Some newspapers just put Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury on the editorial page; others run it next to Garfield and then are startled when they notice the tone is somewhat different. Watch for one of those moments next week: The Portland Oregonian and the St. Paul Pioneer Press have already announced they will not run a week’s worth of strips that are critical of the Texas law requiring women to have an ultrasound before they are permitted to have an abortion. Other papers, including the Kansas City Star, will move them to the op-ed section. Jim Romenesko has the scripts as well as statements from the two papers—and from the Dallas Morning News, which will run the strips. (Honestly, the scripts sound a bit heavy-handed, but I thought Friday’s was dead on.)
On the one hand, you can see the papers’ point. People don’t want to hear about abortion over their Cheerios, and the strips include mention of a ten-inch “shaming wand” and show a woman in stirrups in an examining room. But Doonesbury has always been controversial and by now, there is no excuse for editors not to know what they are getting into. Besides, it’s satire on a social issue that has been very much in the news these days, including the news and opinion sections of those same newspapers, so why not run it on the funny pages?
The Atlantic Wire thinks that getting himself banned is brilliant self-promotion on Trudeau’s part, noting that the Chicago Tribune pulled some Doonesbury strips last year that drew from Joe McGinniss’s book about Sarah Palin. And it’s not like he’ll take a big hit from this; Lee Salem, president of Universal UClick, which syndicates Doonesbury, figures “20 or 30” papers out of the 1,400 that carry the strip will kill next week’s episodes.
UPDATE: In an interview with the Washington Post, Trudeau says that ignoring the latest turn in the abortion controversy would be “comedy malpractice.”