Readers' Representative Journal

A conversation on newsroom ethics and standards

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Why weren't readers asked about Ted and Sally?*

February 24, 2009 |  2:06 pm

Many individuals left comments on the original post on this journal to ask why readers were not given a chance to voice their opinions on the plans for "Sally Forth," as they were with "For Better or for Worse." Here's the context: The Times, and other newspapers, often change comics without alerting readers beforehand. The months-long process on whether to keep or drop Lynn Johnston's strip was an exception because the creator had made the decision to stop doing new comics, which gave editors at The Times a clear opportunity to weigh the past vs. the future.

In general, though, the process of choosing strips is like every other editorial decision made in a newsroom -- subjective. Not every reader is going to like every decision made, just as not every reader agrees on what strips are great and which are garbage.

To paraphrase the story that is also linked in the original post, polling readers -- especially when it comes to comics -- often isn't useful. Such polling often results in skewed responses, when fans or even authors of strips urge others to write in, creating lopsided votes.

That's one reason readers aren't typically polled beforehand. However, their voices do count, though they're not necessarily counted up as in a vote. Sherry Stern, deputy editor in Features, notes: "Editors put a lot of thought into what goes into the paper, the comics included. Hearing what readers think is an important part of the process."

*Update: In response to a number of readers asking if cost was a consideration in the decision on which comics to run and which to drop: No, cost was not a consideration. (If it were, The Times probably wouldn't continue to devote pages to the comic strips that do run.) That doesn't change the fact, of course, that plenty of readers didn't like this decision.

*A new post on this topic added Thursday addresses more reader comments.