Speaking truth to power costs Iowa farmer a job

This cartoon got a guy fired from Farm News last week.


It wasn’t that the cartoon was wrong, cartoonist Rick Friday writes on Facebook. But there’s danger in speaking truth to power, and in thinking that the game isn’t rigged.

Again, I fall hard in the best interest of large corporations. I am no longer the Editorial Cartoonist for Farm News due to the attached cartoon which was published yesterday. Apparently a large company affiliated with one of the corporations mentioned in the cartoon was insulted and cancelled their advertisement with the paper, thus, resulting in the reprimand of my editor and cancellation of It’s Friday cartoons after 21 years of service and over 1090 published cartoons to over 24,000 households per week in 33 counties of Iowa.

I did my research and only submitted the facts in my cartoon.

That’s okay, hopefully my children and my grandchildren will see that this last cartoon published by Farm News out of Fort Dodge, Iowa, will shine light on how fragile our rights to free speech and free press really are in the country.

The New York Times reports today that Mr. Friday has been hard to get ahold off. He’s a farmer and there isn’t much time to talk to big-city reporters.

But it persisted.

As with the others, he had sketched the offending cartoon at his kitchen table. Then, as always, he scanned it, emailed it off to an editor and asked for confirmation that it had been received. It had been.

Usually, Mr. Friday said, he receives a reply with typical editor feedback. An apostrophe goes here or a word is spelled wrong there, he said. But the cartoon was published online, with little else said.

But on Saturday, an email from a news editor landed in his inbox. Mr. Friday, quoting the email, said that the cartoon “had caused a storm here” and that “in the eyes of some, big agriculture cannot be criticized or poked fun at.”

He was told his run with the Farm News, for which he said he had been paid “embarrassingly low” wages on a freelance basis, was over, per instructions from the publisher.

“But someone complained about it, and this is the philosophy I use when I explained it to my children: They were being fed by two hands,” Mr. Friday told the Times.

“They knew they had to chose one, and they chose the hand that they knew would hurt the least,” he said. “After 21 years, that is what really bothered me.”

Farm News didn’t return the Times’ call for reaction.