After 63 years, military cutbacks have finally hit Camp Swampy.
Stars and Stripes, the newspaper serving the U.S. military community, announced this week it has dropped Mort Walker's Beetle Bailey from its daily print edition as the average number of pages shrinks from 40 to 32 due to a number of financial factors that include Department of Defense sequestration cuts and a declining readership.
The newspaper also expects to eliminate an estimated 40 staff positions worldwide next year amid a reduction in print operations "as it tries to accelerate a shift toward digital distribution."
The more immediate, and noticeable, losses include Beetle Bailey, which will continue to appear in the weekend edition, along with (by my count) 15 other comic strips -- among them, Garfield, Zits, B.C., Over the Hedge, Baby Blues and Speed Bump. Dilbert, Doonesbury, Pearls Before Swine and Get Fuzzy are among the eight survivors. The Sunday comics section will be reduced from 16 pages to eight, but there's no indication yet which strips made the cut.
Other Stars and Stripes features were also eliminated: Dear Abby, Sudoku, Scripps-Howard News Service articles, and syndicated opinion writers Clarence Page and Jack Kelly, for starters.
Newspaper executives say the changes were expected, and fall within a plan they've been working on for five years. The future, they say, is digital, where Stripes.com readership has been experiencing double-digit readership growth.