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Judge Parker reinstated in Scranton PA paper

E&P reports that Judge Parker was dropped earlier this month in The Times-Tribune (Scranton, PA), but has since been reinstated. E&P does not cite a source or a reason why.

Community Comments

#1 Marc Chase
January/23/2008
@ 7:05 am

Isn’t this like the third or fourth paper that Judge Parker has been dropped by and then only to be brought back?

#2 Quint Nelson
January/23/2008
@ 10:21 pm

Another sign of the gutlessness of today’s Editors. They are scared of their own shadows. Heck, one of their octogenarian readers might write them a nasty letter!

#3 Malc McGookin
January/23/2008
@ 10:57 pm

Gutlessness isn’t really a factor, more gullibility. Editors will take the number of “fans” who write in to complain about a strip which has been dropped and multiply it to gain a figure which they feel is actually indicative of how many people feel that way.

Let’s say they multiply it by a factor of ten:
A mere ten written (or phoned) complaints thus becomes a hundred, and that will be enough for some editors.

I know for a fact that one editor I’ve spoken to multiplies correspondence like that, but I also know a couple of others who will drop strips and stick with that decision though the heavens fall. Good for them. Good cartoonists want editors to make up their OWN minds, not indulge in Idol competitions

Other editors will make their decision based on the ACTUAL number, and that can sometimes be substantial, but how genuine are those “complaints”?
Here’s another fact. There are appreciation societies, small groups of maybe only five or ten members at most (I mean, seriously how many people are going to turn up to a meeting of the Mandrake Society?) who organise and co-ordinate responses whenever their pet feature is threatened.
I know that one such society stopped Zits getting into a paper when four or five Phantom fans ganged together and inundated the editor with multiple calls.

I’ve been called personally by one cartoonist who asked me and others to send in fake letters of complaint after his strip was dropped.

Editors should be made aware that these things go on in comicsland just as they do elsewhere in life.

#4 Wiley Miller
January/24/2008
@ 6:14 am

“A mere ten written (or phoned) complaints thus becomes a hundred, and that will be enough for some editors.”

Yep. I’ve worked for several newspapers and the editors at every one of them did the same thing. The curious thing is, they only do that with letters of complaint from readers regarding comics. They don’t do it in calculating the number of readers who AREN’T writing complaining about a strip being dropped.

Let’s assume for a moment that the editor’s equation is correct, that one letter equals 10 readers.
Now let’s say the paper has a circulation of 100,000. Their equation would mean 100 readers are upset about the comic being dropped. So wouldn’t that, by their reckoning, mean that 99,900 of their readers didn’t care?

The sad fact is, editors don’t want to have to deal with their readers. They’ll do anything to make the stop ringing.

#5 Beniamin Pachidermeanu
January/24/2008
@ 2:23 pm

Editors suck

#6 Malc McGookin
January/24/2008
@ 8:33 pm

Editors don’t suck, they just operate the system that’s existed for over 80 years without question.
Some editors are obviously talented, but others…well, ok they suck, but there’s no higher proportion of sucky editors than any other profession.

My soap box issue has always been that editors need to re-evaluate their relationship with cartoon syndicates, and look at establishing a one-on-one relationship with a cartoonist or cartoonists.

I don’t mean that syndicates should be rejected at all, just that there should be a two tier system – syndicate stuff that readers can buy in many papers throughout the world or even on the web, alongside features that are specific to that paper, and which perhaps should not be available on the web, or at least not the up-to-date stuff.

Newspapers and magazines are losing readers (one famous mag here in Oz called The Bulletin just suddenly stopped being published, effective yesterday) and the net is being blamed.

I don’t deny the web is partly responsible, but I do accuse publishers and editors of being inadequate and unimaginative in their responses. One of those responses should be the sourcing of a unique aspect, something that their paper/mag can offer that other papers can’t. That could very well be a cartoon feature, but it will never happen while papers only expect to pay the pitiful rates they presently do.

Talent costs MONEY, and the best talent won’t necessarily put aside weeks, months or years to develop a new Peanuts for peanuts.

#7 Marc Chase
January/24/2008
@ 10:02 pm

It appears that Family Tree, the comic that replaced Judge Parker a few weeks ago on January 7th, stayed in the Scranton paper.

Elderberries got the boot, in order for Judge Parker to come back.

#8 Malc McGookin
January/25/2008
@ 5:28 am

There’s a phenomenon here that many have not considered, and that is the Comics Curmudgeon Factor.

Josh Fruhlinger writes a very intelligent and entertaining blog where he uses (what many regard as) the more lame and less hip comics features as a satirical punching bag.

