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Atlanta Journal-Constitution cuts one full page of comics

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution announced earlier this week that they were cutting one full page of comics. I haven’t been able to find a list of which features were spared or cut. From a CNN blog, Todd Leopold (CNN.com Entertainment Producer) only mentions Judge Parker and Mary Worth as those among the cut with Curtis and Garfield among the survivors.

He asks his readers if they still care about the comics. So far, 190 have responded.

Community Comments

#1 Frank Rizzo
January/15/2009
@ 11:38 am

Somehow the claim that the AJC has cut ”one full page of comics” keeps spreading. We cut one-HALF page of comics; the other half-page included a crossword and other puzzles, plus horoscope and bridge column. Those were all kept (and moved to the TV page).
Still, we dropped 11 comics positions, which is a huge cutback and constituted nearly a third of our comics lineup. We had 36 comics and now we’ll have 25.
Actually, we dropped 13 comics; but we’re running a survey that allows our readers to vote on restoring two of them to the page. The voting ends Thursday night and on Friday I’ll arrange for the two winning comics to be returned to the page on Monday. Here’s the specifics:
We dropped:
Cathy
Daddy’s Home
Dog Eat Doug
Hagar the Horrible
Ink Pen
Judge Parker
JumpStart
Kevin & Kell
The Lockhorns
Mark Trail
Mary Worth
On a Claire Day
Rose Is Rose

Still running:
Mutts
Lio
One Big Happy
Garfield
Luann
Crankshaft
Stone Soup
Rhymes With Orange
Overboard
Beetle Bailey
Family Circus
Peanuts
Pearls Before Swine
Brewster Rockit, Space Guy
Zits
Blondie
Baby Blues
Curtis
Get Fuzzy
Non Sequitur
and on other pages:
Doonesbury
Prickly City
Dilbert

— Frank Rizzo, AJC comics

#2 Larry Levine
January/15/2009
@ 11:57 am

Frank, Legendary publishers like W.R. Hearst & Captain Joseph Patterson knew & understood the importance of comic strips and the powerful role they play in a newspaper’s circulation.

Cutting great strips like Hagar & Dog Eat Doug only pushes print readership towards the web. Even if the cut is narrowed from 13 to 11, that’s still too painful a loss.

Newspapers should be trimming sports coverage, not the funny pages!!!

#3 Rich Diesslin
January/15/2009
@ 12:06 pm

Amen.

#4 Tom Heintjes
January/15/2009
@ 1:24 pm

Folks, Frank Rizzo is as big a comics fan as you’ll find. I know this has been a painful change for him, and I sympathize with the delicate position he’s in. While some really good strips have been cut from the AJC (I think “On a Claire Day” has a unique point of view that is very relatable to today’s younger reader), some of these are dogs that are no great loss. Yes, in an ideal world those slots would have been filled by more deserving strips. But I guess it’s going to take more than a shot of pencillin to get rid of Prickly City.

#5 Drew Litton
January/15/2009
@ 1:30 pm

Whoa, there Larry. At the Rocky Mountain News, the paper I’m still working for, (at least for now) our sports coverage out ranks everything else in our paper on our website ten fold. The top five stories that internet readers click on are almost all sports stories day in and day out. Maybe that’s unique to Denver but I think if you were to ask web editors as well as print editors most everyone of them would admit that sports outdraws almost everything else. Something that most editors don’t like to admit, but it’s true. That said, I think you’ll would find a substantial amount of our readership also comes from having a tremendous comics section. And that is probably true throughout the country. I’ve never understood why more editors don’t seem to understand the power of the visual elements we all bring to the table. How a paper could take Brian Duffy not only off the front page of their paper but lay him off completely is beyond me.
I think most editors and publishers just hit the panic button and jettison everything that the other paper is cutting instead of really sitting back and evaluating what readers really want and what really does connect with them. For so many of them the written word rules, yet readership surveys would tell them otherwise. It’s hard to fathom papers tossing whole pages of comics out the door. I wonder if any of them ask themselves how can we bring new generations of readers to want to buy a newspaper. How many of them have put together kids sections, both in print and online, with comics, puzzles and games aimed at kids in school. How many of them have a full-time columnist devoted to covering the video game beat? How many of them have put together a column covering new and exciting child safe websites that can be recommended to parents. I just don’t believe cutting sports coverage and and purging whole pages of comics is the answer. The answer lies in thinking out of the box and adding, not contracting content. But I’m afraid we’re a little late for that. I just happen to agree with the philosophy of Art Moreno, owner of the Anaheim Angels. If you don’t grow a new base of young baseball fans you have no future. Making the ball park kid friendly through pricing and giveaways and fun builds that base,. Nowhere in the American newspaper do I see that model. Except, “oh the kids read the comics. Let’s cut those first”.

