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Where to put Mallard Fillmore

The Public Editor for the News and Observer has written a column on their reader’s bemusing of Bruce Tinsley’s Mallard Fillmore placement on the funny pages while Garry Trudeau’s comic Doonesbury is squirreled alway on the op-ed pages.

One reason for the inconsistent treatment of the politically flavored comics is the newspaper’s internal setup. The opinion pages, including “Doonesbury,” are the province of the editorial page editor. The comics pages, including “Mallard,” are under the executive editor. To keep editorial opinion and news coverage separate, those two editors don’t tell each other what to do.

Steve Ford, the editorial page editor, wants to keep “Doonesbury” on the op-ed page. It’s a decades-long staple there at The N&O, he says, and it fits well with the comment and opinion mission of the page “in terms of content, in terms of tone and in terms of its visual appeal.”

Ford also acknowledged he doesn’t want to let “Doonesbury” go because it’s a good readership magnet for his pages. But he and op-ed editor Allen Torrey don’t want to add “Mallard” to the page because a second comic strip would consume valuable real estate that’s needed for opinion articles. And, they said, “Mallard,” at least at this point, is not the same quality as “Doonesbury” in terms of writing, wit and art.

Thad Ogburn, features editor, would be happy to accommodate “Doonesbury” on the comics pages — it would help his readership, too — but he said he respects Ford’s reasons for wanting to keep it.

Community Comments

#1 Wiley Miller
January/28/2008
@ 7:17 am

“Thad Ogburn, features editor, would be happy to accommodate â??Doonesburyâ? on the comics pages â?? it would help his readership, too â?? but he said he respects Fordâ??s reasons for wanting to keep it.”

If you’re reading this, Thad, I urge you to keep pushing to get Doonesbury on the comics page. First of all, Garry Trudeau has stated many times that he prefers to be on the comics page rather than the editorial or op-ed page, as the comics page has a much bigger audience. Secondly, the majority of the material in Doonesbury isn’t political or even editorial. Most of it is social satire, dealing with the everyday lives of his characters. Mallard Fillmore, on the other hand, is political every day. Rarely does it stray from polemic politics, which is more suited to the editorial section.

But here’s another question for you… since none of the editors seem to like Mallard Fillmore there, where you think the quality is lacking in both art and writing, then why carry it?

#2 J Read
January/28/2008
@ 7:30 am

â??Mallard…is not the same quality as â??Doonesburyâ? in terms of writing, wit and art?” Are newspaper op-editors usually so forthcoming with their personal opinions? Wow.

#3 Charles Brubaker
January/28/2008
@ 9:15 am

“…since none of the editors seem to like Mallard Fillmore there, where you think the quality is lacking in both art and writing, then why carry it?”

I’m not an editor or anything, but I’d say it has to do with “balance” in order to keep its conservative readers happy.

#4 Tom Heintjes
January/28/2008
@ 10:17 am

Yow! Sounds like some sort of affirmative action for conservative comic strips; gotta have a quota that pleases the Limbaugh crowd. (Why is it that conservatives do radio better than liberals, but liberals do comic strips better than conservatives? I would think that conservatives would be offended by unfunny conservative strips, just as liberals would reject an unfunny strip aligned with their beliefs.) We have a similar situation in Atlanta with “Prickly City.” It appears to give the paper the all-important facade of balance, but in reality it’s a sop to the right with another heavy-handed polemical strip.

#5 Matt Bors
January/28/2008
@ 10:40 am

There’s no need for balance on an op-ed page. It’s impossible to achieve anyway. There should be a diversity of opinion, sure, but features shouldn’t exist simply to offer a counterweight to something else.

Wiley made a good point about Doonesbury not being fit for an op-ed page anyway, due to it’s character driven, not-always-political nature. My hometown paper ran it there and I never understood why. A serialized humor strip should probably be on the comics page.