Thus, Judge Parker, Mary Worth, Mark Trail, Apartment 3G, They’ll Do It Every Time, Marmaduke and even the phenomenally successful but incredibly unfunny Family Circus are invested with fresh appeal.

Nothing to do with any innate worth the features have, the fresh appeal comes from their eminent suitability for the art of the lampoon.

If those features were to go, that element of fun goes too, and that would be a shame, wouldn’t it? Far better for Comics Curmudgeon fans to band together and keep the targets of their mirth in papers, no matter how bad they are.

#9 Wiley Miller
January/25/2008
@ 6:36 am

There shouldn’t be any need for syndicates anymore. Operative word here is “shouldn’t”. But it’s not going to change simply because editors dealing directly with cartoonists (as they should be doing) requires more work. A lot more work. In fact, it would require newspapers to hire an editor to do nothing but deal with the comic. That’s not going happen in the reality of today’s newspaper industry where staff and editors have been cut to the bone, and now they’re starting to amputate. There are many newspapers today that don’t even have a features editor, where the managing editor is in charge of nearly all of the sections. They simply can’t handle such a workload, so they depend on the syndicates to provide pre-edited features on time. That is more important to them than quality. Sad but true.

The irony is that we are more capable than ever today to provide our work directly to editors, as we can produce the production art ourselves now and deliver it electronically. But this requires editors to deal with the cartoonists rather than the handful of syndicates, and makes them have to actually read the material themselves before going to print (gasp!).

Dealing with editors is like a trip with Alice to Wonderland.

#10 Malc McGookin
January/25/2008
@ 6:41 pm

“editors dealing directly with cartoonists (as they should be doing) requires more work”.
Absolutely, and that is the reality newspapers won’t face. You have to speculate to accumulate, but you have to speculate cleverly.

#11 mike c
January/25/2008
@ 10:08 pm

judge parker wass brought back because it has really good art work and a good story line and family circus is funny to me some people probably laugh at it but never tell their friends that they read it and enjoy it you know who you are

#12 Pab Sungenis
January/26/2008
@ 4:34 am

Wiley & Malc: syndicates are nothing but gatekeepers, and always have been. Their job is to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, to enable the people who need to pick content from having to search through a lot of poor choices before they find the good ones. Yes, some very good and very talented people get trapped by the system and never get their chance, but if you didn’t have those gatekeepers, most editors wouldn’t bother ever picking up something new at all and keep running the same tired features they’ve had since the 1940’s purely by inertia.

Wait…Hmm. Never mind.

#13 Larry Levine
January/26/2008
@ 5:16 am

The newspaper reinstated Judge Parker because it ruled in his favor–I’m reading too much Family Circus, starting to sound like Dolly!

#14 Malc McGookin
January/26/2008
@ 6:10 am

“syndicates are nothing but gatekeepers”.
Agreed. My point is that they should have been so much more over the last half century.

Every other organization which acts as a gatekeeper to their profession (professional tennis, for example) also acts as a developer, actively finding talent and bringing it on, paying coaches or organizing nationwide tournaments. Noblesse Oblige – with privilege comes responsibility.

They oversee professions within which wages rise, (sometimes astronomically) and principal players have their day in the sun, earning big money for years, before retiring rich, leaving happy memories and great video archive footage.

As gatekeepers to the strip cartooning profession, syndicates have overseen the stagnation and plummeting of wages whilst simultaneously maintaining ancient, irrelevant features which are dead or dying on the vine.

Yes, papers are accomplices too, but with no third party to speak up for cartoonists, to act as an agitator for change, they will continue to remain ignorant, trusting the syndicates to run their comics pages for them (despite their ridiculous and occasional which-strip-should-we-drop? beauty contests).

#15 Anne Hambrock
January/26/2008
@ 9:29 am

Whether new talent is kept off the page by syndicates or editors strikes me as almost a “chicken or the egg” question. While it is true that syndicates launch very few new features each year, they invest a lot of money in those launches. If you, as a syndicate, know that you have 10 new features for sale and most papers will take 0 – 2 new strips in a 1 to 5 year period, then you know for sure you will lose money on the other 8. Why develop strips for spots that don’t exist?

By the same token, perhaps papers don’t make much room for new talent because they don’t feel a need for it if their readers seem already happy with the selections they have. Why spend more money for more features if your readers aren’t asking you for them?

I wish that more papers took the drawing power of their comics section more seriously – seriously enough to actually expand their comics continuously. Maybe then syndicates could let more talent through the bottleneck.

