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Papers 'pick a pair' of political persons; several dailies employ two staff editorial cartoonists - an arrangement that has advantages and disadvantages.

AT LEAST NINE major newspapers are wielding a double-edged sword in these recessionary days, but it has nothing to do with cutting employees. They employ a pair of staff editorial cartoonists.

Some papers, including the Boston Globe, began taking a two-fisted cartoon approach years ago. Others, such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, did so after the recent closings of second papers in their markets.

Post-Gazette editorial page editor Michael McGough said there was little question that his paper would hire Rob Rogers from the late Pittsburgh Press this past January.

"We wanted to pick up features that really had a following," said McGough. "Rob was clearly in that category."

While Rogers knew late last year that the Post-Gazette might take him on, there was no guarantee until he was actually hired.

"I definitely had some doubts," said Rogers, who noted that some editorial cartoonists from closing papers have not been hired by the surviving daily.

Keeping only one cartoonist was something the Times-Dispatch considered before last year's demise of the Richmond News Leader.

"In the beginning, when we were talking about the merger, we assumed one cartoonist would have to go," said Times-Dispatch editorial board chairman Edward Grimsley.

However, with a significant expansion in editorial/op-ed space, the paper felt there would be enough work to keep both the Times-Dispatch's Gary Brookins and the defunct News Leader's Bob Gorrell busy.

"So far, we've been right," said Grimsley, who noted that the two are now drawing op-ed illustrations in addition to their editorial cartoons. The paper's use of color editorial cartoons and computer-generated art also adds to the workload for Brookins and Gorrell.

"Gary and I joke that we're now art resource technicians (ARTs)," said Gorrell.

Because of their friendship, the Times-Dispatch duo had little trouble accepting the fact that they would no longer be their paper's sole editorial cartoonist.

"I've been a friend and fan of Gary's for a long time," said Gorrell. "We put out a book of cartoons together last year and worked on the |Cobwebs' comic strip in the mid-1980s."

It's great working with Bob," added Brookins. "My only complaint is that he's constantly nagging me about my messy office!"

Brookins recalled that he recommended Gorrell for the News Leader cartoonist spot in 1983 while adding that he had "no influence" on the Times-Dispatch keeping Gorrell last year. Brookins came to the Times-Dispatch in 1979 and met Gorrell at a cartoonist convention in 1980.

Now that they are on the same paper, Gorrell said he and Brookins give each other moral support as well as help with cartoon ideas. "We have even collaborated on illustrations," mentioned Brookins.

Gorrell, 38, did note that it took a while for Times-Dispatch readers to get used to his work. While he and the 42-year-old Brookins share a mostly conservative philosophy, Gorrell's cartoons obviously have a somewhat different approach and look.

"Bob's probably a little more detailed," said Brookins. "My drawing is more loose and fluid."

Tim Menees, who joined the Post-Gazette in 1976, said he believes readers welcomed the addition of Rogers to the paper.

"We're in the business of serving readers, and I think most people were glad to see that neither of us ended up on the street," said Menees.

But Menees was not thrilled about the Post-Gazette's decision to employ two editorial cartoonists.

"I told Rob I didn't like it, but that it wasn't my decision to make" recalled Menees. "It was nothing personal against him. Rob said he would have felt the same way. I also told Rob that I wasn't going to be a jerk about it and sit around in a snit."

Menees, 49, said one problem for him after Rogers' arrival was getting used to doing four cartoons a week instead of five.

"You get into a rhythm," he remarked. "Now, when something gets my attention, I might have to put it off a day."

Rogers, 34, added that there is the "logistical" problem of checking with the other cartoonist "to make sure we don't overlap too much on topics."

The former Pittsburgh Press staffer also said he misses the challenge of going head to head with a cartoonist on a competing paper.

In addition, editorial cartoonists may resent sharing the limelight. "For the system to work, the two parties have to subdue their egos," said Gorrell, who observed that this can be tough in an "ego-driven business."

Some creators in two-cartoonist situations also worry that their paper may let one of them go someday.

But Rogers emphasized that all this is better than unemployment. "I just feel fortunate to be one of two editorial cartoonists rather than none of one," observed Rogers, who joined the Press in 1984.

"I'm happy as a clam to be gainfully employed," added Gorrell.

He and Brookins create cartoons on alternate days, meaning they each draw four one week and three the next along with their op-ed art.

Menees and Rogers do cartoons on alternate weekdays and then both draw Sunday ones, meaning they each create four per week. McGough said each creator gets the editorial page spot on alternate Sundays, with the other appearing on the Sunday op-ed page.

