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October 10, 2008

Akron's Chip Bok Accepts Buyout


The last day for Chip Bok after 22 years at the Akron Beacon-Journal will be October 13. One of the more prominent editorial cartoonists in the U.S, Bok accepted a buyout, word of which was finally made official on Thursday, October 9. According to a post at The Daily Cartoonist, this was the third buyout offered to Beacon-Journal employees, an increasingly typical event as newspapers nationwide rush to reduce staff in order to better match existing advertising revenues, shifts to some sort of model that includes a more aggressive on-line component and to prepare for the future given well-known projections for declining readership as the current generation of readers gets even older.

Bok will continue doing cartoons for Creators Syndicate and work on other projects, according to Gardner's post.

Editor and Publisher notes a number of high-profile cartoonists taking a buyout or otherwise being shown the door: Stuart Carlson (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) Jim Borgman (Cincinnati Enquirer), Richard Crowson (Wichita Eagle), and Peter Dunlap-Shohl (Anchorage Daily News). There are now less than 80 full-time staffed cartoonist positions at US newspapers, a precipitous drop from 10 years ago and an even steeper decline from the all-time high.

A widely published cartoonist whose clients have included Time and Newsweek, Bok is featured on-line through the Cagle site and at He is syndicated by Creators. His blog is here.

Having come to Akron from a stint in Florida that included a run at the Clearwater Sun and illustrating Dave Barry's column, Bok joined Akron's staff in 1987. He won two NCS editorial cartoonist divisional awards in 1995 and 1999, a Fischetti award in 1988, the Berryman award in 1993 and several state Associated Press honors. He was on the Pulitzer finalist list in 1997, and has published two collection through the University of Akron Press.

From his drawing board at the Akron Beacon Journal, Chip Bok has won two National Cartoonists Society awards for Best Editorial Cartoonist (1995, 1999). He was a Pulitzer finalist in 1997. Other awards include the Fischetti Award (1988), National Press Foundation Berryman award (1993), H.L. Mencken Award (1993), and four Ohio A.P. Awards (1992, 1996, 1999, 2000).

The husband and father of four returned recently from a cartoonists' USO tour to this most recent buyout offer.

Now, clearly with that kind of resume, we're no longer talking about a few people losing their jobs here and there as a historical consequence and a slide down the charts in value and talent, but a full-on endangerment of staff positions being taken away from all but maybe a dozen cartoonists. Although even then, I would have thought Bok one of those cartoonists -- a well-regarded national figure working at a local paper whose prestige, frankly, was greater than that of his employer. Bok is talented enough that he should find a career in syndication, but that's become an increasingly crowded fields whose rewards are limited because of the number of people competing for that money and those slots, some of which have used their full-time staff positions to allow themselves to accept syndication money at a price less than that that might sustain them at a certain client level.

There's a point at which this is no longer a profession but a quirky job, like driving a Zamboni or being the guy who does a blog about amusement park rides. I'm not certain we've reached the tipping point, but if you can't envision this steamrolling into an extinction event in the next half-decade, you're probably not trying hard enough. I think this would be an immeasurable loss to American journalism and cartooning. If you have a cartoonist in your paper you like to any extent at all, show them support. Maybe think about writing a letter to the publisher thanking them for that hire. Because honestly? I'm not sure I have any other ideas except to suggest everyone hold on, dig in, and hope.

I admire this recent cartoon.
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink

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