Since the retirement of a few strips this year, a lot of spots opened up that have turned, not into permanent homes for new strips, but continually revolving test spots. At first I found this practice disheartening but perhaps it isn’t so bad to have a couple guest comic spots always avaialbe for the latest launches. Maybe it will help them find a following among the growing group of people who like to get their info/entertainment both in print and on the web. Maybe those people will follow a new strip on the web after their paper stops carrying it.

I personally get comics both in my daily paper and from dailyink. I was thrilled to find out about dailyink when it started because a lot of my personal favorite strips are not in my paper and I hadn’t read them in years. I don’t go on other comic sites like gocomics because my operating software is only 0S 9 and I can’t get images from these sites, otherwise I could be enjoying other comics I like as well.

#16 Chris Hardiman
January/26/2008
@ 12:04 pm

Very radical idea:
What if newspapers decided to replace their least popular strips once a year, with new strips up for consideration as replacements each time? Think of it like the upfronts at the end of each TV season. Each network/newspaper cancels the shows/strips that aren’t popular, and picks up new shows/strips to see how they do over the course of one year? It would shake up the system, allow up-and-coming cartoonists to gain more papers, and promote reader interest in the comics.
Of course, this idea is too radical to ever happen. But I’m just throwing it out there.

#17 John Phillips
January/26/2008
@ 12:11 pm

Malc,

Your tennis analogy doesn’t really fit in regards to syndicates. Syndicates are gatekeepers to newspapers in the sense that agents are gatekeepers to Hollywood. They perform the exact same function.

What you described was a “union.” A cartoonists union could help with a lot of the issues you brought up, but in reality it would be phenomenally ineffectual.

#18 Pab Sungenis
January/26/2008
@ 12:34 pm

Chris: sadly, the only way a newspaper really knows how many readers a comic has is (a) the number of people who complain about it, or (b) the number of people who complain when it gets cancelled.

If a paper conducted one of these “reader polls” annually, your scheme might work, but I doubt it.

Besides, this system doesn’t allow for something like “Krazy Kat,” which never had many readers when it was running, but it was beloved of the syndicate’s owner, so he nurtured it. Today it’s probably the single most influential comic in history in terms of the number of cartoonists who were inspired by it.

#19 Garey Mckee
January/26/2008
@ 1:52 pm

Chris,

The words “radical” and “newspaper” just don’t go together LOL!

#20 Dave Stephens
January/26/2008
@ 4:09 pm

Syndicates exist as long as there is a market… The newspaper market is just a fragment of what it used to be – hopefully, these same syndicates see the writing on the wall and are actively trying to find a way to make the internet pay a living wage, but I doubt it. Proof of how moribund they are is in the “pudding” of their non-accomplishments so far… I really hope someone thinks of something, fast, ’cause less opportunity, less wages, and less strips is NOT the wave of the future, it’s NOW.

#21 Malc McGookin
January/26/2008
@ 4:25 pm

John, you make two conflicting points. Firstly you say that a better “gatekeeper” analogy would be a Hollywood agent, then say that a cartoonists union would be ineffectual.

Yet Actors Equity and the Writers Guild of America are very effectual unions.

I’m talking about principles here. A cartoonists union could work in principle, there’s nothing to stop it other than the lack of cojones of cartoonists themselves (with apologies to female cartoonists).

Fact is, the syndicate system has been around for a long time, but it’s not the only system. In the UK, strips are featured in a one-paper deal, because the biggest papers are national. Thus Andy Capp is only featured in The Daily Mirror, but its creator Reg Smythe was famous nationally and extremely well paid.

For top rate cartoonists to be able to subvert the criminally inept US syndication system they will need to go talk to the big paper editors one-on-one and make them an attractive deal.
A Philly paper (for instance) might go for a first class feature which features Philly landmarks and personalities.
It also might pay well over the syndicate rate for that work.
The net is the key to the independent cartoonist’s future, but cartoonists need regular income to make them sit at a drawing board all day creating new work.
That income could certainly come from a one-paper deal they carved out themselves

#22 Wiley Miller
January/26/2008
@ 6:00 pm

There is a fundamental problem you guys have here in discussing comics in regard to newspapers and syndicates… you’re all employing logic, reason, common sense and even sound business. This is a common mistake, as that ship sailed on newspapers all that long ago.

#23 lefitte
January/26/2008
@ 6:47 pm

The local-only cartoonist is fine in theory and it’s pretty much the way the editorial cartoon market works … isn’t it? Not necessarily a growth industry. But if you only have one local comic strip, then you’re left with one or two strips per paper. Is that the proposition? If so, no thanks to this comics fan. You’re also on the chopping block when times are bad. Get cancelled in one paper and you’re at the unemployment office.

