Thursday, September 24, 2020
Sept. 24, 2020

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New comics lineup revealed

Shakeup of the strips sure to get active response

By , Columbian News Editor
Published:

We asked for your feedback on our comics pages, and we were floored by the response.

We knew before the survey that our readers value and have strong opinions about comics. As more than 3,200 ballots rolled in, it became increasingly clear that people were going to be thrilled or horrified with whatever move we made.

Comments from readers spanned from “Hooray, and thanks for asking my opinion,” to “It’s about time,” to “All of the strips are great and leave them alone,” and pretty much every sentiment in between.

There were some popular superstars — Peanuts, Pickles and Family Circus all got a thumbs up from more than 90 percent of those who took the survey. And there were other strips that enjoyed popular support — but also a note of dissent.

Other strips received passionate — and diametrically opposed — reactions.

It’s clear: Our readers take funny seriously.

Comics changes

Why change the comics?

Readers’ tastes change, authors retire, the quality of strips slips and new strips become available.

The Columbian hasn’t made major changes to its comics pages in years. The last time was in 2010, when the author of Ballard Street discontinued his Sunday strip and we added Chuckle Bros. as a replacement. We had planned then to do a larger re-evaluation soon, but that didn’t happen until this spring.

Why didn’t The Columbian ask for suggested comics before running the survey?

There are hundreds of syndicated comic strips available. We have only so much room on newspaper pages, and we didn’t have space to run a lengthy selection of possible options. Also, we didn’t expect readers to choose from a large number of strips they have never seen or to research a long list of options. So, we narrowed it down to the 14 strips that did best in our in-house survey.

Even without asking for public input, we got 51 write-in suggestions. Many of those write-ins were discontinued comics classics, such as Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side. They are good strips, but since we wanted to focus on newly produced comics, we didn’t consider them.

Doonesbury also had a handful of requests but, again, the author is taking a break and offering only reruns for his daily strip.

Among the other suggestions were some, such as Non Sequitur and Beetle Bailey, that we had considered in the in-house survey and will continue to look at as we refine our lineup.

Why didn’t The Columbian ask for comments?

This was a space consideration in the print product. And we know that people who had something to say, would say it even without a designated area.

We welcomed your feedback even though we didn’t specifically request it.

Is this change about money?

Not in the sense that we were making changes to cut expenses. The objective of this project was always about offering a quality lineup of comic strips. We spend thousands of dollars a month on comics and we wanted to make sure it is money well spent.

The process

The project was launched several months ago by assembling a team of Columbian employees who are passionate about comics. This group looked over our current lineup and contacted vendors who handle syndicated strips to learn about current trends and which strips might be of interest to our readers.

Our next step was to set up a survey for Columbian employees of our existing comic strips and 34 strips that we currently don’t run. From those results, the group set up our public survey focusing on the new strips that had got the best responses from our staffers. After the ballots arrived, we tallied the votes and made our final selections mostly based on those results.

The big reveal

Learn more about the new strips, the characters and authors.

With thousands of results but not much consensus, we used our survey as what most people in Clark County are familiar with: An advisory vote.

The only strip that got a overall negative response was Apartment 3-G, which moved around the paper with our Business Services Directory. It will not be replaced at this time.

After that strip, the “losers” were less clear. But to make room for every new strip, we had to cut something else.

We looked to the next-lowest-scoring strips: “Agnes,” “Get Fuzzy,” “Ballard Street,” and “Chuckle Bros.” Their scores were pretty equal between “love it,” hate it,” and “no opinion.” In their place, we are introducing “Mother Goose & Grimm,” “Stone Soup,” “Bizarro” and “FoxTrot.”

We are also adding “Blondie” to our Sunday lineup, which now runs Monday through Saturday and was in the top 10 of our survey, to replace “Marmaduke” on Sundays.

The big exception to our poll results was the elimination of “For Better or For Worse.” The strip is still very popular, but it has been in reruns since 2008 and we felt it would be more worthwhile to offer fresh, original strips. We are replacing it with “Zits,” which was our top-ranked replacement offering, with more than 75 percent of reader votes giving it a thumbs-up.

To learn more about the new strips, click here.

Comments

How’d we do? Give us your feedback by calling 360-735-4448 and leaving a voicemail, emailing comics@columbian.com or commenting below on this article; it will be posted on the Columbian’s homepage under “Editor’s choice” for the upcoming week.

Thank you to everyone for being part of the process and say “welcome” to your new breakfast guests.


Merridee Hanson is The Columbian’s News Editor. She oversees all wire and syndicated content in The Columbian and manages the Copy Desk.

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