In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 114 million people lost their jobs. The Omaha World-Herald's full-time cartoonist Jeffery Koterba was one of them. After 31 years in the newsroom, his job was eliminated in September 2020 due to cost-cutting measures. What was originally a heartbreaking moment has turned into a long-awaited opportunity for Koterba to build his own independent platform. Jeffery Koterba sits in his studio at the Pottawattomie Arts Center. Koterba uses this space to paint, sketch and package prints. “This new life is a tweaking of who I am or who I was. I put all of myself into working at the newspaper and made over 12,000 cartoons. When they kicked me out the door, I had no chance to say thank you or goodbye to readers,” Koterba said.
Koterba stands in front of his first pandemic cartoon and laughs. “At first I thought ‘Oh, I guess I’ll be drawing about this for a couple of days,’” Koterba said. The pandemic has been a subject in his cartoons for almost two years now.
Koterba sketches Russian President Vladimir Putin on his iPad. He believes that the world needs journalists and satirists more than ever in a world that has “seemingly gone mad.” Koterba’s work is fact based and inspired by current political issues. “I get my ideas from not only reading the news, but by paying attention to what people are talking about and what they care about,” Koterba said.
Koterba sips his coffee while looking at his past work. He smiles at a cartoon he made at the start of the pandemic. “I certainly poke fun when necessary—at those from across the political spectrum. But I also try to bring a little joy, too, by commenting on the stuff that we humans must face on a regular basis, especially in these trying times,” Koterba said.
Koterba scrolls through his Patreon profile on his iPad. “I immediately launched this page on Patreon and had four or five thousand people reach out looking for me. I now have a few hundred people subscribing to me on Patreon which is a fraction of what I was making, but it is allowing me to at least draw every week,” Koterba said. His work continues to be syndicated to other newspapers as well as shared on his nationwide Patreon page.