Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Journal Sentinel Dumps Doonesbury, Readers

This morning brings us the new, thinner Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Apparently, the J-S has decided to continue the self-fulfilling prophesy of dead-tree decline by making itself even less essential to our need for information. The paper wants us to read more by making itself less irrelevant.

From a news perspective, the biggest change is in the second section. The former Metro section (in Milwaukee, anyway) is now titled Local. The J-S apparently has eliminated the targeted editions for various parts of the state and will try to cover all local stories in the state in two or three short pages of content (minus obituaries). "This move is an important step that recognizes a simple truth: We are all part of one local community," writes Editor Martin Kaiser in a Dear John letter to the jilted readership on page one today. Oh, there’s a simple truth, alright – the "zoned geographic editions" were just too expensive to continue. Why not just say that rather than pretend you are doing us a favor?

The fact is that our local paper has now officially abandoned its focus on the Milwaukee area. It has done to itself what it did to the various community newspapers it ate up and spit out into the pathetic Now tabloids – blended and pureed the important facts of our world into a jumble of irrelevancies. Strangely, Kaiser directs those starved for local news to the Now papers and websites, which is like sending a hungry child to the hardware store. The Journal Company that spent tons of money and expended a lot of what was left of its community goodwill in the ‘90s by gobbling up and destroying dozens of vital independent local newspapers now offers the bland results as a substitute for the abandoned content of the parent paper. What a joke.

Some of the pain of the ill-considered changes the Journal Sentinel has made this year might be easier to take if the paper was doing more with the less it has created for itself. For instance, Stuart Carlson’s unfortunate demise is felt the most of all the recently departed J-S writers, leaving a surprising hole in the soul of the newspaper. Now, there is no way local or even state politicians can be lampooned in the way only a local cartoonist can.

But, if you are going to become a second-class newspaper by forcing out your editorial cartoonist, you might want to bring in some of the better syndicated cartoonists, such as Tom Toles the Washington Post or maybe the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jim Borgman. But no. Instead we are seeing far too much of the repulsive right-wing nut, Michael Ramirez. Ramirez, who the defensive wing-nuts will tell you somehow managed a Pulitzer Prize for his undistinguished and unoriginal body of work, has a ham-fisted way of illustrating right-wing talking points, such as his recent drawing of a hurricane with the phrase "Tax & Spending" imposed over the clouds and the caption "Hurricane Obama". Clever insight, no? Er, no. Ramirez appears to be alternating with Chip Bok, a middle-of-the-roader with no discernable genius.

But, if you are talking about cartoon metaphors for the accelerating decline of the Journal Sentinel, there is nothing sadder than dropping Doonesbury. Ever since it started running in the old Journal Green Sheet way back in the ‘70s, the newspaper has never done right by Garry Trudeau and his strip. They never ran it according to Trudeau’s size specs so the art looks right. Then they caved in to right-wing pressure and moved it to the op-ed page. In recent years, they have run it next to the putrid Mallard Fillmore, a ridiculously unfunny right-wing strip, implying a creative and moral equivalence that exists only in the twisted heads of the clueless J-S editors. Now – starting today – Doonesbury is gone, even from the Sunday comics, squeezed out by the apparent elimination of the op-ed page on Saturday and Monday.

Doonesbury is the greatest comic strip in the history of publishing (challenged only by Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County). The development of the characters over time has been incredibly deep and believable, as they grew from carefree college students to late middle-aged adults. Most interesting has been B.D., who started as a hard-core right-wing quarterback trying to keep stoned Zonker on track in the huddle and now struggles with PTSD after being hit by an IED in Iraq. Trudeau has taken the daily strip and turned it into a living work of art with heart and brains. His political points still get made – from Mark Slackmeyer’s "guilty, guilty, guilty!" during Watergate to his deserved jabs at Bush and Cheney – but it always comes from a world we recognize and characters that we know.

