San Antonio Paper Axes Conservative Cartoonist, Keeps Liberal One

August 21st, 2007 3:33 PM

For a long time, the San Antonio Express-News was unique, not in its predictably liberal editorial page or in its port-skewing news coverage. No, instead, it was one of the few American newspapers to have two editorial cartoonists, one liberal and one conservative.

That is no longer the case. Under pressure to cut jobs and staff in the midst of the overall decline of print media, Express-News editorial page editor Bruce Davidson decided that the paper should drop conservative cartoonist Leo Garza, a fixture at the paper for over 20 years. Liberal cartoonist John Branch will remain on the staff.

You'd think that given the Express-News's posture of demanding accountability from government and (other) businesses, that it would be consistent and respect the "public's right to know" what prompted this politically charged decision. Alas, no such explanation seems in the offing for us plebs.

Looking for such an explanation, I spotted a column from Davidson announcing Garza's termination which gave no explanation whatsoever. Similarly, EN "public editor" Bob Richter did little to explain this decision to the public, stating that Garza was "simply a victim of the numbers" without any explanation for why Branch wasn't terminated as well. After all, wouldn't the Express-News save more by firing all its cartoonists like the Los Angeles Times has?

Hoping to find some sort of explanation, I emailed Davidson thinking that maybe he just had not been asked why the political disparity. His email was similarly useless:

Keeping Branch instead of Leo was judgment call we had to make. I'll refrain from a line-by-line comparison. But I will tell you it was not easy, but it was about the numbers. It was not about Leo's politics. You, of course, will be skeptical. I understand that, but I'm telling you the unfortunate truth.

I emailed back the following and have yet to receive a response. I'm not exactly holding my breath for one:

A "judgment call?" "About the numbers?" What does that mean? You provide no specifics which gives you no credibility.

Don't you find it the least bit hypocritical that you are refusing to disclose your decision-making process when you routinely publish editorials demanding that government and other businesses do just that? How are you doing anything but using the "unfettered power" (your phrase for the Bush White House) you have over your editorial page without having the respect for the public opinion to explain yourself?

You owe it to the public to explain your actions with more than peremptory phrases and dismissive language, especially as a member of our self-appointed "fourth estate."