Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.


Doonesbury to be dropped from 38 newspapers.

Now you've really gone and done it Larry. Do you believe in conspiracies? Me either....



There we go, the American media is dumbing and numbing and looking more like the Russian media during the Cold War.

First Ronstadt, now this.

I really fear for the US.

Hello? Ever heard of Whoopi Goldberg?

the Doonesbury thing gets me, but I dont see the connection with Ronstadt or Whoopi at all. Would I be out of line to suggest that the old Tin Foil Hat needs some patching here?

That garbage comics that were fresh 20 years ago and not since should earn the right to be in papers. Call it a conspiracy and sure Joi. Doonesbury is the Peanuts of political comics and was funny, well about the same time Peanuts was. I call it more conspiracy that the comic 'Day by Day' has yet to make it to papers.

I think you have to look at this with a bit of perspective. 38 news papers seems like a lot, until you read down the article and see that this cartoon (great as it is) is syndicated to 1,400 publications.

at that rate it's only 2.7%. not an insignificant percentage i grant you - but not the end of the world or some massive conspiracy.

Also - look at the market these newspapers deal with:

"The 38 papers running the package from Salisbury, N.C.-based Continental are predominately located in the Southeast. (USA)"

We're talking the heart of America here. Probably (?) prime Bush country. It's not the NY Times, of the Guardian dropping it.

If this continues then I think that's a problem. If it stops here then whatever - leave the small minded publications to it.


Chris_B: "I dont see the connection with Ronstadt or Whoopi at all"

1) both are cultural producers who have made comments recently that are critical of the right

2) Both Ronstadt and Trudeau commented on *films* ... documentaries (Ronstadt - Fahrenheit; Trudeau - Outfoxed) that are critical of the right

3) both have been silenced

I'm not suggesting that they're connected as some large conspiracy or something but that both were effectively silenced for highlighting films that are critical of the right.


You make your point well, but it assumes that:

1) Discontinuing a comic in 2.7% of newspapers "effectively silences" the author, when his work remains available on the web, in other papers, and in bookstores everywhere.

2) The discontinuation of Doonesbury can be directly attributed to Trudeau's politics, which wasn't clear from the article. What was clear is that some editors are uncomfortable printing materials that could cost them readers. That may not be laudable, but it is understandable.

Ron, you're right "effectively" was a bad word choice. They weren't "effectively silenced" (in the sense of being finally, totally, removed from the democratic process). But silenced they were, however briefly or isolated the contexts. And my feeling is that however small the context the question has to be asked "why?"... especially when a political opinions are being expressed.

"That may not be laudable, but it is understandable."

I understand censorship but I don't accept it.

Audiences feelings matter, certainly. But "what" audience is being privileged in either scenario? What polling company did the Continental choose to do their "research"? What neighbourhoods did they go to (leave out)? We all know polling and statistics can't be trusted for all the biased companies available out there to support whatever point of view one wants to "buy". This is what happens here in Canada every time we have a federal election. It's interesting that the so-called "random" results somehow miss the ridings that produce numbers that the particular party-affiliated polling company does not want.

The 'audience' speaks but the question is who is passed the microphone. And who is at the switch. Whose interests does the editor serve ultimately?For example, what happened to Ronstadt at the Aladdin hotel came down to a small group of loud and obnoxious right wingers whose feelings were backed up by the hotel owner. Even though Ronstadt received a standing ovation from the rest of the audience. The outcome of the performance (Ronstadt's removal from the hotel) is the product of a biased handling of the situation. Rather than removing the people who were behaving obnoxiously (the normal thing one does when people throw their drinks at a performer) the hotel owner removed the performer. But we're mostly hearing the story from the other perspective. Why? Because of who owns the majority of the mainstream media - the right. Most of the time we hear their story, their bias. That's why Moore's film is pissing them off so much, it's another version of the "facts".

Likewise with the Doonesbury, it's the reasoning behind the removal that is in question here. I don't buy the "readers think" argument. Why now? Why this particular political/historical moment? Doonesbury has been making wisecracks about politicians and political stuff for years.

Also, the argument that a story is insignificant because of numbers is an argument that is continually brought up with regards to all kinds of problematic issues. Sure it's not the end of the world but that doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about it. In some regions of the earth, insect species are dying at a rate of about 100 per DAY. This disturbance in biodiversity is a direct product of greenhouse gas and clear cutting. This isn't a big deal for most of us because it doesn't directly affect your daily life. The end of the world doesn't happen all at once. It happens in very small increments. Buffalo used to roam across Canada's praires keeping things green and healthy. Biodiversity, like diversity of opinion, is critical to the health of our planet and our minds.

I bring up the environment because it's just like free speech. If we don't protect it we will surely destroy it (and humans do a very good job of destroying things).

This frosts my balls. What a lot of people don't get, in the wake of 'liberal media' conspiracies, is that the editorial decisions are often dictated through a boards of directors or owners, who's bottom line is the bottom line. That's good for revenue, bad for debate, because the movement is to vanilla, non-confrontational and non-challenging material that readers won't be able to disagree with because there's nothing there to agree or disagree with.