Op-ed pages should be filled by the 1-2 staff cartoonists every paper in America should employ. :)

#6 Charles Brubaker
January/28/2008
@ 11:54 am

Because I read the opinion section anyway, I rarely miss a strip printed there. Just think of it this way: you get a whole page (or two or three, depending on the paper) of comics, PLUS a bonus strip in another section.

In the case of Knoxville News-Sentinel, they have decided to run all three “big” political strips – “Doonesbury,” “Mallard Fillmore,” and “Prickly City” – in its opinion section. As usual, they have editorial cartoons too, one by its staff cartoonist, printed large and in color, plus few others from syndication sprinkled throughout the section.

On a sidenote, I have a 1969 “moon landing” edition of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, and while it does have a page full of comics, there were at least ten other strips printed in other parts of the paper. From my understanding, these were just “throw away” strips that they’ll only publish just to fill up holes.

Commercial Appeal still does that today, sorta. In addition to one full page of comics, they have 6 additional strips, two in the OP/ED section and four in the “Classifieds” section (amazingly, they have chosen to run “Peanuts” reruns in the Classifieds rather than the main comics section).

#7 Rich Diesslin
January/28/2008
@ 12:08 pm

Charles, good points. I like the view that you actually get more comics that way. Peanuts in the classifieds is a perfect use for a historic reprint … it will bring more readers to that section. As for Doonesbury I think it’s political enough to stay op/ed. MF I don’t get in our local paper so I can’t say, but it sounds op/ed based on past blogs. I expected more “kill it” comments based on past posts to this blog, which seems very uncharitable coming from cartoonists. If you are worried about quotas, point the finger back at your liberal friends at the newspaper that think they are appeasing conservatives – they aren’t.

#8 J Read
January/28/2008
@ 12:09 pm

“in reality Prickly city is a sop to the right with another heavy-handed polemical strip.” Are comics-related magazine editors usually so forthcoming with their personal opinions? Wow. :)

#9 Malc McGookin
January/28/2008
@ 2:19 pm

“Why is it that conservatives do radio better than liberals”?
I’m not sure they do, Tom, depending on how you define “radio” it’s all down to taste. Is Garrison Keillor a conservative?

If you mean shock jock style radio, it’s the same as asking as why are conservatives better at war?
Well, I don’t believe they are, but it’s odd how often conservatives find themselves AT war.

War is the easiest time to run a country. The populace is united against a common enemy, there’s a Band Of Brothers spirit-of-the-blitz community feel where the proletariat doesn’t question its leaders.
Dissent is frowned upon, if not outright illegal, and the issues assume a black and white simplicity.

Conservatives can handle that, just as they can handle ranting into a microphone. Making quality radio, like keeping the peace, or introducing universal health care, is a much more difficult proposition.

#10 Thad Ogburn
January/28/2008
@ 2:35 pm

Wiley â?? yes, I’d rather have “Doonesbury” on the comics page, but the decision’s been made to keep it on op-ed for now. But we’ll certainly revisit that from time to time.

As for “Mallard,” we picked it up because it got a significant amount of support among some readers after its test run. (It should be noted that it got more hate than support. It’s very much a love-it-or-hate-it strip. Few people are lukewarm about it.) Still, once we made the call to go from 33 strips to 42 daily, we decided its core support was enough for it to get one of the spots.

Personally, its not one of my favorites, but there are other strips among the 42 that I’m not crazy about, either. “Candorville” and “F-Minus” had less support among readers than “Mallard,” yet we picked them up too, because we like them and think they are strong additions to the two comics pages.

#11 Wiley Miller
January/28/2008
@ 2:48 pm

“â??Candorvilleâ? and â??F-Minusâ? had less support among readers than â??Mallard,â? yet we picked them up too, because we like them and think they are strong additions to the two comics pages.”

That’s a pretty strong argument to not conduct these idiotic comics polls.
Again, Thad, you need to analyze the demographics of the poll, just as any marketing company does with ANY poll. You don’t just take raw numbers and come to a conclusion, especially with a poll that is conducted as unscientifically as comic polls are. You have proven yourself (to me anyway) to be a capable editor to make editorial decisions without the crutch of a comics poll. That, after all, what you’re paid for, isn’t it?

