Why Tony Auth is leaving the Philadelphia Inquirer

Why did longtime Philadelphia Inquirer editorial cartoonist Tony Auth decide to leave the paper and join WHYY’s NewsWorks?

“I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that I’m tired of doing five political cartoons a week,” he tells Romenesko readers. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I’m just interested now in doing the cartoons that last longer, as opposed to the ones you look back at a year later and think, What was that about?”

Tony Auth

He adds: “I’m looking forward to the future” as digital artist in residence at NewsWorks. (About that job title: “I made that up.”) “I have nothing but affection for the Inquirer and everybody there. …People who aren’t in newspapers would say, ‘Oh you can work at home!’ Why in the world would I work at home when can go to a newspaper like the Inquirer that’s filled with irreverent, smart and ambitious people? It’s hard to convey to people who don’t know newspapers what an joyful and exhilarating environment a newspaper is.”

Auth says he’s been talking with NewsWorks news boss and former Inquirer editorial page editor Chris Satullo about a possible job for a couple of years. “This is not an overnight thing,” says Auth.

I asked Satullo about bringing Auth to NewsWorks. He writes in an email:

My recollection is that Tony said wistfully one time, when things were bad at 400 N. Broad St., that it would be good to work together again. We blue-skyed for a moment or two about what he could do for Newsworks.

I think it was then that I concocted the “digital artist in residence” concept.

We spent maybe six months on fund-raising and waiting for the time to be ripe for him to leave.

Here’s a slightly edited (by Sutello) version of the memo sent to NewsWorks staffers:

Well, as things will do when you try to keep secrets around journalists, word got out today that Tony Auth, the Pultizer- (and every other award) winning cartoonist at the Inquirer is leaving the paper as part of this round of layoffs/buyouts.

And he’s coming here, to serve as “digital artist in residence” for NewsWorks and WHYY.

This is an enormous coup for us, and it has already generated buzz. My phone is ringing every few minutes with reporters seeking comment.

We got a grant from the Skelton Harrison Foundation to support the initiative, which came in Friday.

I was just working on details of the deal with Tony and folks upstairs when that pesky Romenesko broke the news today.

To clarify, Tony will NOT be doing political cartoons, at least on national topics, for us. He’ll continue to do three of those a week for the Universal Syndicate.

He’s coming here to have adventures and experiments in digital story-telling that he never could at Philly.com.

We will sometimes send him out on stories with you guys just as we would our videographers and photographers … and the Web slideshow with your story would be his drawings, rather than a video or slideshow.

He’ll do his own audio slideshows to tell stories.

He’ll do observational and slice of life drawings.

And he’ll be avaibable to do illustrations to stories and essays where appropriate.

I can also see him doing cartoons on local issues, where the take is non-partisan.

Probably the very best idea for how to use his enormous skills has not occurred to any of us, because it will emerge from the process of doing what we do.

What you should know is that Tony is very, very excited to be coming here, because he senses in our newsroom and in all of you the kind of energy and passion to be great that used to hum through 400 N. Broad back in the papers’ glory days.

Chris

* Inquirer: Tony Auth leaving Inquirer after 40 years
* NewsWorks: Tony Auth coming to NewsWorks
* “I had come to the conclusion that I wanted to move on”

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