"Whoever has the Sunday editorial page gets the first shot at the subject," said Menees. "So we have to consult on that."

At the Boston Globe, Dan Wasserman said he and Paul Szep "consult in an informal way" to make sure there is not too much duplication. "Once in a while, one of us has to give up a potential Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoon because the other thought of it first," Wasserman remarked wryly.

Szep, who has won two Pulitzers, does three Globe cartoons a week while Wasserman creates four.

Globe editorial page editor Loretta McLaughlin said one reason why the paper hired Wasserman to join Szep in 1985 was to buy fewer syndicated political cartoons.

Szep, 51, said he and Wasserman have gotten along "great" since then but added that there is a part of him that wishes he were still doing at least four editorial cartoons a week.

"I kind of miss the challenge," said Szep, a native of Canada who has been with the Globe for more than 25 years.

But Szep added that there are some advantages to his lighter schedule. "It has probably lengthened my career," he said. "You can get burned out in this business."

Wasserman, 43, said doing fewer drawings a week gives an editorial cartoonist "more time to read and work on ideas."

There is also more time for work that can add variety to a cartoonist's career. Szep, for instance Golf Digest magazine and has done cartoon work for television.

At the Post-Gazette, Menees writes and illustrates a column called "Scorpio" and contributes to a diary feature while Rogers creates a political comic called "Brewed on Grant."

Rogers said the weekly comic, which is set in a fictional coffee shop on the Pittsburgh street where various governmental offices are based, enables him to continue doing local commentary. He noted that because United Feature Syndicate requires him to submit four editorial cartoons a week, virtually all of his Post-Gazette cartoons have dealt with national and international issues. When Rogers was drawing five cartoons a week for the Press, he would usually make one of them local.

Menees, who is not syndicated, creates a number of local cartoons along with his national and international ones.

Szep said the fact that he has to submit at least two of his three cartoons to United each week makes it difficult for him to do a lot of local commentary. He noted that this is one reason why he is leaving the syndicate this month.

"I really miss doing local cartoons," he declared. "I think you can have some impact locally."

"Local cartoons get the most response," added Rogers.

Wasserman, who is associated with the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, usually does one local cartoon a week.

Gorrell and Brookins, who are also syndicated, still manage to do local work despite creating fewer editorial cartoons a week than they used to. Gorrell is associated with Copley News Service and Brookins with North America Syndicate.

The cartoonists at two-cartoonist papers often have other differences besides their syndicate affiliations, as is the case with Szep and Wasserman.

"Paul is a very strong, powerful caricaturist," said McLaughlin. "His forte is the strength of his drawings as well as the message. Dan is witty and sophisticated .... He has a wonderful sense of humor but is still very pointed."

Szep agreed that his "strengths are probably visual" while calling Wasserman, who often does multiframe cartoons, "more of a word person."

McLaughlin added that Szep and Wasserman are both progressive in their politics.

The two Post-Gazette cartoonists are also liberal, with Menees perhaps slightly more so than Rogers.

But Menees and Rogers, like Szep and Wasserman, have significantly different approaches.

"Tim will take a hard swing more often," observed McGough. "Rob's style is less of a frontal assault. There's a lot of visual punning, wordplay and humor, but he can make people mad, too."

Menees said the differences between his and Rogers' cartoons make the Post-Gazette editorial page "a bit schizophrenic," but McGough stated that having two "distinctive" voices on the page "is great for the readers."

Grimsley feels the same way about Brookins and Gorrell. "I think the newspaper has benefited from the talents of both men," said the Times-Dispatch executive, who also writes a Creators Syndicate column. "It's a real plus for our readers."

Among the other papers with two staff editorial cartoonists are the Chicago Tribune (Jeff MacNelly and Dick Locher), Detroit News (Draper Hill and Larry Wright), Kansas City (Mo.) Star (Bill Schorr and Lee Judge), New York Newsday (Doug Marlette and M.G. Lord), Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel (Dana Summers and Ralph Dunagin) and Seattle Post-Intelligencer (David Horsey and Steve Greenberg).

At least seven of these editorial cartoonists are syndicated, including Summers with the Washington Post Writers Group and MacNelly and Locher with Tribune Media Services.

Some two-creator papers use one artist as the lead editorial cartoonist and the other to do some editorial cartoons as well as other work.

There are also papers that employ one staff and one part-time political cartoonist. For instance, the Boston Herald uses full-time employee Jerry Holbert for weekdays and free-lancer Dale Stephanos for weekends and other times Holbert is not available, according to chief editorial writer Jeff Jacoby.
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Author:Astor, David
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Date:Aug 7, 1993
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