First Amendment Center Comments on Doonesbury Censorship

September 16, 2011

This week, the print edition of the Chicago Tribune chose not to run Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic strip because it did not meet their “standards of fairness.” The strip included excerpts from Joe McGinniss’s upcoming biography of Sarah Palin, and the move by the Tribune has many decrying the silencing of satire.

First Amendment Center President Ken Paulson offered his opinion in a recent column for the First Amendment Center website. He notes that the First Amendment cuts both ways:

The First Amendment guarantees that a newspaper can decide what to publish — or not publish. The Tribune is entirely within its rights, but it’s certainly an uncomfortable position for any news organization that aspires to reflect the full marketplace of ideas.

Paulson also notes the challenges that newspaper editors face:

As a former newspaper editor, I know the challenge of dealing with syndicated material that you find unprofessional or unfair. As an editor, you make daily choices about what to publish, but if you pull a regular feature, the public is more likely to see you as a censor than an editor.

You can read Paulson’s editorial here. Jim Romenesko at also covered the story in a series blog posts.

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