We need to change.
For several years now we have complained, bemoaned, and raged over the disappearance of our traditional home, the print newspaper. And the loss of newspapers is not just affecting our profession but is having an impact as well on how we’ve traditionally funded our annual conventions. Fewer and fewer of our members work on staff anymore so there are fewer and fewer newspapers to host and fund our meetings.
The AAEC is also facing the problem of an aging and shrinking membership. Another consequence of the decline of newspapers is that hardly any young editorial cartoonists get their start there anymore. The cartoonists today are mostly freelancers and work hard at promoting themselves and their work online and by attending various comic/cartoon festivals and conventions.
Why are we at this point? Let’s face it, the AAEC hasn’t come to grips with the changed landscape in the publishing of news. While we might include in our convention schedules a panel or two about the importance of the internet or some instruction about how to navigate social media, we’ve really just skirted around the big issue in the room: how to preserve the editorial cartooning profession in the internet age and how to continue funding our conventions.
During our last get together at Hofstra University the AAEC board discussed these challenges and decided to recommend the 2019 convention be held in conjunction with Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) in Columbus, Ohio. CXC is a four day, citywide cartoon festival involving Ohio State & the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum which attracts cartoonists, scholars, and publishers from all around the nation. https://cartooncrossroadscolumbus.com/
The idea is to begin our convention at the Billy Ireland Library with only AAEC specific business, presentations and evening reception on the first day and then join in with CXC programming and events for the rest of festival. There have already been several editorial cartoonists who have participated in past CXC festivals (Gary Trudeau, Mike Peters, Lalo, Signe Wilkinson, Keith Knight, Nate Beeler). Jenny Robb and Lucy Caswell are very excited for a partnership with the AAEC and are planning to incorporate more editorial cartooning programming into future CXC conventions. I encourage all AAEC members to attend CXC in 2018 so you can experience the festival. During the last two days of CXC the AAEC will have a table in the exhibitors hall at the city’s impressive public library, where cartoonists and the public will have the opportunity to meet with us and get information about our organization.
Our next convention will be held in Sacramento and hosted by Jack Ohman of the Sacramento Bee. I know incoming president Pat Bagley and Jack are already well into securing a hotel and venue for 2018 so be sure to plan on attending.
Change is always hard, even when it’s for the best. Editorial cartooning has played an important part in journalism throughout our nation’s history and I believe will continue to in the future, whatever medium we use — but we need to be proactive. Editorial cartooning is an vital part of political discourse and much needed, especially in today’s political climate. Let’s recognize this and move forward to preserve our profession.
Lastly, I want to thank all you all for your friendship and support this past year. I especially want to thank convention host Matt Davies for his undying optimism and energy— no matter what obstacles popped up we always ended up laughing about it. Many thanks to the Board for their steadfast dedication to issues concerning the free speech of cartoonists, both here and internationally. As past president, Adam Zyglis was also a great help and support, especially in my first few months as a new president. And many thanks to our manager Wanda Nicholson for her cat-herding skills and to our first digital editor Jape Trostle. Jape kept our communications lines open and members up to date through social media announcements links to cartooning related news while the AAEC website is going through its redesign.
I also want to express my sincere appreciation for the opportunity to serve as President of the AAEC. The year seemed to go quickly with much left undone and I do wish I could have accomplished more for you. But I’m confident incoming president Pat Bagley is going to do a fantastic job and I’ll continue to be an involved member in the coming years. So feel free to write me — email, DM, or give me a call- if you feel like discussing the above.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year.