Anniston Star takes a stand (Poynter.org)

Always regarded as a very respectable paper, the Anniston Star once again proves that principle is on their side! (History of the Anniston Star.) The controversy is over ‘Doonesbury’ … I know, it is another newspaper related post, but the lessons here are as good as the one in the Arizona Republic post below.

This is a freedom of speech issue. Newspapers, at least in the past, did not shy away from carrying a wide diversity of opinions in many forms. Have ‘market forces’ changed the way newpaper publishers view editorial content? the principle of a ‘free press’? Yes, those were rhetorical questions. So, let us consider how and why this change has come about. What are your thoughts?

In it’s own way, Doonesbury is to comics what Joshua Micah Marshall and Glenn Reynolds are to blogs and what Maureen Dowd and Robert Novak are to newspapers. Although, for the life of me, I cannot think of one ‘successful’ conservative cartoon strip – today. Help me out. Is there one that launched in – say – the last 20 or 30 years?

The best part of this story? The historical reference to “Orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks” as the social commentary vehicles they were. Check it out!

From Poynter.org:

Anniston Star protests “Doonesbury” censorship

Anniston Star protests “Doonesbury” censorship
7/20/2004 12:57:51 PM

From CHRIS WADDLE, VP/News, Consolidated Publishing Co., publishers of The Anniston Star: Continental Features, a publishers consortium that prints Sunday comics for 38 clients, has killed the cartoon strip Doonesbury. The publisher and editors of The Anniston Star, one of the newspapers, object to the action they interpret as censorship.

What follows are copies of email messages from Van Wilkerson of Contiental, from H. Brandt Ayers, Chairman of Consolidated Publishing Co., publishers of The Anniston Star, and Star Editorial Page Editor Bob Davis, writing to members of the National Conference of Editorial Writers.


The entire post from Poynter Online – Forums.

Anniston Star protests “Doonesbury” censorship
7/20/2004 12:57:51 PM

From CHRIS WADDLE, VP/News, Consolidated Publishing Co., publishers of The Anniston Star: Continental Features, a publishers consortium that prints Sunday comics for 38 clients, has killed the cartoon strip Doonesbury. The publisher and editors of The Anniston Star, one of the newspapers, object to the action they interpret as censorship.

What follows are copies of email messages from Van Wilkerson of Contiental, from H. Brandt Ayers, Chairman of Consolidated Publishing Co., publishers of The Anniston Star, and Star Editorial Page Editor Bob Davis, writing to members of the National Conference of Editorial Writers.
………

From: Van Wilkerson

To: [several names]

Sent: Wednesday, July 07, 2004 2:08 PM

Subject: Doonesbury Replacement

Second Request

To All Continental Features Sunday comics clients:

Last month, I contacted you about your preference on whether Doonesbury should remain a part of our Sunday comic package. Of our 38 newspaper clients, 21 favored dropping Doonesbury from the lineup. 15 voted to keep it as part of the package. Two people had no opinion or preference.

As a result of this survey, I feel that is time to act to seek a replacement strip for Doonesbury.

Continuing to follow the democratic principle and seeking your input, I am offering the following 4 strips as candidates for a replacement:

AGNES, by Tony Cochran, distributed by Creators Syndicate. (18-30 age group)

GETTY FUZZY, by Darby Conley, distributed by United Features Syndicate. (Pets)

PICKLES, by Brian Crane, distributed by Washington Post Writers Group. (Grandparents)

ZITS, by Jim Borgman & Jerry Scott, distributed by King Features. (Teen)

I ask that you vote for ONE of these choices. However, you may choose to vote for ANY strip not included in the 4 candidates, but please limit your choice to ONE. I will tabulate the results and negotiate a best price for the strip that is the clear favorite.

If you are not familiar with what is available, it’s easy to access a sample of most comic strips online from the syndicate’s web site.

Based on the lengthy time that it took to get your initial response on Doonesbury, I ask that you please make this request a priority and respond to me as quickly as possible. I will follow up with the results.

Thanks for responding promptly.

Van Wilkerson, President
Continental Features, Inc.

———–

Mr. Wilkerson:

All of my editors met with me this morning and to a man, and woman, we objected to a newspaper organization censoring opinion by plebiscite. I am in thorough agreement with my editors, and strongly object to an obviously political effort to silence a minority point of view. For years, my New Deal father bore the opposition views of Orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks, and I believe he would have fought an effort to silence them by a simple majority vote. This is wrong, offensive to First Amendment freedoms.

H. Brandt Ayers
Publisher
The Anniston Star
—–

[Message to National Conference of Editorial Writers]

Last month, the syndicate that puts together our Sunday comic section polled its members about scrapping Doonesbury.

By a vote of 21-15, the feature was rejected. The syndicate recently informed its clients that Doonesbury would soon be replaced with another strip.

The business side has made a decision on editorial content. The Star finds this censorship unacceptable.

I’m curious. Have any of your papers faced a similar situation regarding Doonesbury or any other feature provided by a syndicate?

Regards,

Bob Davis
Editorial Page Editor
Anniston Star

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2 thoughts on “Anniston Star takes a stand (Poynter.org)

  1. walt

    B.C. That’s a conservative strip that’s been around for a while. It’s not blatant, but it’s there.

  2. Robert

    Cool. You’re right. It does do social commentary. I believe it takes both sides at times. I don’t remember thinking of it as always taking one viewpoint. But, I haven’t read it in a long time, I’m sad to say.

    Thanks, I did not think of that one. And B.C. is funny, too. Thanks for sharing it Walt.

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