#6 Marcio Silva
January/15/2009
@ 1:47 pm

Hi, my name is Marcio Silva i’m cartoonist too, i’ve some cartoons
visit my blog and leave your comment

http://www.sarinhaesamyrinha.blogspot.com

#7 Frank Rizzo
January/15/2009
@ 3:48 pm

I have to be professional and do what best serves the most readers. I cut some comics that are among my personal favorites, because they didn’t rate highly with other readers.
We didn’t just take a survey list and whack off the bottom third of comics; we evaluated the hell out of those results before making decisions. But when you HAVE to cut that many comics (because of the resulting savings when that section can be made two pages smaller), you end up losing strips that are highly valued by many readers.
The interesting thing I’ve noticed about the responses is that every age group thinks we’ve deliberately targeted their strips.

#8 Mike Peterson
January/15/2009
@ 6:22 pm

Gotta stand with Frank, as another editor who loves comics. I’ve sat in the meetings where they unveil the numbers and it just isn’t pretty.

Look, cutting a third of the comics is tough. Some guy who had 75 papers will only have 74 now. And someone with 43 will only have 42. And I understand that it is being repeated, over and over, all over the country.

But elsewhere in the building, somebody is sitting down, face-to-face, with a hard-working, competent, caring person, and telling him that he will now have no income at all. None. Zero. Through no fault of his own except being the low man on the totem pole.

There are plenty of stupid idiot decisions involved in this. That’s why I’m working for a tiny paper in a tiny market — I’ve had it with the Wall Street geniuses and I hate the bad decisions they’ve made over the past 15 years. But that’s the key — it’s the past 15 years that matter, not the past 15 weeks. And the stupid idiots are the ones at corporate headquarters. The local guys are only the waiters, not the cooks.

The most idiotic choice the guys on the front line make is agreeing to continue to work for the geniuses. But, from your point of view, who do you want there? Someone who admires the geniuses?

#9 mike crachiolo
January/15/2009
@ 6:36 pm

dog eat dog is not even funny and hagar is in over one thousand paper and if it lose one paper it is no big deal

#10 Larry Levine
January/15/2009
@ 6:37 pm

I don’t think many readers have an issue dropping relics like Mary Worth, it’s loosing the slot all together that’s heartbreaking.

If forced vote on which two strips to keep–I highly recommend Hagar the Horrible & Dog Eat Doug, both are great strips!!!

#11 Patty Leidy
January/15/2009
@ 6:49 pm

I’m in a panic over what will/may happen to the Rocky Mtn. News..I specifically subscribed to it to get the comics…I always thought that the Post wasn’t up enuff to snuff..well EXCEPT for Pearls Before Swine and now, my buddie Mark Bufords strip, SCARY GARY….
Honeslty I never thought it was that great a paper in terms of reporting, I love Drew, but…hokey smokes I’ve watched them make decisions tha baffle me but are TOTALLY understandable considering their financial stress and being up for sale and all.
But they HAVE to stop pushing the panic button, Drew is right.

I can feel sympathy to any editor struggling to save what they have, and feel total panic when I think I’m once again trying to get INTO the freaking papers…lol
Funny?
Not so much anymore..

#12 Quint Nelson
January/15/2009
@ 9:14 pm

Way to go Frank! Eleven more reasons not to read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Good luck in holding readers, you’re going to need it.

#13 Bill Kellogg
January/16/2009
@ 3:44 am

Although I absolutely hate hearing when any paper cuts space from their comics sections, I personally think there is too much criticism of editors when something like this happens and we should try another approach. There are a lot of us who rely on the newspapers for a large part of our income, not the least of which are the editors and all of their employees and friends at the papers. Maybe instead of bashing, we should all put our heads together and try to find ways to help the industry. There are a lot of bright folks out there between all of the publishers, editors, cartoonists, syndicates, writers, reporters, etc. that should all try to work together to stop the bleeding.

