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The Opus Question

Last Sunday (Aug. 26, 2007), different versions of the Berkeley Breathed cartoon Opus ran in The Washington Post newspaper and in the comics section of washingtonpost.com. An observant reader noticed and asked me why. The Post decided not to run the new episode that Breathed had drawn for that Sunday and recycled an older one. At washingtonpost.com, the Opus strip and all the internet comics find their way onto the site on an automatic feed without anyone at washingtonpost.com previewing them.

The strip in question depicted longtime Bloom County and Opus character Steve Dallas talking to a young woman wearing a veil and some kind of partial face cover and describing herself as a radical Islamist. Her conversation with Steve went on from there. Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The Post, decided it was not appropriate for the newspaper's printed comics section, as did several other newspapers.

The newsrooms of the newspaper and the web site are separated by the Potomac River and five Metro stops and sometimes details don't make the train. "The web site makes its own decisions," Downie said. "Besides," he said, "there is a difference between having that strip on the front of a printed comics section and finding it on the web, where you have to make a conscious decision to see it." Did anyone call the web site and let it know that the newspaper had decided to replace the strip? Both Downie and Jim Brady, executive editor of washingtonpost.com, said there had been no communication about the strip. Opus is syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group.

By Doug Feaver  |  August 30, 2007; 9:47 AM ET
Categories:  Journalism  
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Posted by: Cyrus Sharp | October 7, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Jim is right. Criticism will follow pundits' realization that what the strip mocks is not Muslims but Americans with an attitude toward Muslims that keeps us mired in Iraq.

Posted by: jhbyer | September 2, 2007 7:14 PM | Report abuse

It's difficult for a casual observer to distinguish the Post in print and washingtonpost.com (which looks a lot like just an online version of the Post).

I've yet to see an explanation of why the Post pulled the strip. The Post very rarely censors comics. I didn't even see a notice in the Post that the strip which ran Sunday was a substitution. Does Mr.Downie hope that if he does not talk about this it will go away?

Posted by: Jim | August 31, 2007 7:08 AM | Report abuse

Stop being a wimp.

Culture of cowardice.

Posted by: john | August 31, 2007 6:54 AM | Report abuse

The Post editors not notifying their online counterparts of an editorial decision, as opposed to an error, properly respects their independence and heightens my respect all around.

Posted by: jhbyer | August 30, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse

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