San Diego U-T Dumps Doonesbury All Week For Supporting Women’s Reproductive Rights

by on March 12, 2012 · 18 comments

in Culture, Health, Media, Women's Rights

Gary Trudeau by Tim Richards.

Comics about women’s reproductive rights simply not “appropriate”

Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau takes on Texas’ controversial abortion laws this week, but you won’t see them in our big bold San Diego U-T. U-T editor Jeff Light joins a number of equally feckless editors in places like Kansas City, MO, pulling the strip completely, or providing “replacements.” Father knows best…

In today’s Doonesbury strip, a Texas woman walks into an abortion clinic and is introduced to the shaming room.

San Diego civic activist/blogger Norma Damashek writes about the U-T:

“It’s back to kindergarten with color-coded newspaper sections. The Business section is dollar bill green. Sports is football brown. Local is bay blue. Food is plum purple.”

And the coverage of women’s reproductive rights is Void black. Welcome to the “shaming room,” U-T style.


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG March 12, 2012 at 10:24 am

I swear on the sacred balls of Mithra & Horus that we have suddenly shifted backwards in time to the medieval era. Those right-wing futher muckers, those mother father cocker spaniels . . .
I’m getting dizzy. I need to pray to the sacred areolas of Mother Mary and/or Madonna to help restore my equilibrium. Oops, it may be too late; I’m falling.


avatar Anna Daniels March 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

I’m swearing too! ;)


avatar judi Curry March 12, 2012 at 11:47 am

Thank goodness for the OBRag. Living in San Diego is like living in a vacuum!


avatar mr fresh March 12, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Don’t worry gang. The Pope’s main man in town may own the daily paper, but he & his minions can’t stop the truth from getting out any more. Three cheers for the OB Rag.


avatar cheryl Baden March 12, 2012 at 5:34 pm

As one of the few people on this street that actually suscribe to your paper I find it cutles that you will not publish Doonesbury in full I have been looking for a reason to get rid of my subcription I thin that I now have it. good bye and good riddence!


avatar GFJMcG March 13, 2012 at 8:40 am

I find the UT very useful. We use it for our dog to piss and poo on during the day. Other than that it has no value. In my opinion it was never a very good newspaper to begin with, and after Douglas Manchester bought it the paper has now become a right wing propaganda machine. The pulling of this cartoon is not unexpected given the lack of impartial reporting and journalistic integrity displayed in their pages; again, in my opinion.


avatar Jeff Light March 14, 2012 at 8:40 pm

You know, sometimes people with strong feelings get worked up and do things that they probably realize, deep down, are out of bounds. It is a way of getting more attention. So, Rush Limbaugh calls some poor woman a slut, or Gary Trudeau draws cartoons of a woman on the abortion table. To me this is all the same sort of thing.
I didn’t kill those strips for any partisan reason. I run Doonesbury every day. There almost always political content, and it always runs.
I killed them because somehow a guy who is supplying a comic strip that runs right next to the Snoopy cartoon has decided that he’s going to send me stuff about vaginal ultrasounds, with no real advance notice, and then pretend he’s SHOCKED that I am not running them. OH MY! LOOK at the ignorant right wing censorship! What kind of numb-skull would refuse to run drawings of a woman undergoing an abortion on the funnies pages? I mean, what is the world coming to?
That is all bunch of horse shit, imho.
Now, you should know I got notice of this Friday at lunch time. I guess Gary must have just become inspired and drawn the strip over breakfast, so this represented his genuine effort to make sure it was placed appropriately.
I did consider tearing up Monday’s editorial page, which was already complete, to find a spot for the cartoon there. We could have killed the letters to the editor to make space somehow. Because I think the issues raised truly are newsworthy.
But then I realized, well, shoot, I started off with an abortion next to Snoopy, but now my solution is to begin a sardonic, one-sided five-part series on the editorial page. Could I whip up a mean, cutting comic that would mock the other side all week, to somehow provide balance, to keep this from coming off as something more than a calculated ideological ambush?
Then I just decided, you know what, the hell with it. Dropping a stink bomb like this does not give you the high ground in setting the terms of the discussion. The people making that argument, in my opinion, are allowing their political views to color their intellectual judgment. This isn’t about freedom of the press. It’s more like the sort of game of chicken you’d expect to see in high school newspapers.
I am sympathetic to the message of the strips. I am unapologetic for killing them.
It’s not my job to draw something that can run on the funnies page…it is Trudeau’s. And it is not my obligation to turn over our editorial pages to a partisan serial on a moment’s notice just because it is does not fit elsewhere.
I run Trudeau regularly. The fiction that I am trying to suppress his political message is untrue.


avatar Anna Daniels March 15, 2012 at 8:13 am

Jeff- I completely understand your distaste for being ambushed. Here I sit drinking my morning coffee and bam! there’s an article about the Arizona legislature seriously debating giving employers the option of asking women why they are using birth control. I hate it when that kind of shit keeps happening. Women have been ambushed a whole lot this past year and it’s not stopping any time soon.

But then we part company on the matter. You set up an utterly false equivalency between Limbaugh’s slut remarks (not founded on facts) and Trudeau’s woman on an abortion table (quite true). They are not “the same sort of thing.”

And then there is issue with running a comic about transvaginal ultrasounds next to a Snoopy cartoon. The subtext here is that 10 year old Johnny and 11 year old Ashley will be exposed to an abortion next to Snoopy. You feel that your readers need to be protected, but I am not convinced that you have given much thought about who you are really protecting and why.