Most editors don?t cut comics because they want to. They cut them because they have no money to pay for them. Newspapers operate on a budget. When less revenue comes in, they have to cut their budget. It doesn?t matter that it may cost them more in the long run if they don?t have the money to pay for them in the first place. How many of us have had to do without something at one point or another that was ?necessary? or that cost us more money in late fees, etc. because we couldn?t afford it at the time?

Just an idea, but maybe someone who is brighter than me could put together a blog where everyone who relies on newspapers for income can pitch ideas to try to help the industry. I have an extensive list of editors that I could invite to check out the blog. The syndicates and other cartoonists would probably do the same. Who knows, maybe some editors have done things at their papers that helped them grow and those ideas can be adapted by other papers. If nothing else, we all go down fighting.

#14 Ted Rall
January/16/2009
@ 6:58 am

For the most part, today’s editors don’t have much choice but to slash and burn. What papers are doing wrong now lies mostly on the backs of the publishers, who have embraced the Internet to the extent that they’ve created their own competition, drawing advertising dollars away from print to their websites, which receive digital pennies because the rates are so low (and will remain so). If newspaper publishers were smart, they’d lobby Congress for an exemption to anti-trust law and form a cartel that agreed to close down all their free websites.

Editors are to blame, however, for the decisions they’ve made over the last 30 years, when the circulation decline mirrored demographic trends–readers got older and older because they deliberately decided they didn’t want my generation (Xers) or younger people. Now the average age of a newspaper reader is deceased, and so are they.

Readers study cultural signifiers to see if something is for them. I don’t golf, for example, because when I go to golf courses everyone’s old and dressed badly and looks boring. I might want to golf if things were different. Similarly, anyone under age 50 looks at the editorial pages and comics pages and news features and music reviews and knows that newspapers don’t care about the things they care about.

I can’t help wonder what newspapers would look like today if, back in 1977, they had reviewed punk records. Or if, in 1981, they had starting running Matt Groening’s “Life in Hell.” Or if, in 1991, a major paper had hired Tom Tomorrow as a staff editorial cartoonist. Or if, when Dick Cheney told a Senator to —- himself, papers had reprinted the whole word.

Young people didn’t stop reading. Papers kicked them to the curb.

Papers are paying the price for their conscious decision to obsess over the elderly (many of whom are hipper than they give them credit for).

#15 Tom Wood
January/16/2009
@ 8:06 am

I can?t help wonder what newspapers would look like today if, back in 1977, they had reviewed punk records. Or if, in 1981, they had starting running Matt Groening?s ?Life in Hell.?

The Austin Chronicle?

#16 Anne Hambrock
January/16/2009
@ 8:08 am

Ted, while I agree with much of what you say, it isn’t only the elderly that get their knickers in a twist over letting the F word into a mainstream paper.(re the Dick Cheney quote) Don’t forget that no matter how tame the content of a paper may be, there has been a very vocal conservative sector among newspaper readers of various ages and they have pushed hard for the continued g rated model. Papers have catered to that demographic.

#17 Mike Witmer
January/16/2009
@ 8:52 am

“Young people didn?t stop reading. Papers kicked them to the curb.”

A-men to that. I’ve been screaming the same thing for a while now.

#18 Phil
January/16/2009
@ 9:49 am

The trouble with so many, not all, editors are they are slaves to the comics of their era. They keep the ones they love and dump the ones they either hate or just don’t understand. I hated it when a local newspaper dumped Lio, but added the Suduko puzzle. I don’t know how to play this puzzle or understand its popularity.
Yes, humor is subjective, but we do need more heart warmingh humor now more then ever.
Sports is the sacred cow, it will never be touched, too many start their day reading the box scores, sigh.

#19 puddyfudge
January/16/2009
@ 1:08 pm

Here we go…

Newspapers are sooo dumb. The classifieds and the local “stories” ARE THE reasons most people buy the newspaper. JOBS-JOBS-JOBS, to quote Hilary is why many people “back in tha dizzle” bought newspapers, that and to see who died yesterday.

Now I can go to Craig’s List or many other sites to get this information. Newspapers gave that information away with BOTH hands!!!

Now the fire cartoonist and cut the comics section. Why not get rid of some sport columnist? I can get better at ESPN. Why not get rid of some opinion columnists? I can get better at nytimes.com. No, they “axe” the art (comics) . Newspapers are cutting the wrong “stuff.”

