Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

December 3, 2007

I Can Simply Log On To

Alan Gardner I think noticed this article from Cincinnati Post managing editor Keith Herrell about his perspective on the comics page, having been before his current position the editor of the section at his paper carrying the comics. It's good for a lot of reasons, including his articulation of a negative view of Classic Peanuts, which is something I've heard in conversation but not yet read in print. Where your attention might see the most reward is in taking in his comments about Doonesbury, from which we can infer the paper is dropping that feature December 31. First is a nod towards how happy Herrell was 25 to be working on a paper that carried Doonesbury, which is reminder of how passionately that feature was viewed for its first decade and a half in particular -- people forget that about Garry Trudeau's strip, and of course it seems absurd now. The second is his throwaway line that once it leaves his paper he can still read it every day at

I don't think that an on-line presence of a strip has worked against a strip directly and for the bulk of its readership. What I wonder if it's starting to have an impact in one particular way: as an out aimed to negotiate against the objections of hardcore fans. Individual strips count on passionate fans reacting to their being dropped in order to maintain their position, for example when Zippy was famously dropped in San Francisco or several times during Doonesbury's first years where papers were convinced by that feature's young fans they would not be pleased by its absence. If devoted fans can be assured of reading the feature on-line, will they have the same passion in seeing that it maintains a slot in their local paper? That seemed to me an underplayed lesson from the Houston Chronicle dropping a page of comics, too: and diverting criticism via assurances the reader would still get a chance to see their favorites on-line. Combined with the dominance of one-paper towns over the last 30 years, I can see a lot of papers taking a shot at reducing their number of comics features in the next five years, and using this angle of rhetoric to soften the blow by reducing the ultimate worry of a traditional force that kept features in papers.

UPDATED: Okay, about ten of you just wrote to point out that the Post is ceasing publication, not just dropping Doonesbury. I'll leave this up because I think the general principle still applies, and that this would be apparent if I had been not-dumb enough to have selected a better example. One thing: it should be interesting to see if remaining papers pick up the Post strips with the speed and certainty they might have 25 years ago.
posted 1:14 am PST | Permalink

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