On Strips: Re-Runs

By | Friday, May 20, 2016 Leave a Comment
Rina Piccolo recently got hit with one of the long-standing problems/concerns of newspaper comic strip creators: she lost a paper. The Chronicle Journal of Thunder Bay, Ontario dropped Tina's Groove. That's a harsh pill to swallow in these days or declining newspaper sales who are cutting costs (like comics) all over the place. But to make the matter even worse, they replaced it with For Better of For Worse, Lynn Johnston's long-running strip that has been in re-runs since 2008.

Let's add a little context.

The Chronicle Journal actually switched up their comics section early this year. For Better of For Worse was a long-time staple of the paper, and Johnston was in town for a gallery exhibit of her work in January, but that strip was dropped shortly afterwards. Also dropped were Garfield, Non-Sequitur, Frank & Ernest, Flo & Friends and The Wizard Of Id. New additions included Sherman’s Lagoon, Bizarro, Between Friends, Intelligent Life, Mother Goose & Grimm and Tina’s Groove. As with any comics line-up change, letters were written about all the bad decisions the editor made.

Back in February, one of the letter-writers noted that it was a bit harsh to drop Johnston's strip literally a week after her visit. Particularly as Johnston is Canadian, and The Chronicle Journal should support Canadian values over U.S. ones. The same commenter also pointed out that Piccolo, too, is Canadian and her inclusion made more sense than Intelligent Life, which makes frequent references to U.S. holidays and culture and wouldn't always resonate with a Canadian audience.

And then, less than two months later, the paper dropped Tina's Groove in order to bring back re-runs of For Better of For Worse. At the time, The Chronicle Journal explained these newer changes in this exerpt...
Some old faces have returned to The Chronicle-Journal comics page. Flo & Friends, Non-Sequitur and For Better or For Worse are back in the daily comics page.

The decision to bring them back was made after careful consideration of reader feedback - both good and bad - in response to the introduction of several new strips last month.

The wry and topical Non-Sequitur has a unique take on everyday life that its fans support passionately. The older characters of Flo & Friends gives us a grin for all generations to enjoy.

From 1979 to 2008, For Better or For Worse followed the lives of the Patterson family. The re-run of their stories by Canada's Lynn Johnston are still enjoyed by readers new and old.
No mention was made of Piccolo or Tina's Groove.

It's somewhat telling that much of the language used speaks to the comfort of the status quo. "Old faces have returned..." "Older characters... for all generations to enjoy." "Re-run(s) are still enjoyed..." Their current readership apparently doesn't like change all that much, and wants to see the same comics they've enjoyed in the past. In some cases, literally the exact same ones. And the newspaper is willing to cater to that mindset.

Newspaper readership has been declining for a couple of decades now, and they've spent much of that time bemoaning their situation and how they can't seem to turn the tides of falling sales. But if, two decades on, they continue catering to a "let's not change anything ever" mindset, they've got no one to blame but themselves.
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