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Cartoonist Chris Britt booted by SJ-R

Thursday, Jan 26, 2012

* This is just a huge loss for Illinois

Chris Britt, editorial cartoonist for the State Journal-Register, has been fired.

Britt was let go this morning.

“I was just informed,” Britt said.

Britt, who began his career as an editorial cartoonist in 1990 and joined the State Journal-Register staff nine years later, said he wasn’t sure whether he was given a reason for his firing.

“They may have – I was just in a little bit of a daze,” Britt said. “Economic re-structuring, or something like that.”

The newspaper last week informed copy editors that their jobs would be eliminated this summer, with a net loss of ten full-time positions. Two days later, the newspaper began firing other people, with at least eleven people laid off in various departments, sources have told Illinois Times. The newspaper shut down its press last year, moving printing to Peoria with a loss of more than 50 jobs in Springfield.

Bean counters tend to put editorial page cartoonists on the lowest rung of the food chain. I’ve always thought that was odd, believing a good cartoonist can draw lots more people to an editorial page than the actual editorials or columnists. Britt is one of the best. He’s gonna be missed.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


63 Comments
  1. - Yossarian Lives - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:27 pm:

    That was a truly short-sighted move on the part of the SJ-R.


  2. - Dirty Red - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:29 pm:

    So much for loyalty. I’ll bet Britt could have parted with Gatehouse on his own a while back to reach a broader audience and make a little more money. He stuck with them and this is how they repay his loyalty. I honestly didn’t think my disrespect for that paper’s management could sink any lower. Best of luck, Britt.


  3. - Dirt Digger - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:29 pm:

    How did the apochryphal saying by Boss Tweed go? “I don’t mind what the papers write; my constituents can’t read. But those pictures…”


  4. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:29 pm:

    Maybe Chris could join the Capt Fax as the graphics dept. Think of all the cool shirts and stuff your could pedal!
    BTW bean counters probably don’t know what an editorial cartoonist is
    BTW-2 is the goal trying to print a newspaper with no live bodies… just circ drivers and agregated pix and copy. Push it out the door until someone notices. What is the over/under on that?


  5. - Publius - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:32 pm:

    They have started printing out of town, the paper will be laid out in the chicago suburbs, they are laying off people who create content and their building is for sale. Springfield has no daily newspaper.


  6. - Vote Quimby! - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:33 pm:

    I would LOVE to see what Britt creates to note this event….please let us know where he ends up. I have a framed, autographed print of his tribute to Paul Simon hanging in my office as I type. I asked Britt for a copy for the museum, and he replied quickly and generously.
    I know he will land on his feet, and hope this is the best thing that ever happens to him.


  7. - Cassiopeia - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:33 pm:

    Maybe Capitol Fax needs a cartoonist. Kick up the blog a notch.


  8. - Colossus - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:35 pm:

    You’ll be missed, Chris. The political cartoon, heck, cartooning in general, is an unfortunately dying art form.


  9. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:37 pm:

    Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    I sometimes disagreed with Chris (and told him so!) but I always appreciated / respected the wit, humor and talent he brought to the table. Here’s hoping he lands on his feet and surpasses his past work …


  10. - Newsclown - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:38 pm:

    I was wondering why no new cartoons for a while. I don’t always agree with Britt, but he seems to call it like he sees it. I do know the conservative republicans would always line up in the paper’s online comments section to hate on Britt. They’ll count it a personal victory over “librul media eleets”, probably ask the paper to run the humorless Mallard Fillmore strip there instead. It would be awesome to put Doonesbury back on there, but I doubt that will happen.

    Britt has received national recognition for his cartoons before, and I feel he’ll land on his feet thru personal syndication to papers that matter, and online in general. He’s too good to go without work for too long. Illinois Times would be a good fit for him, I think. And they seem to know how to run a business as well.

    What’s sad is losing the local Springfield view from Britt: you need that gadfly in there jabbing away and raising awareness of issues, or too many deeds get done in the dark. It’s really tragic how far the SJ-R has fallen under Gatehouse’s management, and I don’t think it’s reached the basement yet. A sharp reader will notice the outsourced copy editing has already lead to lots more typos and bad headlines. More beat reporters being lost means ever less relevant content, and it’s content that delivers the advertising that pays the bills.