These are the dynamics behind such decisions. The same happened with Aaron McGruder and The Boondocks, and Berke Breathed got it in the 80's, as did Bill Waterson with Calvin & Hobbes (not to the same political degree, but he had battles with newspaper editors and owners that he played out in his strip). It's a symptom of the way newspaper media, and arguably TV news, has moved since U.S. media deregulation in the early 1980's. News media has to compete with entertainment, and if you look at the way entertainment media has gone in the last 15 years, it's gotten increasingly blah (Friends? What did Friends actually reflect of any society? It was as fantasy-land as Ozzie & Harriet).

Point is, you can't run a news outlet by pinpointing medians on demographic charts. If the median on the chart would seem to be uncomfortable with the fact that, say, this administration bugged the offices of UN officials who were unwilling or wavering on their support for an Iraq invasion, then that story doesn't run, or it gets buried in order to keep that median happy (which happened). But that hurts the function of news sources.

And we're seeing the same kind of will-to-the-demographic-chart affect what I think is an incredibly important editorial outlet in comic strips. John Ashcroft must be singing "Let the Eagle Soar" right now...


How can there be any comparison between them? LR lost a singing job because her employer did not agree with the quality of her performance. WG lost a product endorcement contract becuase her employer did not approve of the choice of words in her political statements. Neither were silenced in the slightest.

Both LR & WG can go on doing whatever it is they do. Perhaps there is a diet product whose manufacturers want their spokesperson to be a foul mouthed pseudo political commentator and will pay WG to do just that. LR will probably be able to find more paying singing jobs. Both of them however are free to continue expressing their personal opinions regardless of how they derive their incomes.

The first ammendment does not guarantee anyone the right to be paid for expressing their opinions, it only guarantees that they can not be restrained from doing so. Yes free speech needs to be defended, but the LR and WG cases are hardly free speech restraints.

I think it's easy enough to agree that what WG did at least lacked forethought, and was dumb. What happened with LR was not the way it was reported --she left on her own; her show was billed as a revue but she wasn't told that and didn't play a revue show, so a drunken crowd expecting a revue got surly. In the wake of the Whoopi crap, there was a general media pile-on with the LR thing, framing it as if it were like the Whoopi thing. But it was nothing like that, it was just framed that way in the press. So the (false) link between WG and LR was framed by the press, but that's what most people are seeing.

So Trudeau's thing happens just days after the LR thing, and within this short space of time we've seen three entertainers publicly chastised for making critical comments, and it's cost those three some work. The underlying context is lookout, you Hollywood types, you may think you have the right to voice your opinion, but if management doesn't like it, you can be sure your opinion will cost you work. So the choice is your's --you can either keep your stinking opinions or keep your job. And therein lies your link --these three have been made examples of that message.

"LR lost a singing job because her employer did not agree with the quality of her performance"

Ronstadt was evicted from the casino for making remarks that were offensive to the casino owner. This had nothing to do with the quality of her "performance". The casino owner held the same views as the obnoxious audience members who objected to Ronstadt's dedication. It's not like she got out there and pulled out a speech or something. She merely dedicated a song.

Here is an article from The Guardian Unlimited:,4029,1265642,00.html

Firing a singer or a writer because they have a political opinion is questionable both cases because both LR and GT have a long history of expressing such views.

You have your view, I have mine.

Smart career move for the flabby and fading Diva.

Good business decision on the flabby and fading Doonsebury.

I think he's still good to go on about 1,100 newspapers so he'll still be able to pay the guys who draws it.

"Smart career move for the flabby and fading Diva."

90 percent of rightwing attacks on Linda Ronstadt's message board are about her looks and her weight. BTW - applying the same line to Doonesbury doesn't preclude calling you on this, "Gerard".

This kind of language is proof that bullies will always resort to those standby insults they perfected in the schoolyard. I can only imagine what Bill O'Reilly was like as a kid... something out of Lord of the Flies I'm sure.

Not everyone on the right is obnoxious. There are some decent, intelligent, respectful folks who hold republican views. It's just too bad that they're not the ones in power, on the airwaves, or having any significant influence over the lionshare of republican activities and policies.

BTW - here's a link to Ronstadt's message board for anyone who is interested:

As for Doonesbury I have no doubt that Trudeau is in any danger of losing his "voice" in the mainstream. But it doesn't detract from the main point of Joi's initial post - the fact of Trudeau's rather sudden and suspicious removal within days of his Murdoch strip.

7 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Doonesbury to be dropped from 38 newspapers.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

First Ronstadt ... now Doonesbury. Gary Trudeau's classic American comic Doonesbury is being dropped from 38 papers. A story appeared Read More

More U.S. censorship from
July 23, 2004 6:06 PM

Dixie Chicks, anyone? Thirty-eight American newspapers are dropping the politically-themed Doonesbury comic strip. Continental: Complaints Led to Drop-'Doonesbury' Poll "It was not a political statement of any kind," Continental Features President Van ... Read More

DOONESBURY VS MURDOCH from Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio
July 23, 2004 8:37 PM

Editor Read More

Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury is being pulled from 38 foolish newspapers because polls showed that a majority of their readers didn't like it. Oddly enough, this happened at the same time that Doonesbury is jabbing at Rupert Murdoch. Since Doonesbury... Read More

     I just came across a small tidbit in Joi Ito's Weblog about Doonesbury being dropped from 38 newspapers. I'll be... Read More

a while ago we got the news that doonesbury was being dropped by a group of newspapers. i was curious about that, and eventually found this: Continental: Complaints Led to Drop-'Doonesbury' Poll [editor & publisher, july 21, 2004][Continental Features ... Read More