Layoffs mark end of era at Post-Dispatch

Ninety-nine years after Daniel R. Fitzpatrick became the editorial cartoonist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that proud history of editorial cartooning appears to be coming to an end with the layoff of award-winning cartoonist R.J. Matson.

Matson confirmed that he was among the 13 newsroom employees laid off last week in a round of staff reductions that included top and middle level editors – Steve Parker, assistant managing editor; Larry Coyne, photography director; Judith Evans, food editor; Tim Bross, assistant metro editor and David Sheets, sports content editor.  Also laid off were Johnny Andrews, a photographer, and Jennifer Mann, a justice reporter.

The Post-Dispatch ran a short story on its Website without naming the employees.  In the hard-copy newspaper, the news was reported in a one-graph business note with an upbeat sentence about Lee Enterprises, the parent company, losing less money than in the past.

The layoffs occurred even as Lee awarded CEO Mary Junck 500,000 shares of stock because it considered her under-compensated. Junck was the CEO who presided over the Pulitzer purchase that led to the company’s decline into structured bankruptcy. Bill McClellan, the Post-Dispatch’s premier columnist, wrote a column after the layoffs criticizing the timing of the bonus for Junck amidst employee layoffs.

Matson’s cartoon was missing without explanation in the Sunday, July 29 edition, the lights flickering off on what has been one of the most important corners in the newspaper for a century.

The Post-Dispatch had a long history of storied cartoonists.  Fitzpatrick won two Pulitzer Prizes during his long career.  “The Laws of Moses and the Laws of Today,” published in 1926 criticized the rapid increase in regulations.  His 1954 cartoon, “How Would Another Mistake Help?” warned against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Bill Mauldin, Fitzpatrick’s successor, also won two Pulitzers, one at the Post-Dispatch.  He won the 1959 Pulitzer Prize for criticism of Soviet treatment of writer Boris Pasternak. The cartoon showed two prisoners in Siberia, one of whom said to the other, “I won the Nobel Prize for Literature. What was your crime?”

Fitzpatrick and Mauldin were followed by three distinguished cartoonists – Tom Engelhardt, John Sherffius and Matson.

(William H. Freivogel is former deputy editorial editor of the Post-Dispatch and was a colleague of Matson’s.)

 

Read more here:

Romenesko: http://jimromenesko.com/2012/07/27/st-louis-post-dispatch-lays-off-four-news-managers-more-cuts-coming/

Erica Smith blog: http://storify.com/ericasmith/post-dispatch-layoffs

Post-Dispatch web site story: http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/post-dispatch-lays-off-workers/article_ffd254b2-d81a-11e1-80f9-0019bb30f31a.html

Post-Dispatch hard-copy story: http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/business-digest/article_fb9285a2-ca96-56e2-87a5-0b371d953751.html

McClellan column on Junck’s “Fat Bonues”: http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/business-digest/article_fb9285a2-ca96-56e2-87a5-0b371d953751.html

Matson website: http://www.rjmatson.com/personal.htm