    Gatehouse is doing a Gordon Gekko on the paper; if they could get away with it, I’d not be surprised if they burned it down for the insurance.


  11. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:39 pm:

    Cassiopeia, I used to have a political cartoonist. He did a “Fax Toon” for me every other week. But he went back to being a full-time lawyer. Too bad, because he had great stuff. I think Chris is gonna need a full-time gig, which I can’t offer. But I called him earlier this morning, so we’ll see what he says when he calls me back.


  12. - WUSTL - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:40 pm:

    Each year at the Kiss A Pig Fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association, I purchase one of his cartoons. I think to date I have at least five, three of which hang in my college dorm room. As those of us who read multiple papers realize, Chris is truly one of the best in the industry both in terms of artistic quality and content. His presence at the paper is one of the few reasons I read the online version from St. Louis every day, but I don’t think I will be renewing my subscription for that now next month.


  13. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:42 pm:

    Pretty shortsighted. A good cartoonist can be a signature for the brand.


  14. - Agricola - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:50 pm:

    Britt was one of two reasons for taking the SJ-R. If Bernie Schoenberg starts writing for Rich, I’ll never need to look at that rag again…


  15. - ILPundit - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 12:51 pm:

    Rich,

    Several years ago at Daily Kos, there was a popular commenter who did a daily diary that many liked, but had to stop due to employment concerns. They went to the community and did a fundraiser to pay him to keep doing it. Maybe Cap Fax could do that to defray a portion the cost of keeping Britt active in Illinois

    Adding Britt to your site (and perhaps a design upgrade to accomodate)? could add eyeballs and take your site to the next level.

    Just a thought. I know I would contribute.


  16. - Wensicia - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 1:02 pm:

    I think this is one move the S J-R will soon regret. The value of a good editorial cartoonist isn’t measured by their salary.


  17. - Just a Citzen - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 1:04 pm:

    Guess the paper never heard the old phrase, a picture is worth a 1000 words.


  18. - Commonsense in Illinois - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 1:06 pm:

    Dumb, dumb, dumb. Just one more nail in the coffin containing my SJ-R subscription. Even though I often disagreed with Chris Britt’s take, his cartoons both made me think…and made me laugh; two commodities that these days are in short supply.


  19. - MrJM - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 1:07 pm:

    Congratulations to the State Journal-Register!

    It’s important for local newspapers to jettison from their publications any unique content — especially content that is local in nature. Local papers should do their best to be wholly generic and strive for content that looks as much like yesterday’s Yahoo! News as possible. Local papers will only survive if they have a laser-like focus on the things they just don’t do very well and cast off those things that might possibly justify the cost of a newspaper subscription.

    In the spirit in which it is intended,
    – MrJM


  20. - vole - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 1:12 pm:

    No openings in the IL Dept. of Farcical Resources for a comic czar?

    When you start going down the list of job descriptions in our society you do have to wonder just how many are actually “econcomical”.


  21. - Shore - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 1:15 pm:

    1. No one anywhere has said that Senator Kirk WILL NOT return to his duties.

    2. For the chicago based media, it’s important to note that many senators decades older than Mark have had health issues during their tenures and still run and won re-election.

    3. Senator Kirk is 15 years younger than the average age of a current us senator, you’d be wise to focus on the good work he’s done instead of asking which democrat would take his place.


  22. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 1:19 pm:

    Shore, who are you talking to?


  23. - Mouthy - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 1:20 pm:

    Cripe, I always looked forward to Chris’ editorial cartoons. Those and the best of cartoons that they used to run in Sunday’s edition which they stopped when they went to the skinny paper. I wonder where their thinking is. We get the glossy Springfield magazine pawned off on us, that flopped as a subscription elitist publication, and they let Chris go. I’ve been reading the SJ-R for decades with my first cup of coffee for decades. Maybe it’s time to say good-bye…


  24. - siriusly - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 1:21 pm:

    Want to prove his value in monetary terms to them? Start putting his cartoons on CFB in a new “cartoon” subscriber section. I bet you’d draw the traffic to prove the point.


  25. - dupage dan - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 1:49 pm:

    I stopped buying the New Yorker when they stopped printing Charles Addams cartoons. Just sayin’

    Short sighted - visuals are important to these publications. I break into smiles more often looking at the editorial cartoons whether I agree with them or not.