Newspaper have THE thing that should have them SWIMMING in money…STORIES!!!!!!!! They just gave it away with BOTH hands…

Newspapers ARE in a ditch, they simply need to STOP DIGGING. Pull ALL of their local information OFF of other websites. HIRE WEB GURUS AND MULTIMEDIA DEVELOPERS TO BUILD SITES PEOPLE WILL VISIT!!!!!!!

DON’T USE GOOGLE FOR ADVERTISING…BUILD YOUR OWN STUFF…STOP RENTING, BE AN OWNER OF YOUR CONTENT.

Whew… now if newspapers would only LISTEN….

#20 puddyfudge
January/16/2009
@ 1:12 pm

Comics is the LEAST of newspapers worries. They need to re-focus and start “leading” and stop “following” so damn much.

imho

#21 Mike Peterson
January/16/2009
@ 3:58 pm

Come on, man — If you’re such a genius, how come you don’t know your own name?

#22 Wiley Miller
January/16/2009
@ 4:04 pm

“They call me MISTER Puddyfudge!”

#23 Quint Nelson
January/17/2009
@ 10:32 am

Newspapers are now run by Corporate Accountants, not Publishers or Editors. They have seized control of operations and are now dictating the use of content. Content is now a comodity. The industry has slipped away and will never come back.

Now, as the wave of bankruptcies splash over the newspaper industry, these moronic accountants will actually have even more control. Watch what happens at the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and others.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Rocky Mountain News, and Tucson Citizen are GONE. Lee & McClatchy Newspapers are just about ready to collapse.

Folks, it’s reality check time, the tipping point has come and gone. This boat is takin’ on water and goin’ down in a hurry.

#24 Mike Lester
January/17/2009
@ 12:48 pm

Why any serious business person would ignore the advice of someone named Puddyfudge is a mystery.

Signed,
Stoopmo Podunkski

#25 Tom Wood
January/18/2009
@ 9:41 am

Let me say it again, the only newspapers around in the future will be very upmarket, all the downmarket stuff being more readily available on the internet or in magazines made of pulped squirrels that will be handed out free to the unemployable and the insane.

http://www.bryanappleyard.com/blog/2009/01/on-newspapers.php

Follow the links, especially this one:

http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=4605

What service supplied by newspapers is the least vulnerable? I still believe that a newspaper’s most important product, the product least vulnerable to substitution, is community influence. It gains this influence by being the trusted source for locally produced news, analysis and investigative reporting about public affairs.

Not all readers demand such quality, but the educated, opinion-leading, news-junkie core of the audience always will.

I think these two observations are in conflict. I’m a news junkie, but I no longer consider myself just an Austinite. I just don’t care that much about the local issues (will Walmart be able to build at Northcross?) when the global issues are simply more interesting. I’m glad there are other people more locally focused though, so maybe this works for that audience.

#26 Mike Peterson
January/19/2009
@ 5:20 am

Appleyard’s disdain for the peasantry is a key to a problem that small papers face in the current decline: The arrogance of the large metros who (also) control the conversation, and who assume that there is no conceptual difference between a 210,000 daily and a 12,000 daily, and that only (entire) metro markets are worth pursuing.

Unfortunately, they’re part of a chorus singing “It’s not hip to like newspapers” that does have an effect on readers and advertisers. Ridicule and dismissal are powerful weapons, even if their precise impact is hard to calculate.

But Tom’s lack of interest in his own community is also a profound weapon working against newspapers. Newspapers can be viable if they are properly targeted to a coherent geographic, rather than demographic, audience. Newspapers should be a “something for everyone” product, but within a tight distribution area in which they can highlight local interests like — as in Tom’s example — what the shopping and employment opportunities are likely to be.

Bear with me, because it’s also not hip to look back more than five years, but when the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, we sat through standups, acrobats, Broadway music and other irrelevancies to see what we came for. Because we lived in a three-network universe, we assumed that we had to do that and didn’t resent it. And we thereby absorbed some interests other than our own — if we didn’t embrace them, we at least were exposed to them.

Today, a 16 year old in Austin is not going to sit through a bunch of other acts to get to the music he wants — he’ll go up to his room and download or surf to exactly, precisely, what he wants. As a result, he knows more about another 16 year old in Japan or Australia than he does about the 30 year old who lives across the street. And, as he grows, goes to college, joins the military, whatever, he will continue to stay in that fragmented demographic of people who share his interests and are exactly like him.

It’s fatal to newspapers, but it isn’t good for any of us.