And I’d guess Andy Capp’s made more in traditional syndication than from his anchor paper over the years. You said he was famous in the country when he made the deal … what about those who aren’t famous?

The UK is also dominated by national newspapers that run very few comics per paper. The US has a few big ones but the overall market share is more concentrated in the locals and even the smallest daily paper in the States runs a page of comics. Comparing the two is apples and screwdrivers.

#24 Marc Chase
January/27/2008
@ 9:02 am

Back on topic…

Judge Parker…yes it was reinstated. And, yes, there may have only been a handful that complained to get it back into the paper.

But, you are decrying it’s reinstatement like it didn’t deserve to get back into the Scranton paper. Why? Maybe some readers still like the comic. It’s not like Woody Wilson and Eduardo Barreto are doing a crappy job with it. Now, it likely isn’t for everyone. And, yes, it’s readers are likely older. But, they certainly have a voice too.

If anything decry the Editor who couldn’t figure out how to keep Judge Parker and add something new and fresh. For most Editors, everything gets into the “to hard pile”.

#25 Chris Hardiman
January/27/2008
@ 9:37 am

“Sadly, the only way a newspaper really knows how many readers a comic has is (a) the number of people who complain about it, or (b) the number of people who complain when it gets cancelled.”

Oddly enough, TV networks don’t know how many people are watching their shows, really. Their only source of information is the Nielsen company, which takes the number of people with a Nielsen box attached to their TV who were watching the show and then multiplies that number by something.

“Besides, this system doesnâ??t allow for something like â??Krazy Kat,â? which never had many readers when it was running, but it was beloved of the syndicateâ??s owner, so he nurtured it. Today itâ??s probably the single most influential comic in history in terms of the number of cartoonists who were inspired by it.”

Unfortunately this is true. I really enjoy reading “Krazy Kat” and I think it’s one of the greatest comic strips in history, if not the greatest. And this radical idea wouldn’t allow for that sort of strip surviving. Maybe the way to secure the survival of such a strip would be to leave all the decisions about who gets the axe to the editors. But that just brings us back to our original topic of discussion, “Editors suck” vs. “Editors donâ??t suck, they just operate the system thatâ??s existed for over 80 years without question.”

#26 Quint Nelson
January/27/2008
@ 9:25 pm

Sadly, most of the posters on this topic are in denial. The newspaper industry is dying. Sadly, about twenty years from now, they will be gone. It’s plainly obvious to anyone who knows the industry. There may be a web site named “The New York Times”, but the print product will be a memory.

So far in 2008, revenues at most papers are already seeing a decrease of year-to-date numbers in excess of 15%, and that’s from 2007 revenues, which was a horrible year. The decline will continue, so the content will also shrink as the newspaper page counts shrink. The comics will also shrink.

Heck, the even the size of most papers are shrinking. Just compare the actual size a your local paper now to what it was two years ago! Publishers are trying to save money by using less newsprint.

There is no conspiracy between newspapers and the syndicates. In fact, just like all vendors to the newspaper industry, the syndicates are being brutalized by budget cuts. The squeeze is on and some syndicates will probably fail or merge in the future.

Just look at recent cuts at the Houston Chronicle. Believe me, there will be more to follow.

So here’s a reality check, editors are living in fear and they are in a panic. Recently, both the LA Times and San Francisco Chronicle dumped their editors in days of one another. The meat axe will continue to drop, and with fear permeating newsrooms across the country, editors will not be bold in adding new strips.

In fact, they will be desperate to please the few newspaper readers they have left. Unfortunately, these are the people who love Judge Parker and Mary Worth, while hating Get Fuzzy and Non-Sequitur. Do I like it? No, but it is today’s reality.

#27 Malc McGookin
January/28/2008
@ 4:38 am

Yes, they forecast the death of radio too, but it will also never die, merely evolve.

This has all been said before, but radio didn’t kill theatre, neither did TV, indeed they are still symbiotic – many TV shows are recorded in theatres
There will always be a demand for news and features you can carry with you. Lightweight, flexible and with no need to re-charge batteries, newspapers can also be read in direct sunlight and don’t break when you drop them.

I repeat: Newspapers will cotton on quite soon to the fact that those who sound the death knell of papers are premature and discover that there’s a way to get readers AND attract sponsors.

That way is to offer them something sexy and/or exciting they can’t get in other media.

#28 Quint Nelson
January/28/2008
@ 5:54 am

…and that will be another medium. Comics will not be able to maintain the current business model to be successful, they will evolve into another form.

What that is, I don’t believe anyone knows right now….but printed newspapers will be a relic of the past. News and entertainment wiil be delivered in another form.

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