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.
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