My Sunday mornings begin like most others who love newspapers. Well, kinda.
Before rolling out of bed, I grab my phone to check email to see how many readers have reached out and – more importantly – why. Some want to pass along thoughts or questions about a story or photo. Some haven’t received their newspaper yet and want a little help. Others ask why something wasn’t covered.
Our phone system at The Spokesman-Review emails me a recording of every voicemail my desk phone gets, so I listen to those, as well, in the morning. Then I go get our paper off my porch so that I too can enjoy it.
That’s not exactly how things went a couple of Sundays ago.
We asked readers if they wanted to forgive the creator of the “Non Sequitur” cartoon for inappropriate transgressions back in February that got the comic canceled in this newspaper and in many other newspapers across the country. And should “Non Sequitur” return to our pages?
Before 9 a.m., the special phone number and voicemail we’d set up to take people’s calls on the issue was completely full. Heck, it might have been full way before then, but I didn’t wake up until that time.
Because of that, people were now calling my desk number directly and emailing me to tell me the other number was full and here was their vote and two cents. And that I needed to fix the other phone number. Which wasn’t broken. It worked too well.
This is what happened the entire day. On that first Sunday alone, we received more than 900 phone calls and emails.
Now, before we reveal how our readers voted, you need to know about a conversation earlier in the week with the syndicator that distributes “Non Sequitur.” I explained what we were doing and said if our readers decided to bring Non Sequitur back, we would like a “make good” because of what had previously happened.
Terms were agreed upon, pending the vote of Spokesman-Review subscribers.
The best part of listening to all of those voicemails: No one actually knows how to say “Non Sequitur.” If you think people have problems saying Spokane, Gonzaga, Coeur d’Alene and Pend Oreille, you should listen to these calls.
Other than having awesome pronunciations for the name of the comic, what else did our readers say?
Some of those who voted against the return of “Non Sequitur” added that if the comic returned to The Spokesman-Review, they would cancel their subscription – though most of those against it coming back were a little more nuanced with their answers.
“There is a way you can disagree with the current administration with creativity and cleverness, but that is not the road Mr. Wiley chose,” Elizabeth Floden wrote. “Instead, he decided to disrespect not only a sitting president, but his readers with a foul display. I am all for forgiveness, too, but he was less than apologetic on his Twitter feed and his syndication and fan pages.”
Lonnie Scott wrote: “I vote against having Non Sequitur return to the SR for two reasons: 1) A man Miller’s age knows better than to do what he intentionally did; 2.) As Mr. Curley stated, if a reporter for The Spokesman-Review used the same language, he/she would be fired. Removing the specific cartoon from the newspaper sends a clear message of the high standards of the SR. By the way, I am NOT a Trump fan/supporter and did not vote for him.”
Rosco Fisher agreed with both Floden and Scott … then had his own comparison.
“Donald Trump shouldn’t pardon bad people who do bad things and neither should you. Wiley Miller knew exactly what he was doing. Sorry, no pardon for him either. Dump it!”
Like many readers, Buddy Draper thanked The Spokesman-Review for letting readers make this decision.
“I believe that it’s important to forgive a person who has done wrong,” Draper wrote. “However, I also believe that just because you forgive a person, it doesn’t mean that the relationship gets renewed. I vote to keep Non Sequitur out of our comics. Thank you again for engaging us in this conversation.”
What about those on the other side of the aisle?
“I am in favor of bringing Non Sequitur back to the comics page,” wrote Stan Cowart. “A short term ‘suspension’ is an adequate consequence. The clamor for firing after a mistake has reached the extreme and is an overreaction in far too many instances.”
Rick Misterly was a little more forceful, and a whole lot more political, in his answer. “Bring back Non Sequitur,” Misterly said. “Anyone willing to risk speaking out against anyone who acts in such despicable ways should be considered an asset to democracy.”
William Berry voted with “a resounding ‘yes’ for bringing back Wiley Miller’s Non Sequitur. He is one of the true artists and geniuses of the form in his artwork, words, wit, and observations. I believe he is quite unlikely to do anything like that again. His work should be seen by as many as possible.”
Shelly Stickelmeyer was much more philosophical.
“Life is about second chances,” she wrote “Heck, our country is about second chances. Beyond the comment, which was rude and out of place, it seems that the artist is remorseful … so I see no issue bringing it back. I miss a daily giggle with the cartoon, anyway!”
Regardless of which side of the sequitur subscribers selected, one common theme was that we should be looking at all of the comics and puzzles we publish, and have readers weigh in on which should stay, which should go and what new ones should be added. They’re right.
We’ll begin that process later this summer. But not right now.
Right now, we need to get to the reveal.
“Non Sequitur” will return to our pages on Sunday, Aug. 4.
It wasn’t even a close vote. Out of the nearly 1,400 readers who called and emailed us, fewer than 40 didn’t want “Non Sequitur” to return to The Spokesman-Review. The other 98% wanted it back in the newspaper.
That’s an even bigger blowout than a January conference game at The Kennel.
Those who didn’t want the comic to return were adamant and passionate, kinda like Santa Clara University buying a full-page ad in this newspaper to claim the Broncos will someday beat the Zags in basketball.
But there’s still that little matter of the discussion with the syndicator of “Non Sequitur” and a follow-up phone conversation with its creator, Wiley Miller, himself.
They both agreed that if our readers voted to have the comic return, Miller would travel to Spokane to apologize in person and then have an in-depth discussion with our readers about what it’s like to be a full-time cartoonist for newspapers around the world.
The day after his comic returns to The Spokesman-Review – Monday, Aug. 5 – Miller will be a part of a special gathering of our very popular Northwest Passages book club and community forum. Judging from the amount of votes we received and from the typical audiences at our events, this will certainly sell out.
You can get tickets now by going to www.spokane7tickets.com/ and clicking on the “Non Sequitur: An Evening with Wiley Miller” link.
So, there you have it. Democracy in action.
Only with a lot less at stake. Unless you were one of those who voted “no.”
And if you come to our Northwest Passages event with Miller, we’ll even teach you how to say “Non Sequitur” correctly.