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SF Chronicle discusses their comic selection

Executive Datebook Editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, David Wiegand, has written a column about how his paper is trying to find a suitable replacement for the vacationing Doonesbury. They’ve been running Darrin Bell’s Candorville and have received mostly positive feedback. The feedback has also revealed other interesting opinions about Lio, which features readers want out of the paper and how Candorville is perceived, racially speaking.

Mark Tatulli’s Lio continues to be decisive – either readers love or hate it. In this case, 80 percent of the Chronicle’s readers hated it.

Not citing numbers, the editor mentions that the feedback included requests to remove older features such as Blondie, Dennis the Menace and Peanuts.

Since the February cartoonists of color “sit in,” I’ve been looking for evidence of some kind of response. This one case doesn’t prove anything, as we don’t know the editor’s views before the “sit in,” but he shares with his readers that they are on the look out for a feature with diversity.

In the meantime, there’s Candorville, drawn by Darrin Bell. A few readers said or implied that one of the reasons they like it is because its lead characters are African American. That was one of the reasons we were first attracted to it, to be sure. We want to find strips that reflect the diversity of the Bay Area, but that’s easier said than done. For one thing, there are a lot of strips of every kind out there and you’d be surprised how few of them are very good, or funny, or even well-drawn. Several times a year, we’re visited by very nice people representing the comics syndicates and they all tell us how certain they are that some new strip will do well in our market. And several times a year, I look at them and wonder if they have any idea of what our market is. Or, in a few cases, what planet that market is on.

We’re going to continue to scout the horizon for new strips and, in fact, we’ve got a few in the bullpen already. Diversity will count heavily in our selection. So will quality. But if we find something new, it’s probable that the only way to bring it to you every morning is by eliminating something else. That’s where the tough choices come in, but we won’t make them without your participation.

Community Comments

#1 Mark Tatulli
April/17/2008
@ 10:14 am

Actually, Alan, (not to put to fine a point on the article), but it didn’t say that “80% of the Chronicle reader’s hate it.” That’s a misquote. The article said that they received 200 responses about an inquiry of whether readers liked/disliked CANDORVILLE…and of those received, “80 percent of those whose letters or e-mails cited the strip said they disliked Lio. The other 20 percent loved it. There was no middle ground.”

Hardly 80% of their readership. In fact, they might have received 10 letters that mentioned LIO, and of those 10, 8 said that disliked Lio.
And that’s how decisions are made at newspapers.

#2 Scott Metzger
April/18/2008
@ 5:46 pm

“Hardly 80% of their readership. In fact, they might have received 10 letters that mentioned LIO, and of those 10, 8 said that disliked Lio.
And thatâ??s how decisions are made at newspapers.”

So true.

And I bet “the other 20 percent” who like Lio are from the exact demographic The Chronicle wants to attract as readers.

#3 Eric Burke
April/18/2008
@ 7:19 pm

I bet the readers that hate Lio still read it for the same reason that people that hated Howard Stern still listened to him:
to hear what he said next!

Or in Lio’s case…what creepy thing he did next!

If it continues to give those perps a reason to hate Lio, then carry on…

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