For the record (before I get too drunk): Fantagraphics is the only company that I've stayed with for more than two years... and not coincidentally, the first people for whom I've worked that I've respected from beginning to end. I'm not surprised at being laid off -- if anything, I'm grateful that Gary Groth held out as long as he did before letting me go. Gary and Kim Thompson are two of the coolest people I've ever met, and it's been my privilege to have drawn a paycheck from them. No regrets: The last ten years have kicked ass. I've done great things and meet interesting people, and was paid it. How great is that? Working for Fantagraphics, editing The Comics Journal and running its website have added meaning to my life that I'll cherish forever. Kim, Gary, Kristy, Michael, Adam and everyone else: Thank you. I'll go to my grave thankful to have met and worked with you. (Please forgive the spelling mistakes, etc. Next up: more beer!)
Deppey's ¡Journalista! has been essentially just a link blog, but he A) always managed to find cool and obscure news items that fly under the radar of most folks and B) showcased a love for comics as a medium and not just a handful of creators or characters. Yes, he was definitely opinionated and some of his observations and arguments would rub people the wrong way, but he would always acknowledge others' opinions, even if he didn't agree with them.
¡Journalista! has been at the top of my comic news reading list every morning for several years now, and I know I'll be sorry to see it go. For what it's worth, thanks, Dirk, and best of luck.
Interestingly, last night I was also contacted by long-time reader Ian Adams of TradeReadingOrder.com, a site I was previously unaware of. Though it has no designs on replacing ¡Journalista! there's still a kind of weird symmetry that I learn of it just as Deppey is stepping down. Adams was actually asking for some advice, but also pointed out that they're running a cool contest right now to win a set of Batman: No Man’s Land volumes 1-5. Since entry is little more than registering with the site, it's definitely worth a look!
What strikes me here is the change that's been something of an undercurrent with comic news reporters lately. Back in February, Heidi MacDonald moved The Beat to it's own independent venue, and long-time Pulse stalwart Jen Contino was let go. Publishers seem to be less concerned with what's on their websites -- as it pertains to news, at least -- and sending notes out via Twitter. In fact, some publishers do little beyond re-tweeting what their own creators are saying.
The common thread, as I see it, is something of a return to the 1960s and early 1970s, where fans were sending out newsletters and fanzines, focusing on smaller and more personal aspects of the medium as a whole. Before Wizard and CBG and Amazing Heroes and Comics Feature, there were mimeographed, typewritten pages and occasionally a photocopied page or two stapled into the bulk of an APA. It wasn't about nailing the interview with the popular creators or regurgitating publisher press releases; it was about whatever the heck an individual wanted to write about.
I'ved noted before how I think journalism is moving further away from the traditional paid-journalists-for-larger-media-outlets model and more towards interested folks with passion. These minor shake-ups, while certainly sped up by the recession, only serve to confirm the direction I think news is heading. It's less about serving the masses -- the approach still generally used by Newsarama and CBR -- and more about catering to a more select group. Don't get me wrong; I've got nothing against those sites or others like them. I just don't think that's where comics journalism is going.
What makes a site like, say, Comics Reporter, interesting isn't that it tries to cover everything comics. It's that it has a a definite voice and opinion as it relates to comics. I visit CR regularly because I like a lot of what Tom Spurgeon points to and comments on. Not everything, certainly, but a good chunk of it. It's Spurgeon's voice I want to hear in this broad discussion of comicdom, and that's why I visit his site.
The "danger" here is that, just as a guy like Deppey can lose his job, a guy like Spurgeon can grow tired or disinterested. If his returns -- financial or emotional or creative -- drop too low, he can easily stop and walk away. And despite whatever sense of entitlement readers have, there's really no recourse but to search around to find others' voices that are interesting or insightful.
It's difficult. We're moving towards a knowledge economy and the transition is not going to be easy. Scarcity of resources is going to be less of an issue than a scarcity of original and clever ideas. We're not there yet, by any means; I don't think we're going to be bartering using Whuffie any time soon. But cultural capital is the currency of the future. Welcome, once again, to the 21st century.