As one of the more popular blogs for comics pros, Alan Gardner's The Daily Cartoonist bills itself as "the source for industry news for the professional cartoonist."
What Gardner does not want his blog to be is the source for industry spewing -- the sniping, griping and ad-hominem attacks of the professional cartoonist.
To that end, Gardner announced today that he will be shutting down the comments section of The Daily Cartoonist -- no minor decision given the frequency and fervor of the site's heated comment threads.
"I became increasingly worried that the reputation of The Daily Cartoonist was becoming driven by those participating in the comment section," Gardner tells Comic Riffs. "The Daily Cartoonist was no longer being perceived as a place for industry news for professional cartoonists, but a place for professional cartoonists to come and argue like 11th-graders.
"I decided in order to regain control of the blog and its voice in the comics community, I need to shut down the comments."
Gardner says that he created TDC five years ago to try to understand "where comics were heading" -- especially syndicated comic strips and editorial cartoons -- and that for the first three years, his blog fostered a positive reputation in the comics community. But for the past two years, the commenters' venting and vitriol had become more common and less civil.
"The direction of The Daily Cartoonist has been an ever-present thought for the last six months, becoming more acute since October when I normally do my donation drive," Gardner tells 'Riffs. "I knew something was going to have to change and I didn't want to be accused of bait and switch -- taking people's money and then changing direction or transforming the blog into something they didn't like. It's taken me longer to articulate what to do with the blog than I anticipated."
On any given day, The Daily Cartoonist typically offers an engaging range of short news items and links to informative industry developments, compelling cartoonist profiles and comics-world announcements. Some posts have famously careened into long back-and-forth comment threads over, say, the business models of syndication vs. independent webcomics. Or a creator defending his or her work (last month, for example, Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist Steve Benson tirelessly took on all critics of his Tucson-shooting cartoons in comments that stretched over seven days before Gardner capped the thread.)
In announcing that he's shutting all comments "for now," Gardner articulates a clear vision for TDC, including a site redesign that will "redirect the discussion out" to where his readers socialize online, such as Facebook and Twitter.
"The focus in the future will still be news but an added component of promoting artists of all stripes -- not just newspaper-based cartoonists, which has been the core focus to date," says Gardner, a Utah-based designer/developer who has created political cartoons for such clients as the Idaho State Journal, Salt Lake City's Deseret News and the Utah Statesman.
"I'm hoping by removing comments, it allows for more energy to write more original content and time in the evenings to do something radically different: Draw more cartoons instead of blogging about them."
Update: Numerous cartoonists commented today on The Daily Cartoonist that they supported Gardner's decision.
" I'm in [Gardner's] corner on this. I learned long ago, through very difficult personal trails, that life is too short to put up with things you don't have to," wrote syndicated sports cartoonist Drew Litton. He added about Gardner: "You made the right decision here, I admire you for doing so and I look forward to the new format and the great stuff you provide us everyday."
And MAD cartoonist Tom Richmond commented: "I will also miss the occasional insightful and civil discourse, but I totally respect [and understand] your decision."
"Creating a sense of community is the key to a successful website," Rall tells Comic Riffs. "Of course it takes time and work to moderate comments. But if you don't do it, what you end up with is dullsville. So I think Alan is making a big mistake."
Rall continues: "This exposes a shortcoming of the blog model. Individual bloggers with day jobs don't have the financial incentive to babysit a website. Which is why they can never replace an old-fashioned, well-funded news organization.
"I do appreciate the work Alan has put into Daily Cartoonist. Albeit briefly, he helped create a missing sense of community among cartoonists. It's a shame it's coming to an end."