Brian Duffy speaks on life after Register

by Kati HerrStaff Writer

On Thursday, Sept. 16, former Des Moines Register editorial cartoonist Brian Duffy came to Simpson College to discuss changes being made in the newspaper industry.

The Iowa History Center sponsored the forum event as part of its fall program.

In his presentation entitled “How to Escape Being the Canary in the Coal Mine,” Duffy explained how he has been able to survive in the changing field as an editorial cartoonist.

He said the newspaper business has been sliding as newspapers have begun to be seen as profit vehicles instead of sources of true journalism ethics.

Bill Friedricks, professor of history and director of the Iowa History Center, decided to bring Duffy to Simpson because his work has been a trademark in the media for so many years.

“He is one of our leading editorial cartoonists who, over the years, has made readers laugh and cry as well as think and rethink their assumptions and views on important issues of the day,” Friedricks said.

The make-up of the audience was a testament to Duffy’s popularity. Students and professors were joined at the event by local residents, including former Iowa governor Robert Ray.

Duffy spent a portion of his presentation showing samples of his work and describing what makes a good editorial cartoon.

“A cartoon should be a visual punch in the face,” Duffy said.

Duffy said drawing is actually the boring part of the cartooning process, but new technology has allowed him to keep an interest and has helped fuel his creative process. Through the use of computer drawing programs Duffy has found a new interest in animated editorial cartoons. This new platform records the actually drawing process, allowing viewers to watch the cartoon being created. He is able to add sound effects as well. These cartoons are run by KCCI-TV (Channel 8).

Duffy’s interest in cartooning began when he was in elementary school where he would draw caricatures of his teachers in class. He had an interest in politics, economics and history, and taught himself to combine these interests in the art of editorial cartooning.

In 1983, Duffy’s work began to be published on the front page of the Des Moines Register. He recently was laid off after 25 years.

“Was it a shock to me to no longer be in that position?” Duffy said. “Yes.”

But he didn’t let being laid off hinder him. Today, Duffy continues to draw editorial cartoons for CityView and KCCI-TV, maintains a Web page and has his cartoons syndicated in newspapers across the country.

Duffy said he often has to resort to “forced creativity” when thinking of ideas for cartoons.

“You can’t be a temperamental artist in the journalism business,” Duffy said.

Duffy expressed his hope that newspapers will become more locally independent and will move away from the big company ownerships. He suggested that students interested in journalism get internships with newspapers that are owned by smaller local businesses because those are the medium he believes will most likely become prominent again.

Duffy said that Internet operations such as Facebook and Twitter are great ways to get connected. He also suggested blogging as a way to get ideas out in the public eye.

“Ideas and talents are like fingerprints-everyone has them and all are unique,” Duffy said.