#12 Garey Mckee
January/28/2008
@ 3:02 pm

“As for â??Mallard,â? we picked it up because it got a significant amount of support among some readers after its test run. (It should be noted that it got more hate than support. Itâ??s very much a love-it-or-hate-it strip.”

Does this mean that it’s not wether a strip is liked or disliked, as long as it’s being read?

#13 Dawn Douglass
January/28/2008
@ 5:57 pm

I wonder what this election is doing to editorial cartoons. I can’t help but think that cartoonists and editors alike are a bit scared of going after a woman and a black man.

Am I wrong? Any hard hitting cartoons about either of them so far? I admit I don’t see editorial cartoons, because I no longer read a paper and don’t often run across them online.

#14 Rich Diesslin
January/28/2008
@ 6:52 pm

The positive on the whole article is that at least some editors realize that comics bring readership. Kudos to editors that know this and use it to their (and our) advantage … classic win-win. Dawn, how hard can you hit into a bowl of oatmeal? Candidates on both side have done nothing but talk in generalities and field softballs. Editorial cartoonists must be working overtime to even find anything to comment on.

#15 Matt Bors
January/29/2008
@ 12:39 am

No, Dawn. We’re all frightened to do cartoons about them. There haven’t been any yet and editors are wondering why we are all gutless and PC. It’s because we don’t want to get on Hillary’s enemies list and end up dead like Vince Foster.

#16 Malc McGookin
January/29/2008
@ 4:32 am

“editors are wondering why we are all gutless and PC”.
I hardly think so, Matt.
It’s editorial cartoonists who (if they are any good) traditionally try their d@mndest to get hard hitting controversial material past editors.

It’s editors who are traditionally the gutless ones scared of losing sponsors, advertisers or their job.
The whole idea of the “attack” cartoonist is a romantic fraud. The savage pen in a newspaper is only as brave as the editor who publishes it.

Interesting that you’re looking for someone to set the dobermans on a woman and a black man whilst a good ol’ white boy has not only been systematically looting your home but using it as a crack house for his privileged friends for the past two terms.

#17 Matt Bors
January/29/2008
@ 9:59 am

um, Malc. I was kidding. A humorous response to Dawn’s post.

#18 Dawn Douglass
January/29/2008
@ 10:25 am

I’m not convinced you can blame it all on editors.

I suggested that an editorial cartoonist draw Hillary Clinton puckering up in a kissing both collecting bags of money from special interests who had to hold their nose and close their eyes, but he was afraid of being called sexist. He said, “Only a female cartoonist could get away with that.”

On college campuses, different groups are often calling for an editorial cartoonist’s head for one slight or another. In some of those cases, it’s the editors who protect them and don’t give into the pressure to fire. (Somebody should tell these liberal must-not-offend-anybody, have-to-censor-everyone campuses what the definition of “liberal” is.)

I do believe that if Clinton were to win the presidency, there would be a lot more female editorial cartoonists, because males would be too afraid to belt her.

#19 Rick Stromoski
January/29/2008
@ 1:42 pm

>>>(Somebody should tell these liberal must-not-offend-anybody, have-to-censor-everyone campuses what the definition of â??liberalâ? is.)

Some people wish to squelch viewpoints and expression they tend not to agree with regardless of poilitical or social affiliation. Usually it stems from a position of weakness of argument or inability to contest opposing views in a coherent or logical way.

It’s not just so called “liberals” who rant and whine over editorial positions that don’t happen to merge with their particular narrow world view. The inference that conservatives, religious fundamentalists, muslims, creationists, republicans, or anyone outside the label of “liberal” is more tolerant of editorial cartoonists is patently innacurate. Speaking from experience, I have an email box full of hate mail and calls for my “firing” from my syndicated feature as well as an editorial position I hold at a local paper and have even had people come in the night to vandalize my house over an editorial position I’d taken. As you may recall, cartoonists in Sweden are murdered for their editorials. These aren’t liberals pulling the trigger or leaving knives in peoples chests over what they write. And I am certain it wasn’t a liberal who drove onto my property and vandalized my house a few years back.

