When Tim Cavanaugh left Hit & Run for the smoggier shores of the Los Angeles Times, most of you probably thought there would be far fewer posts here about Mary Worth and Tim's favorite blog, The Comics Curmudgeon. And you were right. But I see the Comics Curmudgeon himself has an op-ed in the L.A. Times today, and that it begins with four paragraphs about Mary Worth. Coincidence? Don't bet on it.
It's a pretty good piece, and it includes some valuable advice for newspaper editors:
[M]aybe one reason readers are fleeing print is because the papers don't give them enough reason to believe print is anything special. Few comics fans would dispute that the funnies look best on paper, or that reading the comics in newsprint over breakfast is a pleasing ritual. Going back to the childhood of the modern newspaper business—in the graphically rich Hearst and Pulitzer papers of the early 20th century—one of the main attractions was always the Sunday morning treat of page after vibrant page of full-color comics. But when was the last time an interesting-looking comics page caught your eye, let alone invited you to a full-spectrum visual feast?…
[B]efore the print news medium gives up on new readers, maybe it's time to double down on the comics, to make the funny papers a selling point again: Give the comics an extra page. Move the funnies out of the entertainment-section ghetto and into the A section or Sports. Better yet, run the daily strips in a stand-alone insert —not just on Sundays. Get the advertising staff to start selling against the comics section (why should TV be getting all the ads for sugary cereals and action figures?). Do something, do anything, to make the funny pages interesting.
The easiest way to go broke is to assume that my reading habits constitute a trend, but for whatever it's worth the funnies are essentially the only reason I ever look at an actual newspaper these days, as opposed to just reading the news online. With every revision to the comics page—each decision to toss out a dozen strips and shrink the remainder to half their former size—we come closer to the day I never bother to pick up a paper at all.