According to the online arm of Editor and Publisher magazine, Little Rock’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was one of only “10 to 12” newspapers nationwide to edit or pull recent installments of the Doonesbury comic strip which employed the phrase “Turd Blossom” — President Bush’s real-life nickname for evil mastermind/Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.
“Doonesbury” appears in over 1,400 newspapers. While one instance of “Turd Blossom” slipped by D-G censors, when the strip appeared again the next day, they opted to edit out the phrase.
In a July 26 interview with E&P, Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau defended his use of the phrase. He had especially harsh criticism for those newspapers that edited the strip rather than substituting another.
“Given that I’m writing for a general audience, I try not to use crude or vulgar language gratuitously,” Trudeau said. “But in this case, I felt that [President] Bush’s nickname for Rove was illuminating. ‘Turd blossom’ has so many connotations, none of them flattering. It’s a small masterpiece of nastiness.”
On the bowdlerizing of his strip, Trudeau said: “The syndicate and I accept that from time to time individual editors may object to particular strips and decide to drop them. What’s not acceptable to us, however, is for editors to alter the content of a strip and represent it as what I sent them.”
D-G Deputy Editor Frank Fellone said that when it was found that the strip worked just as well with the “turd blossom” reference omitted, the paper decided to run an edited version instead of asking for a substitute from Trudeau’s syndicate. Had the reference been spotted in the previous day’s copy, Fellone said, it would have been edited as well if they had known about it before the page went to press.
“We edit the comics just as we edit other material,” Fellone said. “To our own standards of decorum.”
One of our favorite Little Rock media watchdogs, arkansasnewswatch.blogspot.com, recently gave a link to a July 17 Atlanta Journal-Constitution story which said the high definition revolution has at least some Little Rock news anchors worried about more than the cost of a new HDTV set. With picture quality so clear you can see every blemish, some of Arkansas’s talking heads are apparently concerned about their looks.
In the AJC story, Reg Griffin, vice president of communications for Comcast Cable, said that one network affiliate in Little Rock received a request from their on-air talent for “a budget for plastic surgery and dermabrasion along with the cash for hi-def cameras.”
“I can certainly understand the concern because it is so clear,” Griffin told the newspaper. “If there’s someone out there concerned about that, whether it is a newscaster or an actor, I think that concern is valid.”
While blog-meister Max Brantley and able sidekick Warwick Sabin have made great leaps in the skill department since the Arkansas Times weblog (www.arktimes.com) went hot a few months back, every once in awhile, they still get a lesson.
Case in point: when Lt. Governor Win Rockefeller announced a 4 p.m. press conference on July 19, Max correctly surmised that something big was about to go down, and dutifully gave blog readers a heads-up two hours prior. “Win Rockefeller has scheduled a 4 p.m. news conference at his campaign HQ,” Max wrote. “We can’t worm out an advance word, but all say it is ‘very important.’ Is he dropping out of the race for governor?”
A reporter, Jennifer Barnett Reed, was dispatched to the press conference with a cell phone, and Max’s scoop-hungry fingers — much better exercised since the arkblog went online — hovered over the keys. Just after 4 p.m. Reed called: Rockefeller was out of the race for governor, stopped by the news that doctors had discovered a precursor to leukemia.
News in hand, however, Max found that his neighborly heads-up had made sure the Arkansas Times website was swamped at 4 p.m. So swamped, in fact, that the server tanked, and he couldn’t get online to post until a little after 5 p.m. In the meantime, pretty much everybody but the Thrifty Nickel beat him to the punch. D’oh!
While we can’t print it here, Max’s reaction was pretty much what you’d expect, and then some.