>>I do believe that if Clinton were to win the presidency, there would be a lot more female editorial cartoonists, because males would be too afraid to belt her.

I recall a conservative outcry against editorial cartoonists that dared to lampoon Condi Rice, primarily focusing on how they drew her versus the content of the message. When accusing groups of being intolerant of cartoonists, perhaps it’s best we be accurate and all inclusive with our outrage and point the finger in all directions where it’s appropriate.

#20 Dawn Douglass
January/29/2008
@ 2:32 pm

Yes, everybody has editorial cartoonists in their sites, and I didn’t say otherwise.

I was just pointing out the problem of American college campuses, which used to be the defenders of free speech, but are now dens of you-must-think-as-I-do-or-we’ll-shut-you-up censors who don’t understand what “liberal” and “tolerance” even mean anymore.

There was a day when editorial cartoonists could count on colleges backing up their right to free speech. Who is going to champion those rights today?

Editorial cartooning is dying largely because freedom of speech has been replaced by political correctness.

#21 Rick Stromoski
January/29/2008
@ 2:57 pm

>>Editorial cartooning is dying largely because freedom of speech has been replaced by political correctness.

I disagree. Freedom of speech is probably more alive and well on most college campuses versus what we see in the main stream media these days. So what if a few misguided idealists get their panties in a bunch over some poorly conceptualized cartoon done by a 3rd rate wannabe Herblock.

All one has to do to witness the true dens of “you-must-think-as-I-do-or-weâ??ll-shut-you-up censors” is turn on Fox news or listen to conservative talk radio or open up most newspapers or so called news magazines. The real threat to our first amendment rights lies not on college campuses but in the corporate boardrooms with the consolidation of media. We are in danger of no longer having a free press in this country if it hasn’t happened already.

Howard Beale was right.

#22 Arthur Wellington
January/29/2008
@ 3:18 pm

Dawn Douglass said:

“the problem of American college campuses, which used to be the defenders of free speech, but are now dens of you-must-think-as-I-do-or-weâ??ll-shut-you-up censors who donâ??t understand what â??liberalâ? and â??toleranceâ? even mean anymore.”

What an incredibly stupid and patently ridiculous typical right-wing overgeneralization.

#23 Malc McGookin
January/29/2008
@ 3:28 pm

“um, Malc. I was kidding”
Sorry Matt. Where’s them Ironic Smileys when you need them?

#24 Dawn Douglass
January/29/2008
@ 3:30 pm

Well, there’s always blogs, but the quality of most blogs is terrible and the majority of “citizen journalism” is just commenting about things professional reporters have written.

I agree that journalism is in a bad state at the moment, but that’s due to what’s happening with advertising, not some sort of conspiracy to control the news. For every person who points to liberal bias there’s another person pointing to conservative bias. As long as countless examples flow on both sides, the first amendment isn’t dead.

But editorial cartooning IS dying because of the fear of controversy, whether it comes from the right or the left.

#25 Dawn Douglass
January/29/2008
@ 3:36 pm

“What an incredibly stupid and patently ridiculous typical right-wing overgeneralization.”

Oh, really? Tell that to all the people who have been forced to cancel speeching engagements because of demonstators against them or have been attacked on campus during lectures by hooded thugs who don’t like what they’re saying.

#26 Alan Gardner
January/29/2008
@ 3:47 pm

This is why I abhor politics being discussed on this blog. You’re all throwing out broad and generic (and highly bias) claims as if it was truth (and I’m looking at both sides of the argument here).

I’ll let the dialog continue off topic PROVIDED commentors supply a link to an example of any claims you make. If you can’t back up your argument, don’t jump in (unless you have something ON-TOPIC).

Rick – Please provide an example of “the real threat to our first amendment rights lies not on college campuses but in the corporate boardrooms with the consolidation of media.” (And I’d appreciate something of greater substance than a simple link to foxnews.com :) )

Dawn – Please provide an example of “people who have been forced to cancel speeching engagements because of demonstators against them or have been attacked on campus during lectures by hooded thugs who donâ??t like what theyâ??re saying.”

