Monday, November 3, 2008

AJC censors comics, movie ads

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2008 at 5:36 PM

WTF, AJC?

I'm not usually the one driving the anti-AJC bandwagon (that's Sugg's job), but over the weekend, the apparent cowardice of some unnamed editors over there had me steamed.

An AP story appearing in Saturday's AJC describes how "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau – who must submit a week's worth of comic strip at a time – is going out on a limb with cartoons "showing his characters reacting to an Obama victory." If John McCain somehow ends up winning Tuesday's election, Trudeau says, "I'll be the one with the egg on my face."

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Still, the article says some newspaper editors are expressing discomfort with running the strip this week, quoting one who will wait until checking Election Day returns before deciding whether to run the Obama-related cartoons. But the article didn't name any papers that had already pulled the plug on "Doonesbury."

Well, we found one. Tacked on to the very end of the print version of the AP article is this sentence:

As for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it is giving “Doonesbury” a sabbatical next Monday through Saturday and will resume carrying the strip the following week.

No explanation; no rationale. Just a statement that the strip won't be running in the AJC, cravenly couched behind the euphemism "sabbatical." The paper is so gutless that, rather than make an effort to defend its decision, it seems to be hoping no one will notice.

The AJC – in an apparent attempt to protect certain readers from topicality – already separates “Doonesbury” from the page-and-a-half of mostly tepid, unfunny comics it runs on weekdays, pairing it with the right-leaning "Prickly City."

The paper has gone to some extreme lengths to suck up to conservatives – not giving endorsements in the last City of Atlanta elections comes to mind, as does paying hack columnist Jim Wooten to print GOP talking points – but censoring comics strikes me as especially pathetic.

Here's where you can keep up with the strip this week. (Full disclosure: I believe “Doonesbury” to be the greatest American comic strip of the last half-century. For an example of how skillfully Trudeau is able to stay on top of – and ahead of – the zeitgeist, check out this cartoon and keep in mind it was turned in a month before anyone had ever heard of "Joe the Plumber.")

As a secondary outrage, I also noticed that the full name of a just-opened Hollywood film did not appear in the AJC's movie ads. Yes, I'm talking about Zack and Miri Make a Porno. In the two-column print ad that ran in the AJC, the film's title appeared only as Zack and Miri.

I'm not implying some prudish editor at the AJC took a digital X-acto to the ad. Rather, I'm guessing the Weinstein Company offered two versions of the ad – full title vs. self-censored – so that gutless lifestyle editors wouldn't get their panties in a wad. The full-titled ad appears in the NYT.

It's sad to think that the AJC could be so frightened of giving offense to its remaining customers that it would shy away from having the word "porno" appear in paid advertising.

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