The Journal Sentinel should be honored to be a home for Doonesbury, rather than treating it like so much surplus For Better or Worse. It's one thing for the J-S to be battered by economic info-market realities; it is quite another for them to be the victim of their own bad choices.


Jim Bouman said...

Hear, hear!

Joseph said...

Wow Mike, some great news, Carlson and Doonsbury in the same month, God must be smiling down on all of us

Curt said...

I'll miss the local news section, but Doonsbury hasn't been remotely funny in decades. Only worse piece of dreck on a daily basis in the paper is the Family Circus.

Other Side said...

It's understandable Joseph would cheer the demise of Carlson and Doonesbury. It took intelligence and imagination to appreciate their message, something it's obvious he lacks from the comments he leaves.

btw: I knew Stuart Carlson back when we attended West Bend West high school in the early 70s. We were nothing more than classmates(though we chatted briefly at the 25-year class reunion). However, he was talented even then.

David Casper said...

The greatest comic strip in the history of publishing?

It's good...but that's going a bit too far.

Anonymous said...

did anybody read that crappy
Doomsbury? Unlike the guy above, even The Family Circus was better.


Joseph said...

other side thinks only his opinion counts, only his side is right. Typical liberal devisiveness. Idiots like him are the ones that are tearing this country apart. Republicans love this country, liberals want to see this country torn apart and turned in a socialist one. That and only that is why they lose national elections on a consistent basis.

Other Side said...

other side thinks only his opinion counts, only his side is right. Typical liberal devisiveness. Idiots like him are the ones that are tearing this country apart. Republicans love this country, liberals want to see this country torn apart and turned in a socialist one. That and only that is why they lose national elections on a consistent basis.

Two things: That comment had to do with what?

And, still LMAO. What a bozo.

Joesph said...


Point proved!!! Why don't you ever address the issues that I have addressed, could it be that I am accurate?

Other Side said...

What point proved? What issues were you addressing in your unsubstantiated rant that had nothing to do with the post? Please, let us know.

Anonymous said...


I love my country...

I would die for my country, but I will not torture for it.

I will send my sons to war to defend my country, but I will not send them to "defend freedom" which is the same euphamism used when so many mother's sons shed blood on Vietnamese soil for years.

I love my country, and will not give up my freedoms to "feel safer" by letting the government tap my phones, jail people on suspicions and torture them until their pain causes them to substantiate those suspicions.

I am an old school American, and I take responsibility for my own safety.

I guess that makes me an idiot liberal to you Joseph, but I am what used to be called a conservative.

I was a conservative before that movement was hijacked by bellowing radio hyenas, religious nut jobs, tax cutters who will not balance a budget...making them not tax cutters at all, but in actuality tax deferrers, quite happy to have our children pay our bills one day and fight our illegitimate war now.
I do not include Afghanastan as an illegitimate war, just a poorly fought one.

I do not know you personally Joseph, so I would not name you with any derogatory term. For all I know, you are a fine human being with many thoughtful positions. But one would not know it from your posts.

-Soft Words and Broad Swords -

Joseph said...


who do we torture? We treat terrorists like hotel guests at a 4 star hotel, and you cry when we get tough on them. The government does NOT tap your phones unless you are suspected of terriorism, that is a GREAT thing. Terrorist have NO rights, None Zip Nadda!!!!!!!! . The rest is such pathetic dribble I do not care to comment as it is pathetic and not worth my time

Anonymous said...


Yes sir, a four star hotel, why we could even call it the Hanoi Hilton.

One of our founding fathers once said that those who would give up their freedoms for safety should end up with neither.

I apologize for entering the discussion as I severely overestimated the level of your response sir.

Joseph said...


Moron the US does not torture,. you idiot liberal scumbag, nor is wiretapping suspected terrorist a erosion of our rights of any kind, on any level. Grow up, get a life you unamerican scumbag

Anonymous said...

Hey Joe, what color is the sky in youru world?

Anonymous said...

My apology to the site for accidentally sending the post three times.

However, I am now curious whether I might get three different answers...


-Gratuitus Monty Python Reference-