January 17, 2012

The Plain Dealer decided not to publish a Non Sequitur comic Friday that depicts a bunny looking at a police lineup of other animals and saying, “They all really do look alike to me.” In its place was an editor’s note that said the strip “was deemed objectionable.” Art Costanzo, 63, a self-professed lifetime reader of the paper, writes in a letter to the editor, “The only thing I found controversial was the fact that you did not publish it.”

The paper left a blank spot where this strip would have appeared, along with an editor’s note.

Lee Salem agrees. The president and editor of Universal Uclick, which syndicates Non Sequitur and other comics, said by email that pulling a strip is “a very rare occurrence (I scratched my head over that move), made more complicated for newspapers because the strip in question is so easily available from online sources. In many cases, the pulling of a strip or sequence just draws more attention to it.”

Salem said strips are pulled “maybe twice a year total,” including Doonesbury, which Universal syndicates:

In earlier times, Doonesbury was pulled more frequently, but I think more newspapers have a sense that many readers expect Doonesbury to be Doonesbury. And they prefer to avoid the headaches pulling a strip creates.

Those headaches for the Plain Dealer include more letters and 175 comments on former columnist Connie Schultz’s Facebook page.

No other papers pulled the strip, Salem said. Another Non Sequitur strip was pulled just last month, on December 3. And prior to that, a Non Sequitur strip titled “Where’s Mohamed?” was pulled in October 2010.

“Non Sequitur seems to be a favorite right now,” Salem said, “but it doesn’t match the heydays of the Boondocks, Doonesbury, or FBOFW, which was dropped by dozens of papers because of a gay character.”

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Julie Moos (jmoos@poynter.org) has been Director of Poynter Online and Poynter Publications since 2009. Previously, she was Editor of Poynter Online (2007-2009) and Poynter Publications…
Julie Moos

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