One of the best parts about talking with avid newspaper readers on a daily basis is the realization that no two subscribers read the paper the same way. Or care about the same things.
Some love the hard news. Most love the Northwest section. A few admit they only glance at the headlines, look at the pictures and read the photo cutlines. There are those who love the sports section and those who don’t understand why we even bother with a sports section.
For many, the puzzles are the most important ritual of the day. The Spokesman-Review is one of the last newspapers in the Pacific Northwest to run daily TV listings, yet you wouldn’t believe the angry calls we got when we cut those listings to just our local stations on some days a week.
I haven’t been called names like that since the third grade.
Then there are the comics. This is one of just a handful of newspapers that still runs the comics in full color seven days a week. For most newspapers, Sunday is the only day when the comics are in color.
Here’s something that might surprise most people: I’m just like the rest of our subscribers. There are some sections I can’t wait to see each morning and others I typically skip – both before and after they’re published.
Unless a letter addressed to our building begins with the words “Dear Rob Curley” and it ends up directly on my desk, then I stay as far away from the “Letters to the Editor” as humanly possible. My life is stressful enough already. (Hint: the email@example.com email address doesn’t go to me and is only forwarded to me when it’s actually meant for me … and that’s the case at most daily newspapers in the nation.)
However, the biggest surprise for most people is when they find out I don’t read the comics. I’m not even sure why I don’t. I love happiness and delight. Considering that, the comics page feels like a place I’d visit most mornings.
Calvin and Hobbes stopped in 1995. Charles Schulz died in 2000. Seems like I stopped reading the comics somewhere around there.
Like at most newspapers across the nation, the Sunday comics that appear in The Spokesman-Review are sent directly to the newspaper’s printing and production facility, where they are typically printed two weeks before they are delivered to subscribers. Even the daily comics, puzzles and syndicated listings content arrive early and are placed on our pages by other parts of our organization.
In most cases, few editors – let alone me – see those pages before they are printed.
They might as well be done by Keebler elves. It’s like magic or some sort of daily miracle.
That’s why in February, when I started getting emails about “Non Sequitur” and some sort of foulness involving President Trump, well, let’s just say that I know the definition of “non sequitur” and it didn’t seem that unusual to me.
Then it finally hit me that the “Non Sequitur” comic that ran in our newspaper that Sunday had a hidden message in it. Not some hidden metaphorical message. There were some very tiny words in the bottom of the comic that sure seemed to tell the president to engage in some sort of self-breeding … only said in a way more explicit manner.
Ralphie got his mouth washed out with Lifebuoy soap for using the same word. Almost left the poor kid blind.
Well, you probably know the end of this story, especially if you’re one of those people who reads the comics each day in The Spokesman-Review. Like many newspapers across the nation, The Spokesman-Review quit running Wiley Miller’s popular “Non Sequitur” comic.
What he had done was something that would easily get a local reporter fired. You just don’t sneak things like that in a newspaper. If you do, you are almost always going to get asked to have your success someplace else, if you know what I mean.
And without a letter of recommendation.
Miller was apologetic. Even embarrassed, telling the Cleveland Plain Dealer it was “the dumbest and most dumbfounding thing I’ve done in my sixty-seven years on this planet. Remorse is an understatement. I’m gutted by my own poor judgment.”
Forgiving is one thing. Forgetting is harder – both the good and the bad.
After a few weeks, the notes began arriving at my desk and in my email basically saying some sort of variation of: “What he did was awful, but I sure do miss his cartoon.”
You wouldn’t believe how many notes I still get each week saying that even after several months, they still miss the irreverence of “Non Sequitur” each morning.
Then it hit us. Why not let our readers decide? This is as much your newspaper as it is our newspaper.
Do you accept Miller’s apology? Would you like to see “Non Sequitur” return to the pages of The Spokesman-Review?
We’ve created a special email address and phone number for you to call to tell us. You can send us your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a message at (509) 459-5149.
We’re going to check these for the next few weeks. Then we’ll write a story telling you all what our readers decided.
And don’t worry, we’re not going to draw a conclusion that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement.
Because that would be a non sequitur.
Local journalism is essential.
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