Lee Papers Go Uniform Comics Company-Wide

Recently we’ve mentioned changes to some Lee Enterprises newspapers that hinted at a company-wide change to their comics pages, though we were loath to declare it so without confirmation. See here and here. But in the past years when we have seen a change in one newspaper of a chain, especially with syndicated content, it usually meant it’s an early notice that the rest of the chain will follow.

So it is that today The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has announced their forthcoming change as part of its marching orders from headquarters:

Starting Tuesday, you’ll notice significant changes to the comics, puzzles and advice columns in the Post-Dispatch. Our company, Lee Enterprises, is moving to a uniform set of offerings for its newspapers [emphasis added], with new strips and columns that you haven’t typically seen in the Post-Dispatch. The company’s goal with these changes is to make sure it can still devote resources to local news coverage and strong journalism.

All comics in Lee Enterprises newspapers going forward will be from Andrews McMeel Syndication.

21st Century technology is the bugaboo:

The past several years — actually, the past two decades — have shown the newspaper industry the critical need to continually change and evolve.

That direction has been clear for a while. Technology and the internet permanently changed our trajectory, of course, as they did for other industries. It has sometimes been a painful transition.

But it has also brought exciting opportunities to reach new audiences…

So changes are coming to the readers of Lee Enterprises newspapers which according to Wikipedia “publishes 77 daily newspapers in 26 states.”

The change will be drastic to Post-Dispatch readers. If I read The Waco Tribune-Herald statement correctly, and it carries over, The Post-Dispatch daily comics page will drop from 34 to 10 comics!
The Post-Dispatch ran an amazing, in this day and age, two pages of daily comics.

Not only will St. Louis lose the 15 King Features Syndicate comics, but about half of the remaining Andrews McMeel comics will be lost. With the remaining AMS strips being shuffled in and out:

On Monday through Saturday, that will mean a half-page of comics and a half-page of puzzles in the Everyday section, with a new mix of advice columns and entertainment and lifestyle coverage. Sundays will feature four full pages of comics in print, plus columns and puzzles.

The mix of comics will also change. We will lose some longstanding strips, such as “Family Circus,” “Beetle Bailey” and “Blondie.” We will no longer run the bridge column, and we will present a new advice column (“Ask Amy”) to replace “Dear Abby.”

Some of your favorite comics are staying, such as “Garfield,” “Pickles” and “Pearls Before Swine.” The Dr. Keith Roach column will remain on weekdays, and the Carolyn Hax column, which already runs in the Sunday Life section, will now also run on Saturdays in Everyday. Horoscopes will still run Monday through Saturday. And you will notice new comic strips, such as “Peanuts,” “Close to Home” and “For Better or For Worse.”

You can see the range of new options starting Tuesday, when we switch to the new Everyday pages, and next Sunday.

Peanuts and For Better or For Worse being given examples of the “new” funnies.

The Sunday Comics ran 20 comics with 11 of those being King Features features.

Of course they offer e-options to placate the readers:

In fact, we’ll be offering plenty more on other platforms. Our e-edition, an electronic replica of the newspaper, will offer you several more comics — a full extra page on Monday through Saturday and four full extra pages on Sunday.

In addition, we will launch the “GoComics” platform on our website (stltoday.com) starting Tuesday. That will offer our subscribers access to almost 500 daily comics, more than 30 digital puzzles and 15 syndicated columns, including “Dear Abby.”

I’m guessing The Post-Dispatch people are bracing for not a little backlash.



Update: more from The Missoulian:

Well, once more unto the breach, dear friends. Now we’re changing the comics, puzzles and advice columns.

The hard economic facts within the Lee Enterprises chain of newspapers are these: Every week, our page designers have been putting together more than 1,200 custom pages of comics and puzzles for 74 individual newspapers. We would rather invest those work hours and resources into newsgathering.

So we have renegotiated deals with the syndication services that provide those features. And we have standardized the results. Our regional design centers will now produce 30 to 40 versions of the comics section a week.

Each day from Monday to Saturday, you’ll see a half-page of comics and a half-page of puzzles in the paper. We kept your old favorites, from Garfield to Pearls Before Swine. Ask Amy will lend her advice, but you will no longer see Dear Abby in the paper.

On Sundays, you’ll still receive four pages of color comics, though some of the individual strips have changed. There will be a full page of puzzles.

6 thoughts on “Lee Papers Go Uniform Comics Company-Wide

  1. My experience at Lee was a lot of cookie-cutter management in which they made us stop doing things that were working for us and insisted we do things that didn’t.

    Local papers need to be local to survive, but I often joked that, if Lowe’s were run like Lee, they’d require their Miami store to sell the same number of snowblowers as their Minneapolis store — and would fire any manager who didn’t make numbers.

  2. “And you will notice new comic strips, such as “Peanuts,”… and “For Better or For Worse.””

    This is an interestingly finessed use of the word “new”.

  3. It’s time for comic strips to find a new home and ditch newspapers if they want to survive this slow, painful death.

  4. What’s interesting in the Omaha World-Herald is that the comics are in black-and-white (with no gray scale because of current coloring?)

    The rest of the sheet (four pages) has color photography.

    The St. Louis paper is the most shocking.
    Visiting relatives in the ’80s, not only did I enjoy the three pages of daily comics, but the last, back page was in color!

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