  26. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 1:51 pm:

    Here’s my guess as to what happened:

    Gatehouse is looking to slash/consolidate whatever offices or duties possible. I would assume the SJ-R and Gatehouse plenty of complaints (right or wrong) against Mr. Britt. If it came down to what the SJ-R thought was palatable, perhaps they felt it better to keep around some of the more milquetoast columnists and reports. I also think the SJ-R wants to continue its large statehouse and political reporting/gossip presence.


  27. - Billy Dennis - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 1:56 pm:

    The conservative commenters on my blog are chortling at his being fired. How like conservatives to be laughing at someone losing his job.


  28. - Jake From Elwood - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 2:14 pm:

    Hey I like the political cartoons. I am not familiar with Britt’s work, but this sounds like a budget cut not a slam on the guy’s work.
    Hope you land on your feet Mr. Britt.


  29. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 2:17 pm:

    Editorial cartoonist Dennis DeToye was later elected mayor of his paper’s hometown.

    One great cartoon is worth 20 editorials, especially today.

    Cartoons all the time, but who ever heard of an editorial going viral?


  30. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 2:19 pm:

    That said, Britt should land a much better job as a political communications consultant.

    A good cartoon is easily worth $1000 to a campaign, his are definitely worth even more in the Central Illinois market.


  31. - HartVoter - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 2:25 pm:

    While Chris poked fun of Springfield a lot, his loss will make Springpatch a duller town to live in.


  32. - Tourist - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 2:33 pm:

    Well that was the straw…. after months of watching the quality of its local coverage decline and increasingly wondering why we still get the SJR, the decision is made…. one cancelled subscription with explanation as to why given…


  33. - Cubbo Marx - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 2:39 pm:

    Chris is an awesome cartoonist and Gatehouse is stupid for canning him. A Britt cartoon cut out from the paper has more $ value than a share of Gatehouse stock (like 8 cents/share).


  34. - Esteban - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 2:41 pm:

    His cartoons have already disappeared from the
    paper’s website….it’s as if he never existed.

    Why should this surprise me-the paper is a rag.


  35. - LincolnLounger - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 2:41 pm:

    Chris Britt’s politics and mine are distinctly different; however, I never missed one (even though they frequently infuriated me).

    We may as well all just read USA Today on-line for the state of daily newspapers.

    Fare thee well, Chris Britt.


  36. - Skirmisher - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 3:10 pm:

    The SJ-R’s editorial page is now so awfully bad that I recently found them running the same syndicated column twice in a week’s time. There is not much reason to buy that rag these days. The smaller size sheets don’t even work very well to spread in the puppy enclosure or under a painting project. Can anyone recommend a good paper available in the Springfield area?


  37. - anonymice - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 3:14 pm:

    How are they going to fill all white space on the editorial page that used to be taken up by Britt’s cartoon and the angry letters from readers complaining about his liberal-piece-of-@#$%^ cartoons? Even when his cartoons weren’t entertaining, the reactions always were.


  38. - mark walker - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 3:35 pm:

    Shore: I have not heard any such talk about Kirk anywhere, and haven’t seen it here. I’m with you, if you’re complaining about it somewhere else.


  39. - GMatts - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 4:18 pm:

    Didn’t care for his politics, but he was very effective in provoking a reaction. His anti-obesity stuff was great. Maybe to much so….fat cats struck back.


  40. - Observing - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 4:35 pm:

    Chris will land well. He’s one of the best. He can syndacate….I hope. SJR was short-sighted with this. Every time I turn around SJR is trying to boost its subscriptions so why let go of a great political cartoonist in the capitol city?????


  41. - MillerC - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 4:37 pm:

    Re: Esteban, It’s hard to believe they would just let go of any potential page views by breaking any incoming links that may be out there. And, guess what? The old cartoons have NOT been removed (at least not yet). You can still find the archive here (for now): http://www.sj-r.com/cartoon


  42. - D.P. Gumby - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 4:50 pm:

    SJ-R since Gatehouse has slowly listing like the Costa Concordia. Throwing Chris Britt overboard shows their leadership to be on par w/ that ship’s infamous captain. While I could never stand Copley’s editorial policies, they at least had a newspaper. I don’t know what SJ-R is becoming…Bon Voyage Chris Britt, I know you will land in a greater place!


