Jen Sorensen looks back at 2021
I hope this finds you safe, healthy, and sipping a winter warmer before a crackling fire. There are several AAEC matters to discuss, so I’ll get right down to business.
First, I wanted to let you know about a decision I have reached after much consideration: I will be stepping down as President at the end of this year. Please understand that this is not due to any sort of personal conflict or disagreement. I have found the AAEC board, staff, and membership to be overwhelmingly helpful and supportive during my tenure. The fact is, I have lost several clients due to the pandemic, and I very much need to turn my attention to my own work. Rest assured this decision has not been an easy one. But I have already served five non-consecutive years — as President, President-Elect, Vice President a few years before that, and director for two years before that.
For many years, the cartoonists who served as AAEC President served a one-year term. Not long ago that term was lengthened to two years. According to our by-laws, as explained by our Parliamentarian Scott Burns, the board selects a replacement if a President steps down before the two-year term is up. I’m happy to announce that Kevin Necessary has graciously agreed to serve as President for the remainder of my term, with the board’s enthusiastic approval. I’ve been impressed with Kevin’s thoughtful dedication to our craft, and am confident he will be an excellent steward of our organization. I will remain available as his informal adviser. The President-Elect selected via our current elections will join the board in 2022 and take office as President in 2023.
I also want to update everyone on the website. For those of you who missed the announcement at the Zoomfest happy hour, fixing the site has been a mundane but urgent necessity this year, as the membership database (which includes our ability to track and accept dues payments and process applications) was not working as advertised. The site also suffered from highly problematic code that was making it difficult to update, and the cartoon posting process was extremely cumbersome, as many of you know. Earlier this year I wrote a letter to the Herb Block Foundation requesting permission to redirect funds from their multi-year grant (that would normally go towards an in-person convention) to fixing the website. They kindly approved the request. I’d like to publicly thank the Foundation again here for their generosity and flexibility.
The AAEC has contracted with a firm to make these much-needed repairs once and for all. The company, Uncle Jake Media, is currently working on the membership database and cleaning up bad code, with further improvements to come. They also worked tirelessly to secure the site and move it to a new server during a DDoS attack in September. We were forced to migrate a vast quantity of image files to less-expensive storage. I expect the AAEC will have discussions about the future of the cartoon gallery in the coming year.
While we have funding for much of this work, as an extra budgetary precaution (and because we did not have an in-person gathering to commemorate) we have decided not to publish the Notebook this year. I have been a staunch defender of keeping an annual edition of the Notebook in print and would like to see it return next year, especially if we are able to hold some sort of in-person convention. I’m leaving the presidency with the AAEC financially in the black, but please, for the organization’s sake and that of the future president, continue to pay your dues!
A few other items of note as we look back at 2021: I’d like to thank Eric Shansby and JP Trostle for their efforts earlier this year to vastly improve the design of the AAEC front page, which is now mobile-friendly and more professional in appearance.
I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to work with Terry Anderson and CRNI and amplify their messages about cartoonists suffering human rights abuses around the world. We also lent support to our Australian colleagues via a statement after Facebook temporarily shut down all media organizations’ pages in the country.
Our spring Zoom gathering with the ACC was fun and well-attended. Our statement criticizing the Pulitzer board’s decision to not give the award to any cartoonist this year received an overwhelmingly positive response. And I was blown away by the conversations at our virtual convention, which you can still watch on Youtube. We spoke with this year’s Pulitzer finalists, hosted a roundtable on staying motivated in difficult times, and featured a one-on-one interview between Kal Kallaugher and Keith Knight about the second season of “Woke” on Hulu. I owe an extra round of thanks to our legal panelists, who gave us a fascinating discussion about possible threats to the First Amendment protections of parody (keep an eye on NYT v. Sullivan). Our business manager Kelsey Maher deserves applause for facilitating this event as well as other meetings throughout the year.
Being President has been a welcome excuse to socialize with other cartoonists, and I’ve sincerely enjoyed the enthusiasm of some of our newer members. It’s been an honor to serve an organization that has benefited me over the years. Please give Kevin Necessary a friendly virtual fist bump as he slides into the executive chair.
AAEC President 2021