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HARD TIMES IN THE COMICS

Brenda Starr The spate, lately, of layoffs at newspapers inspired events in at least two comic strips. In the venerable Brenda Starr, the feisty and glamorous redhead reporter was “furloughed,” said Alan Gardner at his DailyCartoonist.com, quoting Mary Schmich, a columnist at the Chicago Tribune who writes the strip, who told Editor & Publisher: “The budget cuts inside Starr’s fictional newsroom reflect the bottom line at real-life newspapers, which are slashing staffs and  freezing salaries in the face of steep declines in advertising and circulation.” She added: "As far-fetched as some of the plots in Brenda are, I do like to keep it topical." She notes Starr's life "is a fantasy with nuggets of reality tossed in. But even fantasies need some grounding in reality, and right now, economic crisis is the reality that colors everything else at pretty much every newspaper."

In Doonesbury, Garry Trudeau, likewise inspired by the current blight in newsrooms, arranged
for Rick Redfern, his newspaper reporter character, to lose his job at the Washington Post, where he’d worked for 33 years. No one said much when the strip retailed Redfern’s fate in 2008, but when the sequence was recycled this year at the end of February, the Washington Post censored the strip, dropping it on a Wednesday; then, embarrassed by its own gaffe and realizing, as Tim Reid said at timesonline.com, “that it risked looking thin-skinned, the newspaper ran the final three segments and issued an apology. It blamed the initial decision on ‘an internal miscommunication of a sort Rick Redfern would no doubt appreciate.’” Probably, some supersensitive Post editor thought it best not to call attention to the industry’s current predicament, which is manifesting itself in the closing of newspapers, massive chain-wide layoffs, and other manifestations of dire financial ailments.

Db080918

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