PUNGO — Farmer, writer and artist Rick Friday, whose cartoons appear in The Independent News, made national news last year after a cartoon criticizing salaries of Big Ag executives angered an advertiser of Farm News, which canned him. Readers got mad. Farm News got him back. And I reached out to introduce a small newspaper in Virginia.
The slogan of our paper is “always local, always free,” but we have this exception to the local bit. Friday lives in Iowa, but what matters to me is that he is a kindred spirit to people we serve in rural communities. Friday is a skilled observer and artist, but he is, at heart, a farmer who captures stories with wit and humanity from that perspective.
Friday and I spoke by phone this past month to talk about the illustration on the cover and his work. He grew up on a 300 acre farm in southern Iowa, and began drawing as a child, even selling his work on the school bus. This sometimes led to trouble for schoolhouse doodles, but punishment did not stop him. “You can’t slap a hog for rooting in the dirt,” Friday noted.
The fifth-generation farmer began publishing his work in a local paper in 1993, trading a cartoon for a subscription. Others picked up his work. Within two years, he was an editorial cartoonist for Farm News. After his firing, Friday’s social media following grew to 6,000 people on Facebook, where he often posts work. “Then I’ll put a cartoon on there and drop a dozen followers,” he said.
The Lorimor, Iowa, resident writes for Countryside Magazine, as well as columns for The Afton Star-Enterprise, a community paper in Iowa. His columns sometimes feature his wife, Juanita, known to readers as The Great Juan. “When you come up missing, we’re not even going to ask why,” Friday said, explaining what some folks have told him after reading columns about his bride.
“I see myself now more as a writer and a cartoonist,” Friday said, though he still runs a family cattle farm. “Farming, it’s in my blood, I guess, but I think you have to be diversified.”
Cartooning, to Friday, is being part of a conversation with readers, not dominating them. “It provokes thoughts. I want to provoke their own opinion. I want to stimulate that. … It’s like a picture’s worth a thousand words. I want them to put their own words.”
You can follow him on social media or learn more through his website, fridaycartoons.com. Friday was kind enough to create of a cover image for the edition that went out during the Pungo Strawberry Festival in May — a vision of a Pungo light with a ripe, red berry. I love the image. I love Friday’s place in our paper. I love that our newspaper, with the help of skilled contributors, is part of what makes Pungo great.
Our Friday, May 26, edition marked our third time publishing during the annual Pungo Strawberry Festival, and The Independent News has been alive for more than two years and more than 50 editions.
The Independent News is a community newspaper published every other week by Pungo Publishing Co., LLC, for the communities of southern Virginia Beach and Knotts Island, N.C.
We take brief breaks in late July and late December. The print edition is delivered to about 200 locations, including places where you can get free copies, such as convenience stores, restaurants and businesses.
Contributors include established journalists, artists, photographers, poets and members of the community. I’ve published several writers for the first time, but all agree to ethical standards that value accuracy.
I started this newspaper to see whether a small newsgathering operations could survive. So far, we ain’t dead. We have social media accounts and a website, princessanneindy.com, but The Independent News is a print newspaper first. We pride ourselves on telling stores that aren’t being told elsewhere.
Please seek us out in print. Please advertise or be kind to the ones who pay our bills. Or simply share this newspaper. There has been great focus upon national media in recent months, but local journalism tells the stories that matter most to our lives.
We value journalism. In two years, we have earned recognition for our storytelling, reporting and photography. This includes a special award of our agriculture coverage from the Virginia Beach Excellence in Agriculture Committee and awards for writing and photography from the Virginia Press Association.
Our stories matter. We need to tell them. Those who help do this buy in to that ideal, often for very little in return.
Thanks for reading our little paper.
© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC