Shortsighted Observer found wanting

February 22, 2010 in Comment

Bloghorn_cartoonists © for the UK Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation
The UK’s Observer newspaper relaunched with a “new look” yesterday, and to ensure publicity it grabbed the headlines with a story about the alleged workplace bullying of the Prime Minister. But the revamp also brought with it another controversy: it ditched cartoons.

Gone are the funny and colourful spot cartoons by Robert Thompson, which were once scattered throughout the paper. Gone too is Andy Riley‘s funny strip Roasted, which had been poking fun at the foibles of modern life in the Observer Magazine since 2002.

In addition to editorial survivor Chris Riddell, the paper will each week feature a cartoon drawn for another newspaper from somewhere else in the world. Bloghorn suspects this art will be sourced from an agency which means lower costs for the impoverished newspaper. We think it’s both cheaper and cheerless.

Bloghorn believes this is not good news for British cartoonists, or the readership of The Observer.

People like a laugh, it’s a given, particularly for a Sunday title published on a day that’s supposed to be about putting your feet up and forgetting the woes of the week for a few moments.

Dropping cartoons is undoubtedly a quick cost-cutting measure for a newspaper that was recently staring closure in the face. But Bloghorn believes it is confused thinking.

Other newspapers understand the power of cartoons: The Telegraph knows it needs Matt and The Daily Mail made sure they got a replacement sharpish when Ken Mahood retired recently.

Why has the Observer been so short-sighted? Please dive in and tell us in the comments below.

7 responses to Shortsighted Observer found wanting

  1. A sad day. The Observer is committing suicide by destroying one of the reasons people look at the paper. The cartoons were exclusive, unique content that helped drive circulation to the paper and traffic to the site. Purchasing a one-a-week rerun cartoon is no replacement.

  2. Roasted is the UK’s funniest weekly strip, and Robert Thompson one of the finest gag cartoonists around. The Observer is nuts.

  3. A bit like eating the seed-corn, really. There are still publications which haven’t lost touch with the public’s appreciation of good cartoon content (I work for some of them) but it seems, more and more, that the accountants see our contributions as an easy target for a quick fix and are determined to live up to their generalised image of a humourless profession.

  4. The re-run idea was used in the Grauniad for a while, until Martin Rowson re-took the Saturday morning slot for home-grown talent. It’s interesting to see views from overseas cartoonists (albeit second-hand), but there is nothing quite like original indigenous comment. So sad to see Robert Thompson’s gags disappear – he is one of the very best gag cartoonists around. Good to see Blower is still hanging in there online with his rather innovative “livedraw” cartoons.

    It does seem short-sighted; the one thing which differentiates a paper from another is unique, original talent (journalism, photography, cartoons).

  5. Agree with the above comments; a good cartoonist can help define a newspaper’s identity. Look at how the Telegraph and Matt have become synonymous. Whereas The Times has lost part of its appeal with Pugh moving to the Mail. Some papers get it, others don’t.

  6. Robert Thompson is a class act. Love his work. Disappointing is an understatement.

  7. Noel Ford is correct. It is all down to the bean-counters. They look down a list of who’s paid what and then put a red line through the cartoonist. Papers are more and more like this – no creativity or inspiration – just saving money. If the accountants at the Telegraph had not heard of Matt (from someone else – they wouldn’t get him) he wouldn’t be there…

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