Beginning Feb. 24, the News Tribune will add an old favorite to our new Sunday comics lineup. "Marmaduke," a cartoon strip that chronicles the adventures of the Winslow family and their laughable/lovable Great Dane, will join our Sunday lineup.
We've published "Marmaduke" in our daily comics sections for generations because of its silly and family-friendly humor.
With full disclosure, the change wasn't a move we had planned to make. But we believe it to be the right decision in light of a recent lapse in judgment by the cartoonist who produces the comic strip "Non Sequitur."
If you hadn't read "Non Sequitur" before, it was launched in the early 1990s and had evolved into a sometimes political cartoon with a moderate to liberal perspective. The cartoon had won multitudes of national awards for its humor and wit.
We are dropping the cartoon because of a profane message regarding President Donald Trump that was written inside the Sunday, Feb. 10, strip.
In an email I received the day after the cartoon strip appeared, the artist, Wiley Miller, said: "When I opened the paper Sunday morning and read my cartoon, I didn't think anything of it, as I didn't notice the scribbling that has now caught fire. It wasn't until later when sharp-eyed readers pointed it out that I remembered doing it, as the cartoon was done about eight weeks ago.
"I now remember that I was particularly aggravated that day about something the president had done or said, and so I lashed out in a rather sophomoric manner as instant therapy. It was NOT intended for public consumption, and I meant to white it out before submitting it, but forgot to.
"Had I intended to make a statement to be understood by the readers, I would have done so in a more subtle, sophisticated manner. This coming Saturday will mark the 27th anniversary of Non Sequitur, and in all that time, I have never done anything like this, nor do I intend to do so in the future."
Also in that email was a statement from Andrews McMeel Syndication, the company that syndicates or sells the cartoon's rights to newspapers. The statement said: "Regarding the 'Non Sequitur' Sunday comic published Feb. 10, containing vulgar language, we are sorry we missed the language in our editing process. If we had discovered it, we would not have distributed the cartoon without it being removed. We apologize to Non Sequitur's clients and readers for our oversight."
Let me be clear: No one at the News Tribune saw the profane message before it appeared in the printed Sunday newspapers. We subscribe to a service that assembles the cartoons from various sources including Andrews McMeel Syndication, and that service sends the finished comic pages to our printing plant. The comics that appear in today's paper are printed in advance, at times up to a week in advance.
We regret the message was printed in our paper, and even more, we regret that something like a cartoon in our lineup has become so politicized.
I find it troubling that the artist suggests he could have found a "more subtle, sophisticated manner" to express the message. His statement is one of hate that shouldn't have been expressed to anyone, regardless of his or her political affiliation.
To that end, I believe it best to part ways with the cartoon strip and choose one that more accurately reflects the tone of our Sunday cartoon package. The Sunday comics section in today's paper does have "Non Sequitur" in it; this edition of the comic pages was printed before the decision to pull the strip was made. "Marmaduke" will begin appearing in the comics section Sunday, Feb. 24.
Whether we are talking about comic strips or news stories, our goal is to present fair, objective and unbiased information. There is a place for opinion in the News Tribune; it's on the opinion pages where we regularly print cartoons and letters of a political nature. But we draw the line that those submissions — whether they are created by us, selected by us or submitted by readers — must be issue-based and not personal or hate-based.
We encourage a vibrant, constructive discussion on those editorial pages in the belief that we should talk more with one another and less at one another. That approach can result in informed, provocative reasoning that encourages thought and engagement of the community in the hope that we will grow as individuals and as a society.
Gary Castor is managing editor of the News Tribune.