25 July 2004
Of jackboots and blue pencils
The Oklahoman doesn't carry Doonesbury, which doesn't bother me much; should I need to read Garry Trudeau's strip, the Oklahoma Gazette carries a week's worth every Wednesday.
Meanwhile in Alabama, The Anniston Star is upset because Continental Features, which produces a prefab color Sunday comic section for the Star and thirty-seven other papers, is dropping Doonesbury. "This is wrong, offensive to First Amendment freedoms," says Star publisher H. Brandt Ayers.
"This is a business decision," replies Continental head Van Wilkerson. "It doesn't have anything to do with personalities or Garry Trudeau or Doonesbury or anything else."
Which is not entirely true, since it was Doonesbury's May cartoon about a university president's head on a silver platter, which arrived about the same time as word of the beheading of Nicholas Berg in Iraq, which prompted complaints from some of Continental's subscribing papers. Continental polled its customers, and twenty-one out of thirty-six (two had no opinion) asked that the strip be discontinued.
Nor is it true, as Ayers insists, that this is some sort of First Amendment issue. No one is blocking the Star from carrying the strip; it simply won't be conveniently packaged with the rest of their Sunday comics. The daily Doonesbury, which was never distributed by Continental in this package, continues to appear in the Star; the paper will strike a deal with Universal Press Syndicate to pick up the Sunday strip, which will appear elsewhere in the Sunday edition perhaps the op-ed page.
I do, however, agree with Garry Trudeau's assessment of the situation:
Obviously editors have to be responsive to reader complaints. But a newspaper that only prints content that yields no complaints is not a newspaper I'd care to read.
(I note that this is the second piece today where I've had something to say about a newspaper named Star.)
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