We’ll see how this goes.

Carry on.

#27 Dawn Douglass
January/29/2008
@ 4:47 pm

“An” example? There have been so many instances that colleges across the country are having to put out official anti-violence policies like this one:
http://www.bridgew.edu/Handbook/PoliciesProcedures/FreeSpeechandDemonstrationPolicy.htm

…which says:
“Dissent and/or demonstrations are viable expressions of thought and shall be viewed as such. Methods of peaceful dissent such as picketing, dissemination of literature, etc., can perform an educational function on campus. However, they should not be disruptive, result in damage or destruction, or represent a physical or emotional threat to any individual or group. The use of force or violence is not viewed as an acceptable form of dissent.”

Here’s one that is easy to find via Google, because it was caught on tape:

http://blog.case.edu/james.chang/2006/10/05/riot_at_columbia_university_free_speech_under_fire

Just weeks ago a scientist who was going to challenge global warming was going to speak at my daughter’s college, but the invitiation was withdrawn for “security concerns.”

#28 Kevin Moore
January/29/2008
@ 7:29 pm

There are two obvious places to put Mallard Fillmore, but discretion prohibits me from naming them.

#29 Russ Nichols
January/29/2008
@ 11:22 pm

I am certainly glad the L.A. Times dropped Mallard Fillmore. It is is mean-spirited nasty strip, and deserves obscurity. What’s more, I was embarrassed that its creator is a Hoosier, from my home state

#30 Dawn Douglass
January/30/2008
@ 4:45 am

The Clintons have been admonished for similar nastiness. I think Americans have had our fill of that. As I wrote here back in December on another thread about MF, I’ve never liked the strip and think it’s an embarrassment to conservative views.

I wonder if this “change” mentality will ultimately hurt MF. I wouldn’t be surprised, and I for one would welcome it if the strip ended.

#31 Mike Wilson
January/30/2008
@ 4:48 am

A lot of Mallard hate here, I see. I didn’t want to say anything earlier because I didn’t want to seem like a mean spirited jerk…but, yeah, Mallard Fillmore stinks.

#32 Rick Stromoski
January/30/2008
@ 9:54 am

>>>Rick – Please provide an example of â??the real threat to our first amendment rights lies not on college campuses but in the corporate boardrooms with the consolidation of media.â? (And Iâ??d appreciate something of greater substance than a simple link to foxnews.com :) )

two words

Rupert Murdoch

#33 Alan Gardner
January/30/2008
@ 10:26 am

Rick – are you going to let Dawn outshine you on this? She provided a link to support her argument and the best you can come up with “Rubert Murdock”? As if those two words instantly explains anything? As an experiment, I’m willing to let this thread slide off-topic and into the political, but I must insist that those who do provide a link to something that makes a case for your position.

If you (not Rick specifically, but anyone engaging in political debate here) can’t do that, then perhaps your position is grounded more on emotional bias than something of substance that can be debated.

As an important note. If you provide 2 or more links in a comment, the blogging system automatically flags it for moderation (it’s an anti-spam thing). I will try to free those up as quickly as I can, but if you’re post doesn’t automatically show up, have patience, it will.

Carry on!

#34 Rick Stromoski
January/30/2008
@ 10:48 am

Here are just 3 articles dealing with the dangers of media consolidation and the fairness Doctrine.

The danger being when the outlets for voicing public policy are limited by consolidation, not all voices get heard and those that own the media outlets can easily sway public opinion their way. Including candidates for public office that favor them, spinning issues one sidedly, and generally controlling the message.

When the fairness doctrine was in effect, equal time was given to differing voices. Since Ronald Reagan eliminated it, now media outlets are no longer obligated to give a balanced view. What you end up with is essentially “official” propaganda and an ill informed population.

http://www.freepress.net/news/16168

http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/fairness.html

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2003477902_emmert15.html

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