I’ve read a few reactions to the news that some newspapers have pulled this week’s Doonesbury that mocked Sarah Palin. Here’s a quick recap of some of the voices and then I’ll add my own.
On the one hand, I want to defend Trudeau’s right to publish his strip (editors who sign up for Doonesbury know what they’re getting into from the beginning, after all) and readers’ right to read it. On the other hand, if I were an editor, I would be complaining to the syndicate. The strips are awful heavy-handed, even by Trudeau’s standards; he’s clearly eager to get the juicy bits out there before anyone else. I’m no Palin fan, but from the excerpts I have seen online, McGinniss’ book is mean-spirited and journalistically dodgy, relying heavily on anonymous sources and folks with axes to grind, and the Doonesbury strips just amplify that. They should have been sent back for a rewrite, but that’s the job of his syndicate editor, not comics-page editors at individual papers.
Bottom line: Editors, of course, have the right not to run a cartoon.
But to that I would append: Cartoonists who editorialize, of course, have the responsibility not to be fair.
Now my take. I’m going to side with the newspapers on this one. Earlier in the week after looking at the first two or three strips I thought papers like The Chicago Tribune and others were being overly sensitive. But today’s strip is a game changer. We’ve (comic fans) been looking at these strips one at a time and formulating our opinion of the newspapers actions based on the very small sample of strips. Editors had advanced copies of this week’s content last week and I think they had reason to worry after seeing today’s strip. Today’s strip breaks news that Palin had a fling with Glen Rice of the Miami Heat. That’s news. Coming from a comic strip, but news nonetheless. The source is Palin biography by Joe McGinnis that will not be released until next week. Certainly, if the rumor proves to be false, what is the liability of the newspaper for having propagated the rumor?
So definitely, I think newspapers have the right to be cautious and those that pulled the strip were doing their job as editors.
As an aside, I thought (and I’m painting a wide brush here) liberals believe sex is a private matter for individuals. Why is Garry delving into this salacious issue? We’re talking about an encounter 24 years ago before Palin was even married.
UPDATE: I should probably add the obligatory disclaimer: I am not a Palin fan. She’s one of the reasons I didn’t vote for McCain in ’08 and I’ve struggled to understand why she’s so popular or how she’s been taken so serious.