Bumstead/Marmaduke 2008

The News & Observer is asking its readers to let the paper know what they’d like to see on the comics pages. It’s the second such vote in less than a year, and people are taking notice of how the four-part ballot is set up.

This comics election also comes shortly after Ted Vaden, the public editor at the paper, suggested that “Mallard Fillmore” should be dropped from the comics lineup. (“Doonesbury” runs on the op-ed page.) The ballot includes a question about strips with a strong political angle.

I asked Debra Boyette, the paper’s features editor (and a top-notch copy editor) about the latest election. Here are her e-mail responses:
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Q. Why is the N&O doing a comics vote again?

A. In January, we added additional space for comics. Rather than just choosing three strips, we decided to give some of the new strips that are being introduced tryouts. About every four weeks, we put in three new strips and ask readers to give up their feedback. We’re winding up the guest-strip program now and are taking readers’ comments into consideration as we decide on the strips that will make up our final lineup.

Q. The “Doonesbury” and “Mallard” comics are paired on the ballot. Readers can’t pick one and drop the other. Is that by design?

A. Readers can vote for “Mallard” as one of their 12 favorites, and “Doonesbury” isn’t on the ballot because the newsroom doesn’t have any control over it. We hear from readers fairly regularly that they don’t think “Mallard” belongs on the comics pages, that it’s too political to go there. Many of them also put “Mallard” and “Doonesbury” in the same category — as political strips. We want to get feedback from a wider range of readers as to where they think political strips should go or whether they should even be in the paper.
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You can vote in the N&O poll here, and read related posts here and here. I only wish I could write in “Garfield Minus Garfield.”

UPDATE: John Drescher, executive editor at the paper, announces that “Mallard” will stay where it is.