When I started as a newspaperman in Chicago, newspapers were leading the charge against an unpopular war in Vietnam, supporting the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and bringing down corrupt Pres. Richard Nixon. Many newspapers didn’t make a profit back then but it didn’t matter because it was all about public service.
Being a self-starter, I thought working for a newspaper was as close as I could get to being a freelancer and still get a steady paycheck. Forty-eight years later, newspapers struggle to survive.
After turning corporate, the newspaper mantra became “profit is not a dirty word” and a new phrase crept into the newsroom, ROI––return on investment. Then the Internet came along. Most newspaper circulation numbers today are close to half of what it was after being stabbed in the heart by technology and nearly bled to death by Wall St. greed.
But, I can say I was there at the peak. I’ve met so many talented, driven, funny, wise people. My newspaper career opened doors for me that were closed to civilians. I went to art school to hone my drawing skill and creativity and newspapers were my university education. There was none better. It was a gift to be part of that noble and necessary enterprise.
One year ago today, I took the buyout offer at the Hartford Courant. My career had truly reached a dead-end, but I jumped over the fence and continue to move on. I draw three cartoons a week for my syndicator, caglecartoons.com and write a blog for each. I’m designing a college course called Cartoons in American Society that I’ll be teaching at Eastern Connecticut State University next fall. I’m searching for an agent for my novel and do illustrated lectures with my cartoons. I draw editorial cartoons because I have to, not for the corporate money, not for the corporate benefits, not for prizes, but because I have to speak out. I have to show people who think like me that they’re not alone. Creativity and drawing cartoons keeps me off the psychiatrist’s couch. And if I do it right, should dementia hit, I’ll be the last to know.