That does leave the op-ed page as an alternative for more controversial adult issues, which many of your readers also requested. You chose not to make that transfer for all the reasons you enumerated above. You were pissed off by Trudeau’s assumption that you would run with the series which you consider to be an ideological stink bomb. And you didn’t want to mess up the predetermined layout of those pages. But you are sympathetic to the issue of women’s access to reproductive health care. And it would be fun to whip up a mean cutting comic as a counterpoint.

Maybe we can agree on one more thing. State mandated transvaginal ultrasounds are not appropriate for the comic pages because they are not appropriate in any woman’s vagina as a prerequisite for an abortion. If we deal with the latter issue, the former will go away on its own.


avatar unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG March 15, 2012 at 9:08 am

Limbaugh & Trudeau are not of equal status. Good thinkin’ Anna.


avatar Lara March 15, 2012 at 9:40 am

Nicely put, Anna


avatar judi Curry March 15, 2012 at 10:17 am

Once again Anna you have been succinct in your answers. I used to marvel at the fact that Doonesbury was even carried by the U/T. The tiniest bit of light in an otherwise republican reporting machine. But this censorship and for the reasons mentioned makes me ill. You are so right about the appropriateness of any woman’s vagina as a topic doesn’t belong here. I wonder if Jeff will allow any advertisement for “Vagina Monologues” or will he censor that too?


avatar Shelley Plumb March 15, 2012 at 9:35 am

What would we do without the OB Rag and fine writer Anna Daniels? Anna, you completely nailed it in your reply to Jeff Light. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


avatar Ernie McCray March 15, 2012 at 11:08 am

It’s so disappointing to me after having lived 73 years with 74 barely a month away, that I live in a universe that can’t handle the TRUTH! My goodness, Doonesbury is just telling it like it is, with a little humor, and somehow we have to be protected. It’s almost like: “Humans! Oooom! Good, God! What are they good for? Absolutely nothing!” That must be what the birds and bees are singing. How do we create a better world if we can’t bear to look at our world?
Anna, you broke all this down so beautifully.


avatar Marilyn Steber March 15, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Okay, so Doonesbury isn’t in the comics section? No news for me there.
‘Scuse me for not having read the Union-Tribune (aka San Diego U-T) comics in the past 10+ years but I thought the column had moved to the Editorial section years ago.
It isn’t that I had a problem reading the SD Union Trib. I had to be at work hours before it was delivered to my doorstep. Boy howdy, I do love non-paper news!


avatar Marian Karpisek March 15, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Way to go, Anna. You are right on. The U-T needs to know that many more of us are considering dropping our subscriptions because of their bias. Keep speaking out for us.


avatar rak March 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm

One of the factors to consider, regarding whether or not to run a strip, would seem to be the purpose of the comics section. If it’s intended to be Komix for Kids, with no material not suitable for an eight-year old, then that’s one thing. But since not only Doonesbury, but La Cucaracha, Non Sequitur, Pearls Before Swine, etc. appear in the U.T.’s comic line-up, that can’t be the case. If there’s already a tacit understanding that some material will be intended for an adult audience, what justifies suppressing a particular panel? And “suppress” in this case means eliminate, the strip wasn’t even moved to the editorial section, as occasionally has been done in the past. Apparently it takes something that spotlights the absurdity and hubris of the State deciding to play doctor with women’s health care.
(Ultimately from the publisher’s perspective, the purpose of any section of the paper is to attract readers/subscribers that can then be used to entice advertisers to buy ad space. I suspect Doonesbury is a bone tossed to those who are not part of the conservative base, in an attempt to provide some incentive to fork over the cash.)


avatar dave rice March 16, 2012 at 10:08 pm

A few points, some covered in other comment threads on related articles:

1. When did Doonesbury make it back to the comics page anyway? When I was a kid it was always in Op-Ed, and even then that made sense to me.

2. rak makes a good point that there are other comics that discuss themes a bit on the grown-up side for kids. For that matter, do they still run Mary Worth and the other handful of dreadfully boring strips that are completely inappropriate for children and equally devoid of any quality that would qualify them being labeled as “funnies?”

3. Jumble-of-letters-for-a-screenname Guy – you really think the paper just went downhill when Manchester bought it? Maybe the print edition has declined further in recent months, but I cancelled my subscription about six years ago after watching 2-3 years of decline and finally crying uncle. There’s still some quality reporting going on, and the sports coverage wavers between decent and good (I’m probably one of the few people that has both read and enjoyed Canepa for 15+ years), but it doesn’t justify the cost of delivery, and hasn’t for some time (maybe if I had a birdcage I needed to line). I hope they’re making enough off hawking ads to me online to keep the sports page alive, at least.

4. Anna, your comments kick ass as always. This probably should be comment 1.

5. Jeff – if you’re really you (publicly typing out the sentence “That is all bunch of horse shit, imho,” and then deciding to hit ‘Submit’ raises a little doubt), and you’re checking back on these comments, I’ve got to say that I’m calling bullshit on your excuse to not run the strip. There’s nothing in the Monday edition that would be incredibly objectionable – hell, the word “abortion” isn’t even used. Is “pregnancy termination” too harsh for impressionable young minds? Would a kid even know what that means? You could have run the Monday strip without compromising your editorial section that was “already complete” when you saw the strip on Friday, 3 days early, and then moved the later, apparently more objectionable material, beginning on Tuesday. But, then again you say that, in your own words, you were asked to “run drawings of a woman undergoing an abortion on the funnies pages.” Now that we’ve all seen the whole strip, as I’m sure you did before making this claim, I think that’s a pretty tough position to defend.


avatar Frank Gormlie March 17, 2012 at 8:21 am

Dave, not only that – but they run comics drawn by dead people.


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