Pensacola Cartoonist Depicts Ala. Newspaper Job Cuts As Leading to Return (and Triumph) of Bull Connor's Fire Hoses

Recent job cuts at Alabama newspapers have been steep. The Birmingham Business Journal, which (ahem) apparently is not among the participants, reports that "Three of Alabama’s largest daily newspapers, including the Birmingham News, will lay off about 400 employees as they cut back their printing schedules and increase their focus on digital." The other affected publications include the Huntsville Times and the Mobile Press Register. The job cuts are on the order of 50%-60%.

Across the Alabama border in Florida at the Pensacola News Journal, cartoonist Andy Marlette did not handle the layoff news well, as will be seen after the jump.


As published late last week:

AlaFiremenHosingProtestersToom0612

Apparently volunteering to be the next publication which ends up shrinking because it could care less about readers' sensibilities, the News Journal and its cartoonist are defensively digging in:

(the News Journal) Richard A. Schneider, the PNJ’s executive editor, said the cartoon was a historical metaphor that fits squarely with the mission of the editorial page, and the newspaper will not apologize.

The cartoon, by the paper’s five-year editorial cartoonist Andy Marlette, depicts two cartoon firefighters hosing down two black cartoon characters. The caption reads: “Don’t worry, since they laid off all the journalists in Alabama we can get away with this kind of stuff again.”

... The illustration references famous 1960s-era photos from photographer Charles Moore, which showed firefighters turning fire hoses on black marchers during civil-rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Ala. The photos appeared in Life magazine and are widely credited with playing a role in swaying American public opinion in favor of the civil-rights movement.

(Marlette) Marlette said those photos demonstrated the watchdog power of journalism that today is threatened by newsroom cuts.

“In the context of the mass layoffs of Alabama’s journalists, the cartoon is a dark comment on the fact that the most sinister things happen — in fact have always happened — when nobody is there to show and tell about them,” he said.

Schneider said the paper has offered the firefighters — and all readers — the opportunity to submit letters to the editor in response.

“The News Journal has a long history of inviting and publishing viewpoints from people who take strong exception to editorials and editorial cartoons. We believe that to be the mission of our Opinions section,” Schneider said. “The firefighters don’t see it that way, and we offer them the chance to respond as sharply as they wish with a Viewpoint in our newspaper. We hope they take advantage of it.”

Metaphor, schmetaphor. The cartoon literally communicates the idea that laying off journalists will lead to the return of the Bull Connor era (by the way, as a reminder, that would be Democrat Bull Connor).

Someone forgot to tell the News Journal and Marlette that it's not 1963, that "journalists" don't own the news, and that anyone observing such an offensive scene with a smartphone or tablet in their possession in 2012 could record it.

If "journalists" at so many local and regional papers hadn't spent the last 40 or so years whitewashing the news (e.g., refusing to identify violent criminals on the loose by race so they might, you know, get apprehended; refusing to call illegal aliens, you know, illegal aliens; and turning into apologists and boosters for virtually every urban big-government scheme imaginable), I might have more sympathy. But the fact is that the "journalists" have largely brought this on themselves by doing lousy work and having misplaced priorities. In the process, they have unfortunately dragged good people in other areas of their publications down with them.

Heckuva job, guys and gals.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.