Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notebook: Readers weigh in; ‘Pearls' on probation
“Pearls Before Swine” has its fans, and its detractors.
That is the comic we have held out of the Sunday News the last two weeks after a reader wrote in objecting to it and I wrote last week that I had similar objections. I said we would take it out for awhile and see what others thought.
The subject being comics, the response was passionate, funny, and crude. (Sort of like “Pearls Before Swine,” in fact.)
Readers called me names. (I can get called worse right here at work, thank you.) Readers were upset with the original complainant, saying she should just skip over “Pearls” while reading the comics to her child. Readers were supportive, saying the strip was tasteless.
And readers, surprise!, took the opportunity to give me their two cents' worth (or in the case of one caller, a “cent-and-two-quarters”) not only on “Pearls” but on other strips that we carry and they don't like or that we should carry because they like them.
I didn't identify “Pearls” as missing last week. I wanted to see if people would be able to identify it. Most who wrote in did, of course, although one reader was only half right. He knew what was missing but he thought it had been replaced with “Prince Valiant,” which he didn't like.
He must be able to mentally block things. The prince has been with us for a few years now. One woman (who had recommended “Pickles” to me years ago) said she didn't notice which strip was missing, so it couldn't have been very good; and she thought it was nice that a mom was still reading comics to her kids, as this woman's parents had once done with her.
But a man took the opposite tack. He was grateful, he said, that his parents didn't let him watch the “Simpsons” as a child, but it was their choice. The show was still available on TV for others to watch or not watch.
One fellow accused me of being a liberal.
“I always thought the paper avoided being left-leaning but I guess I'm wrong. What's next? Somebody thinks Sgt. Snorkel beating up on Beetle Bailey is too much violence for their kid so you have that comic removed? Somebody from the anti-gun crowd doesn't like seeing Dick Tracy with a pistol so you yank that comic?”
But a woman wrote, “I highly support your newspapers' conservative positions on the family and community values. Please continue on that path despite the negative rhetoric you've endured over the years. It is good for Manchester, New Hampshire, and your future readers!”
She was talking about more than our comics choices, but she has her grandchildren reading the comics by themselves and thinks “Pearls” belongs elsewhere.
She, I think, “got it” better than most. It's not a single reader who makes the decision on our content. It is the newspaper. But we most definitely welcome reader input, which helps inform our decision-making, whether it be in what comic to keep or what story to cover and how.
“Pearls” will be back, but it is on double-secret probation. I'd love to hear from more readers.
Write to Joe McQuaid at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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