I have a rolling to-do list for this job. It’s an actual written list of things I want to accomplish at the Quad-City Times, projects I want to try and suggestions I’ve gotten from readers about ways we could be better.
For weeks, I’ve had this line on the list: “Make a decision about the Comics page.”
The line rises to the top of the list as I cross things off. I pull out the folder I have dedicated to this decision and I stare at my notes. I usually stare at those notes – some written in the margins of an actual Comics page – and after a few minutes of staring, I close the folder and think of a reason why it will be easier to make the decision tomorrow.
I add a line to tomorrow’s to-do list: “Make a decision about the Comics page.”
Any editor who makes a quick decision about the comics page is either new to newspapers or an idiot. But an editor who doesn’t make a decision because she’s afraid to make the wrong decision and anger readers, isn’t much better.
So, I’m about to pull the trigger, but I wanted to check in with Quad-City Times readers first.
Months ago, when I canceled Get Fuzzy because the author hadn’t drawn a new cartoon in years, I heard from a lot of people. I took notes during the phone calls and saved the emails and treated it as an unscientific survey for those who have incorporated the comics into their regular newspaper reading routine.
I have one reader who sends me a friendly email every morning with a copy of Pooch Café, Doonesbury and Brewster. It’s a quiet and persistent lobbying effort. Well, it’s working.
When I cancelled Get Fuzzy, I replaced it with Non Sequitur.
“I read with profound sadness your decision to discontinue the Non Sequitur comic …” one woman wrote. While there were a few people who said the comic was “weird” and “dismally unfunny,” I’ve had a consistent string of emails and PS’s on letters, asking me to bring it back.
From my unscientific survey about our comics section, here are some of the other themes and requests:
Several people requested Doonesbury’s return. Garry Trudeau only draws new cartoons for Sunday. As you now know, I’m not a fan of reruns, but I would consider adding him to the Sunday page.
Comics people said could go: In the Bleachers, Family Circus, Mutts, The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee, The Lockhorns and Red & Rover.
Funky Winkerbean was described in one recent magazine article as the “savior of the comics page, but a Quad-City Times reader wrote, “Dump Funky Winkerbean.” Then he added, “Get rid of Over the Hedge.”
People said they love: Mutts, Frazz, Pooch Café. (Notice Mutts is in the kill and keep category).
I’d be crazy to cut Family Circus. I personally think that Hi & Lois, Blondie and Beetle Bailey are sexist and I cringe when I read them, but I heard from a lot of people who love them.
I know that line is going to rise to the top of my to-do list again this week and this time, I’m going to “Make a decision about the comics page.”
I’d like to bring Non Sequitur back, add Pooch Café to the daily paper and Doonesbury to the Sunday paper. But something has to die in order for something new to live. There has been some consensus about getting rid of The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee, which would be a good spot for Non Sequitur.
And If I’m going to bring on Pooch Café, is there another dog comic you’re willing to walk to the guillotine? Several readers seemed willing to sacrifice Red & Rover.
The polls close on Friday. Drop me a note or give me a call.