Ask the Editor

Doonesbury, Mallard on the way out

sduerr@thetribunenews.comMarch 6, 2014 

Sandra Duerr

As some readers may recall, Garry Trudeau took a sabbatical in the summer and early fall from “Doonesbury’’ to write and produce an Amazon Studios online video show called “Alpha House” starring John Goodman.

The comedy — a political satire about four Republican senators sharing a house in Washington, D.C. — turned out to be such a hit that Amazon signed on for another season. Given the demands of producing that show, Trudeau has decided to stop writing his daily strip again. The change took effect Monday; that’s why you’ve been seeing flashback strips this week featuring characters on their first day of college in 1970.

It’s the intention of Trudeau and his syndicate, Universal Press, to offer reruns for the foreseeable future, taking readers back several decades to the strip’s early years.

Trudeau said he has no way of knowing how many seasons of “Alpha House’’ lie ahead. “I could be back drawing ‘Doonesbury’ full time in the fall,” he said in a statement.

Given this uncertainty, we’ve decided to stop publishing the old strips effective next week. We’d prefer focusing on fresh issues. And without an appropriate foil to balance Bruce Tinsley’s conservative Mallard Fillmore strip, we plan to drop this political strip as well.

We’ll fill the space left by both strips with readers’ Letters to the Editor, enabling us to publish more local commentary on a daily basis, increasing local dialog on a wide range of issues.

Should Trudeau return to creating a daily strip, we’ll certainly consider publishing it and a conservative political strip again. Or, if we find other strips to fill the void, we’ll carefully consider those as well.

Stay tuned. We’ll keep you in the loop.

• • •

A few readers recently asked if we edit stories on state, national and world news and if yes, why. At least two people asked if we could put a disclaimer on the front page daily advising readers of our policy — or on every wire story that we trim.

For the record, yes, we always reserve the right to edit these stories, much like we edit stories by our own reporters. Typically stories that move on our wire services are far too long. Many would fill half a page; some would fill an entire page — not including photos.

Our goal is to offer readers a summary of the top news each day, as well as stories that address issues and offer insight that aren’t readily available on the Internet or TV. In order to accomplish this, we trim nearly all wire stories.

Wire service editors understand this, so they often suggest sections to trim. In addition, the stories are written in such a way that details can be cut from the bottom.

In trimming stories, Tribune News Editor Jennifer Robillard said we first make sure to cover the basics: Who, what, when, where and why. “If it’s a controversial issue or a court case, we include information from both sides of the story,’’ she noted. “Some articles require more storytelling, so those get more space; news-of-the-day articles often get trimmed to briefs.

“It’s a careful balancing act to give readers the information they need to understand and enjoy the story, while also dealing with the reality of the space constraints of print media,” Robillard said.

We don’t believe it’s practical to offer a disclaimer on every wire story we trim. Alas, that would require us to trim even more!

Sandra Duerr is the executive editor of The Tribune. Do you have a question about the newspaper, our website or our coverage? If so, please write me c/o The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406-0112, or email me at sduerr@thetribunenews.com . Follow me on Twitter @SandraDuerr.

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