Until last week, I had managed to have a 35-year career in newspapers without having my name associated with any decision about the comics pages. Ah, the glory years.
To recap. In recent months, this newspaper has had to cut columns of space because dwindling advertising forced us to reduce expenses. Until last week, the comics pages were left alone. Despite dire warnings of the perils of "messing with the comics," it became untenable to continue to reduce space alloted to news and other popular features while continuing our generous offering of comics at the same level. On Sunday, we dropped two strips.
The N&O publishes 44 comic strips Monday through Saturday and still carries 27 on Sundays despite reducing the Sunday color comics section from six pages to four. (The fees for the rights to carry the strips are modest. It's the cost of the newsprint that is a bear.) We continue to carry more comics than most daily newspapers.
Still, the Monday mail brought a flood of complaints. A few readers disagreed with the decision to drop "Peanuts" and "For Better of For Worse." They were dropped from Sunday because both are in essence reruns. Both continue in the current Monday through Saturday comics pages.
Most of the people who weighed in said the type in the new 4-page layout is too small. That was a surprise because we tested the new layout in the newsroom among people of different ages and people who have less than perfect vision.
It turns out that sizing the comics is not a simple process. Each strip had to be reduced proportionately to the original size. So, it's not a simple matter of making each the same size, or shrinking one to make another just a little bigger.
We can revisit the size of the strips, but it won't be pretty. This might require eliminating one or more of the strips in the 4-page layout. So, if I can get all of you to agree on which strips go away....