Sunday, November 13, 2005

Has a Pulitzer, gets fired anyway

I thought winning the Pulitzer Prize was a guarantee of lifelong employment and untold riches. But the L.A. Times is firing political cartoonist Michael Ramirez (emphasis below is mine, especially on the word "discontinuing"). One thing you gotta give the Times credit for is letting the two fired guys be quoted. You don't see that happening very often:

In a major shake-up of its editorial pages, the Los Angeles Times announced Thursday that it was discontinuing one of its most liberal columnists as well as its conservative editorial cartoonist.

Editorial Page Editor Andrés Martinez said that Robert Scheer, a Times reporter for 17 years before he began writing a column on the Op-Ed pages in 1993, will be dropped. Cartoonist Michael Ramirez, The Times' cartoonist since 1997, will leave the paper at the end of the year and will not be replaced.


Scheer and Ramirez said Thursday that they believed their strong political stances played a role in their dismissals.

Scheer said he thought The Times had grown tired of his liberal politics. "I've been a punching bag for Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh for years and I think the paper finally collapsed," he said. He said he and Ramirez "both had strong opinions and [I think] the owners think they can improve circulation by making the paper bland and safer."

Ramirez, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994, said: "I can't help but think it's also a philosophical parting of ways." He said he also believed his removal was partly due to budgetary concerns, as well as a desire to change the look of the editorial pages.

Ramirez's departure leaves The Times without a permanent staff editorial cartoonist. (Ramirez's predecessor, Paul Conrad, won three Pulitzer Prizes, two of them at The Times).

"You have a newspaper that has such a grand tradition of editorial cartooning," Ramirez said. "I think it makes a lesser product and I think the readers lose."


Ramirez's cartoons will continue to appear in The Times through December. After that, he said, his cartoons will continue to be syndicated by Copley News Service, which has distributed them since 1988.

I grew up with Paul Conrad's L.A. Times cartoons, and he formed and shaped my opinion of what a good editorial cartoon should be. There was a level of sophistication that was and is lacking in the work most other cartoonists -- and I had no idea because I only knew from Conrad, who won three Pulitzers.

And while I'm thinking about it, Paul Conrad is STILL drawing cartoons, but NOT for the L.A. Times. I'll have to look into the circumstances of his parting with the paper. Here's a particularly good example of Conrad's recent work and his Rosa Parks tribute.

Here's some of Ramirez's work. And Scheer's, which I confess I've never read. Was I the only person excited by Michael Kinsley's arrival and thunderous tenure (and then dismayed that it ended so quickly)?

But seriously folks, has a Pulitzer Prize winner ever been fired up until now? If so, I'd like to know.

And for those keeping score, the Daily News does employ a staff political cartoonist, Patrick O'Connor. You might've seen his GIANT BILLBOARD at the corner of Burbank Boulevard and Woodman Avenue a few months back.

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