Another major flaw in the attempts by the genius visionaries to resuscitate papers is the unsupported notion that they are entertainment, like TV, radio and the movies. They are not. While they should of course, be pleasing, engaging and entertaining, they are a local utility, like the gas company. And if people don’t feel invested in their local communities, they have no need to know what’s going on there. They not only don’t know about that fellow across the street who isn’t in their demographic, they also don’t give a damn what happens to him or the town he lives in.

Fatal to newspapers. Not good for any of us.

#27 Paul Anderson
January/19/2009
@ 7:40 am

The Dallas Morning News cut about a third of their comics about the time of this economic meltdown. The first few hours they had over a thousand responses to their poll of which one to keep. Voting was so heavy over then next two weeks their server crashed several times. How did the geniuses interpret the results? That there were thousands and thousands who felt strongly about comics? No – “this one is the most wanted.”

I called and canceled my subscription. The person did not ask why – I told her. She said “yeah, we’ve lost a lot of subscriptions over this.”

I then called the Ft Worth Star Telegram (great comics section) and bought a new subscription. When I volunteered why I canceled DMN and switched to FWST the person said “Interesting – I’m just filling in on the phone – we’re short handed – but I’m one of the editors. We’ve always thought there were better ways to save money than by cutting comics. They’re pretty important to our readership. Thanks for offering that – I’m about to head into a meeting and I’ll reiterate this point.”

#28 Frank Rizzo
January/19/2009
@ 11:03 am

Today the AJC reinstated the winners of its comic vote: “Kevin & Kell” and “Judge Parker.” We received more than 18,000 responses in the four days that the poll site was active.

#29 Jason Nocera
January/19/2009
@ 11:32 am

How did the voting work? I find it interesting that Kevin and Kell – which has a large internet following – got the most votes. I’m sure he rallied the troops on his website – I doubt the other strips have as big of a following on the web – but they might have a bigger following in the Atlanta area – which makes me as the question again.. how did the voting work? This is not to take anything away from Kevin and Kell and the great work Bill does – this has more to do with questioning online voting and it’s accuracy.

#30 Kevin Moreau
January/19/2009
@ 12:39 pm

I have to echo Jason’s questions, not because of any potential ball-dropping on the AJC’s part, but because I just can’t see the paper’s conservative (as in older, set in their ways, not necessarily in the poltical sense) readers voting en masse for “Kevin & Kell.”

No offense to its creator or its fans, but as a weekly newspaper editor and a voracious comics reader (and one named Kevin, at that), I find “K&K” labored, occasionally confusing and uninvolving. I have a hard time believing that “Rose is Rose,” for all its cutesy overload, didn’t come close to edging out a one-joke strip with characters that are difficult to distinguish from each other. So readers didn’t find “Ink Pen,” one of my favorites, worth keeping around–fine, I can live with that.
But if Atlantans really rallied to save “Kevin & Kell” over “Rose is Rose,” I don’t know my fellow citizens anymore.

As for “Judge Parker,” as far as I’m concerned the only reason “dramatic” strips like it, “Mark Trail” and “Mary Worth” exist is to provide fodder for the Comics Curmudgeon.

Ambled off-topic a bit, I realize, so thanks for your indulgence.

#31 Howard Roberts
January/19/2009
@ 12:54 pm

If you go to Bill Holbrook’s website for Kevin & Kell, it appears that he had some help from his online fans (where the comic started). He is thanking those bloggers and fans today for helping to bringing back it back to the AJC.

http://www.kevinandkell.com/

#32 Quint Nelson
January/19/2009
@ 2:39 pm

What a disgraceful way to poll readers. It was obviously rigged. The Journal-Contitution doesn’t give a crap about the readers.

#33 Howard Roberts
January/19/2009
@ 4:30 pm

Quint…we get it. You don’t like strips like Judge Parker. They are for the “octogenarian” readers.

Maybe Frank Rizzo can state whether the “poll was rigged”? Either way,18,000 votes shows a lot of passion either way and it was done online.

Many “octogenarian” readers of Judge Parker probably barely can operate a computer. If the AJC didn’t “give a crap” about the readers they probably wouldn’t have taken the time to ask, but just acted.

What do the say about opinions again? They are like….

#34 betty granberry
December/12/2009
@ 11:42 am

Interested in seeing daily bridge hands on computer from atlanta journal.

Thank you very much.

#35 Mike
January/27/2010
@ 8:48 pm

The world is far to serious. Lets not stop laughing.

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