  43. - RetiredStateEmployee - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 5:04 pm:

    Great way to improve your bottom line, reduce the quality of the product until no one will buy it. This is only one more instance of that strategy.


  44. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 5:51 pm:

    Wish that Scott Stantis would be fired instead.


  45. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 6:20 pm:

    ==Wish that Scott Stantis would be fired instead.==

    I don’t think this comment is in the spirit of this thread.


  46. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 6:44 pm:

    From some conversations with Chris over the years, he didn’t always include his own political opinions in the cartoons. Sometimes he was just highlighting the absurdity of a particular situation and provoking discussion of the issue.


  47. - mushroom in the dark - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 6:52 pm:

    It is my fault. I stopped my SJ-R subscription years ago. Chris is one of the best cartoonists.


  48. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 7:05 pm:

    shouldn’t those newsprint tax breaks and mandated public notices be linked to some kind of employment levels?
    Sheesh.


  49. - Jodig74 - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 7:54 pm:

    I always enjoyed his pieces. Whether or not you agreed with him, he made you think about what your thoughts on the subject were, which I think is the whole point of a political cartoon. I certainly will miss him, and am pretty sure this solidifies my decision to cease reading the SJ-R. It is not our local paper anymore. I wish the best in your next endeavor, Mr. Britt.


  50. - shocked and appalled - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 7:56 pm:

    I can’t believe the newspaper would get rid of one of the best assets they have EVER had over there! Whoever is running that place should be fired!! Britt will certainly go on to bigger and better places than SJ-R. It is a huge loss for those of us who have enjoyed his creativity and incredible tal
    ent for years!!


  51. - John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 9:37 pm:

    Can John O’ [ I wanna see your FOID card ] Connor be far behind?


  52. - John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 9:42 pm:

    I have not seen all of his catalogue, but his skewering of Blagojevich is memorable.

    Let us all remember:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LC72OEmBA8


  53. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 10:41 pm:

    John Jacob,
    Newsflash: O’Connor left the SJR years (as in more than a decade) ago. He works for a small group called AP.


  54. - Anon - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 10:49 pm:

    whether you loved or hated his work… The State Journal-Register ends a 23 year tradition… One more piece just hacked away. Press Room and related departments=gone. Ad production=gone in a month. Copy editors and page designers = gone in… a couple of months, plus countless others that weren’t even given the courtesy of time, they were just shown the door that day. All so Gatehouse CEOs can keep getting their obscene bonuses for running countless newspaper into the ground. They strip the meat to the bone, somtimes even eating the bone and expel a pile of sh*t when they finish, caring nothing for the communities that these paper serve of the people who dedicated lives and resources to their jobs


  55. - Bemused - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 11:06 pm:

    The doctor is leaning over the SJ-R and yelling “Clear”.
    I wondered when the last Cartoonist left the paper for bigger and better things if they could intice a suitable replacement for this size market.
    Chris has more than done so.

    Some time ago the question was asked here ( What does Springfield need.)

    My answer was ” A newspaper that really is.”


  56. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Jan 26, 12 @ 11:15 pm:

    Bemused,
    unfortunately newspapers aren’t part of communities anymore. They are financial commodities to be bought, sold, merged and closed.
    It’s sad.
    They’re the high-sulfur coal of the media.


  57. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Friday, Jan 27, 12 @ 6:41 am:

    Rich,

    If nothing else, you need to get a cartoon from Chris Britt the day Blago finally goes to prison …


  58. - Mike Miller - Friday, Jan 27, 12 @ 8:58 am:

    Chris is a class act- a true opinion journalist. I have watched his career with growing admiration for a decade. He took the hits and kept his voice true to a core set of beliefs. I don’t think Springfield even realizes what a service he has provided to this community. No SJ-R firing to date will be felt across the community like this one.


  59. - Dmk62563 - Friday, Jan 27, 12 @ 9:34 am:

    While I seldom agreed with Britt, he was talented, but of late too left leaning for my tastes, even for the sj-r which once had a more balanced outlook.
    How a guy could spend 4 toons on Gingrich’s Tiffany spending and see nothing when it came to billions in failed ’stimulus’ programs like Solyndra or outright gifts to Union Pacific amazed me.
    I’ll admit I seldom missed a column, but too often found them not to my way of thinking…and my judgement is impeccable??
    His supporters said he was a Springfield institution and we were lucky to have him…well one man’s loss is another man’s gain.
    I wish him luck and hope he finds a new spot quickly.


