoking material to keep readers loyal.

We’ve taken that approach at Northern Express and the print side of our business is thriving.  For what it’s worth, we sometimes run more pages now than i’ve seen in the Village Voice, and our geographical area encompasses a population of under 300,000.

Meanwhile, the daily in our town has gone all-in with the online delusion and has gone from a staff of 12 reporters to 3.  What publishers don’t realize is that their online presence should be the gravy on the potato — not the other way around.

Thanks for indulging my favorite pet peeve.

Bob Downes,
Northern Express Weekly
Traverse City, MI

Well-put, methinks. To be fair, I understand that not every market is the same, and I know some editors have cut comics due to space issues when they truly didn’t want to. But considering that we live in an increasingly visual age, and political satire is popular, I suspect comics cultivate regular readers better than… well, a lot of other things.



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Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer Finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

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