In what was a "clear call" for its editors, the Oregonian next week is taking a pass on an entire week of "graphic," abortion-themed Doonesbury comics.
Features Editor JoLene Krawczak announced the decision in a reader's note. Comics, she reminds us, are supposed to be funny (diligently probing the lives of fat, lasagna-loving cats and midnight-sandwich-munching layabout husbands) and stay away from grown-up subjects.
In next week's strip, “Doonesbury” author Garry Trudeau, in our judgment, went over the line of good taste and humor in penning a series on abortion using graphic language and images inappropriate for a comics page.
While we rarely pull strips for taste reasons, this was a clear call for the editors of the paper and for some other papers around the country, including the Los Angeles Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Yes, other papers are prudes, too. But the Washington Post isn't, and neither are some other editors. The WaPo quotes an editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer who says there's no difference between the funny pages and the front page—and does the O one better and actually (gasp) mentions what in the strips might be deemed objectionable.
Debbie Van Tassel, assistant managing editor of features at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, tells Comic Riffs that she and other top editors have decided to run next week’s strips, which feature a woman who sits in a “shaming room” as she awaits a pre-termination sonogram and a check-up from a legislator. “We didn’t deliberate long,” Van Tassel tells Comic Riffs. “We all agreed that some readers will be upset by them, mainly because they appear on the comics page, but also because of the graphic depiction of a transvaginal sonogram.”
Van Tassel cites the larger journalistic context in which “Doonesbury” appears. “This newspaper deals with those issues routinely in the news sections and in our health section,” she tells us. Our page one today, for example, carries a story about the movement by women legislators across the country to curb men’s abilities to get vasectomies and prescriptions for erectile dysfunction. I haven’t heard of any objections to that story yet.”