  60. - Francesco Schettino - Friday, Jan 27, 12 @ 11:47 am:

    Someone upthread compared the SJ-R to the Costa Concordia and that is quite apt as the executive editor John K. Broadbooks left only a few weeks ago just before these layoffs kicked into full gear. Coincidence perhaps, or maybe the guy knew what was coming and didn’t have the stomach for it. However, something tells me he pulled a Francesco Schettino and abandoned ship. His contempt for readers and staff was unmistakable.


  61. - Thom2144 - Friday, Jan 27, 12 @ 2:06 pm:

    With Gatehose making all things one across numerous papers, this was sure to happen.
    His comments were too local except for his incessant bashing of Rs on the national level.


  62. - Corie Jones - Friday, Jan 27, 12 @ 11:14 pm:

    Hey Chris! Come back to the Northwest! David Horsey just left the Seattle Times so they need someone of your caliber!!


  63. - AzPecan - Wednesday, Feb 1, 12 @ 5:52 pm:

    Bad move on SJR part. Chris said it like it is, hope him the best, he will be ok, they lose.


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        * Illini Legends, Lists & Lore: Happy 85th, Ted Beach!
        * Are you among the metro-east drivers still using a cellphone while driving?
        * Art on the Square, Talbots team up to show art, clothing collections
        * Bill would streamline transition for students in incoming military families
        * City Council votes Monday on hiring architect for Belleville Police station


        * The 10th District money race
        * Aurora Democrat calls out IHSA
        * Lawyers: Ill. hazing law vague, unconstitutional
        * Ill. House OKs lower-cost hunting bill for seniors
        * Quinn’s running mate takes new consulting job

        * Lipinski announces 2014 Congressional Art ...
        * Lipinski seeks artistic submissions - The ...
        * Lemont VFW honors Vietnam veterans - Subur...
        * Lipinski Votes to Protect the Paychecks of...
        * Meet the 8 House Dems who don't co-sponsor...
        * Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: In this ca...
        * Rep. Lipinski Honors Vietnam Vets on House...
        * Southwest Airlines Adding 9 Non-Stop Daily...
        * Lipinski Announces Southwest will Start Fl...
        * Lipinski Thanks Voters for Support in Unco...

        * Loading Koch Industries Website Too Many T......
        * Maryland and DC among worst for food aller......
        * Cleveland State University to reestablish ......
        * Convicted political boss Al Sanchez runnin......
        * Candidates make last filings for local, st......

        * Illinois Lt. Gov. Simon opposes pension le......
        * Dillard Odd Man Out on Pension Deal Reaction...
        * Sen. Mark Kirk sides with Rauner on pensio......
        * Governor's race infighting threatens pensi......
        * SCHOONERS - Home of Everyone's Favorite Be......

        * Today's Easter weekend message: "That's My King!"
        * Weyermuller: "Taxed Enough Already" rally in St. Charles
        * Gutierrez calls on House Republicans to vote on immigration reform [video]
        * Governor Quinn. Veto Rahm’s pension bill.
        * The talented Mr. Biss.
        * Durbin banks more than $6M for 2014 Senate bid
        * Illegal Immigration: Will Illinois' GOP leadership abandon the party's platform?
        * Walsh: Sorry, Sen. Kirk, That Train Has Already Left the Station
        * Will County GOP provides insight into how party decides officials and policies
        * City Journal: Chicago's Vanishing Middle Class


        * Governor Quinn Announces Investments to Conserve Lake Michigan Shoreline - Visits Volunteer Beach Clean-up to Announce Investments That Will Support Environmental Education and Stewardship Projects
        * Governor Pat Quinn Takes Clemency Action
        * Proposed Rules for Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act Filed
        * Adopt-A-Highway Spring Cleanup Begins Today - Annual Event Honors Earth Day, Tackles Roadside Litter After Harsh Winter
        * Illinois Schools Win No Child Left Behind Waiver - Federal Government Approves Flexibility Needed for Successful Implementation of State Strategies to Improve Student Learning




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