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Tuesday, August 3, 2004

the problem with media consolidation: political cover

a while ago we got the news that doonesbury was being dropped by a group of newspapers. i was curious about that, and eventually found this:

[Continental Features President Van] Wilkerson said he conducted the survey because Garry Trudeau’s comic “created more controversy than other strips.” In the poll e-mail he sent Continental’s newspaper clients this spring, Wilkerson wrote: “(I)t is my feeling that a change in one of the features is required. I have fielded numerous complaints about ‘Doonesbury’ in the past and feel it is time to drop this feature and add another in its place. … If the majority of the group favors a replacement, you will be expected to accept that change.”

Of the 38 papers that run the Continental-produced Sunday comics section, 21 wanted to drop “Doonesbury,” 15 wanted to keep it, and two had no opinion or preference. “I wouldn’t call the vote [to drop ‘Doonesbury’] overwhelming, but it was a majority opinion,” Wilkerson said.

there we have a good statement to hang this comment on: you will be expected to accept that change.

i like the democratic process, but here we have one of the threats exposed, and it is a huge threat as we work competition out of the media industry: the tyranny of the majority.

wrapping this decision in a poll gives wilkerson political cover (he didn’t decide to axe doonesbury – in fact, he has doesn’t “have an opinion about ‘Doonesbury’ one way or another.”) no personal responsibility or accountabilit required. the papers voted. we’re just doing what they asked us to do.

posted by roj at 2:24 pm