“When cartoonists attack!” Next on FOX.

Wiley Miller—the cartoonist behind Non-Sequitur—was one of the cartoonists who laid into Scott Kurtz about his venture to supply PVP for free to newspapers. In Miller’s professional opinion, Kurtz was ignorant of newspapers and newspaper editors as well as syndicates and syndication and Kurtz couldn’t even hope to pay editors to run his strip let alone give it away for free. Not that the editors got away unscathed as Miller apparently feels they make decisions devoid of logic and common sense. Miller didn’t offer much more of his valuable wisdom once Kurtz himself got into the discussion on the ToonTalk thread, at least not during the time I was actually paying attention to it, but it appears that the issue is still on his mind. At least it appears to be based on yesterday’s Non-Sequitur:

The cartoon is amusing if only because it reveals Miller’s own ignorance. The idea that how many page views your website gets is irrelevant seems to be a common view among the cartoonists that have been critical of Kurtz’s idea, but that’s often one of the biggest determining factors used by advertisers when deciding whether or not to put ads on a particular web page. It also factors into what page rank your site is assigned by various search engines including Google. You can get a pretty good estimate of the size of your audience from it and a consistently high amount of page views is considered an indication of the popularity of a particular website which can lead to recognition and interest from the more traditional forms of media.

For example, bloggers were invited by a couple of the news organizations to cover the election primaries for the first time ever this year. This wasn’t because the bloggers who got invited had proven themselves as credible journalists, but because their blogs were popular. There were plenty of professional journalists who reacted to this event the same way many of the syndicated cartoonists reacted to Kurtz’s plan: Indignation, condescension, and long rants about how the bloggers didn’t have a clue what it meant to be a “real” journalist and the fact that they have a high page view count doesn’t mean they should have been invited to participate alongside the professionals. Much like the Kurtz uproar, some of the comments from the journalists were valid and some were ignorant. Quite a few of the comments from the pros were clearly driven by concern for their own profession becoming less valued. If folks are willing to accept some random idiot spouting off on his blog as a viable source of good information then what will become of the professional journalist? Certainly there are more than a few bloggers out there who consider their efforts on par with anything produced by the pros and in some cases that might actually be the case, but it’s also true that a lot of them are the hacks the pros accuse them of being.

What isn’t debatable, however, is the fact that a lot of people are paying attention to them and the traditional media is taking notice as a result. Clearly page views can and do mean something to the folks who make the decisions and more than one person has achieved no small amount of fame simply for having a popular website. Whether that fact is a good or bad thing is open for debate, but it remains true just the same. Miller’s comic shows that Kurtz may not be the only cartoonist demonstrating his ignorance.

6 thoughts on ““When cartoonists attack!” Next on FOX.

  1. As with any arena in which free is being set up against for-pay (software, comics, journalism, music, etc.), the first reaction is that “there can’t be anybody good in the free arena.”  This lasts a while until things shake out and it becomes apparent that there are statistically speaking just as many “good” providers and “bad” providers on both sides of the fence. 

    I don’t think the “for-pay” folks are worried about quality as such.  I think they’re worried about popularity and the wider potential exposure the free folks get.  And possibly the idea that the ones on the Internet getting exposure now didn’t have to “pay their dues” like the conventional ones did.

  2. Yes, it is.  And I’m disappointed that its talented creator apparently feels the need to use it for petty sniping.

  3. If the majority of “professional” journalists were responsible and credible, then they would have no reason to fear the “unprofessional” journalists (bloggers).  The media journalists’ have only themselves to blame for the severe decline in the quality of their reporting and the popular opinion of them.

    If the majority of “professional” cartoonists made good cartoons – because, let’s face it, crap like Beetle Bailey and Family Circus has long since ceased to be funny or high quality work – then they would have no reason to fear the “unprofessional” cartoonists (webcomic creators).  The appallingly bad quality of an overwhelming majority of syndicated comics can only be blamed on those syndicated cartoonists themselves (along with, admittedly, the syndicates’ much lower standards).  Comics such as Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, Walt Kelly’s Pogo, and Breathed’s Bloom County combined quality work with quick wit and wonderful humor – something that today is only consistently matched by a collection of webcomics such as Abrams’ Sluggy Freelance and Burlew’s The Order of the Stick.

    Cartoonists and journalists should simply live up to the standards that used to be required of them.  Then they would have no need to quash the “minor leaguers,” because – by virtue of both being professional and delivering quality work – they would rightfully be placed above them.


  4. The problem that Miller, et. al. has is that the old way of becoming a successful cartoonist is eroding. It used to be that you pounded much pavement, got really lucky, and managed to land a gig for your work in a small newspaper. You then got really, really lucky and the majors picked you up. Oh, did I mention that you are never in control? Some fundie editor just has to say, “can’t show that buttcrack on Wally,” and even a powerhouse like Scott Adams has to concede (page down to ‘wise-crack’).  Web comix can do whatever they want and you can piss off if you don’t like it.

    So, Webbies have 1) total freedom, and 2) can publish at will. The pros don’t have that, not even close. All that sweat they expended to get where they are, and the prestige they had of being someone who “made it” doesn’t mean a pinch o’ owlshite from here on out. That is why they’re pissed.

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