The Morning Line: "Doonesbury" Sings the Newspaper Blues
Even "Doonesbury" isn't immune from the print newspaper blues.
In the pages of The Washington Post this week (as well as hundreds of other papers), the strip's Rick Redfern -- grizzled investigative reporter for Garry Trudeau's fictional "Washington Post" -- suddenly finds himself in conversation about staff cutbacks. This is it: The big Why-Not-Take-a-Buyout? discussion. It's not giving anything away to say that the "labor" pains of a shifting industry are addressed, and poignantly so, in the days ahead.
Trudeau's pen is so on point, in fact, that the thin line between fact and fiction is easily blurred. Is this just a case of reportorial cartooning -- Trudeau's questioning friends and colleagues about life in the newsroom -- or is the artist himself fully engaged in this struggle?
"The free-fall of newspapers is something I've been thinking a lot about lately," Trudeau tells us. "I'm feeling the hot breath of change on my neck too," he says, referring to space reductions in print comics and op-ed pages. (One of his oldest clients, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, just dropped "Doonesbury," for instance.)
Trudeau's keen knowledge of newsroom practices comes through sharply in the strip's upcoming panels. We could only laugh through the wincing as we read the "Doonesbury" proofs late last Friday -- immediately after we attended a retirement sendoff for outgoing Executive Editor Len Downie, in a time when buyout talk buzzes daily. Trudeau's storyline is so timely, I half-expected caricatures of real Post folk to appear in the strip.
So beyond Trudeau's fictional Post, what does the real future hold for editors, for reporters and designers, for even syndicated cartoonists?
"I can't get beyond the hand-wringing stage -- I see nothing that will save our beloved industry," Trudeau says. "My kids won't mind, but I don't think they understand what's at stake..."
| September 16, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: The Morning Line, The Riffs
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