Fictional journalist Roland Hedley put factual journalists in an interesting — and rather unusual — position more than a week ago. The faux Fox correspondent gave many of us “news” we couldn’t quite use.

Last week, a “Doonesbury” strip crossed my desk that contained the gossipy book excerpt claiming that sports-reporter-turned-guv Sarah Palin and college-sports-star-turned-NBA-sharpshooter Glen Rice “once had a romantic encounter.” (The strip [above] appears today.)

Which means, of course, that the strip crossed other editors’ desks at hundreds of other newspapers, as well. And every one of those editors, apparently, honored the Omertà code that comes with being keepers of the comics. (And yes, you could call it the ultimate “gag” order.) As silly as it may sound, you — as a subscribing comic-feature client — are expected to respect an embargo on such information, whether you care one whit about the salacious/irrelevant/enlightening/boring tale or not.

(And the National Enquirer, which “broke” — haHA — the “story” Wednesday, isn’t exactly a likely candidate to be a “Doonesbury” client.)

So I reached out last week to “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau, who confirmed to Comic Riffs that Roland Hedley’s readings from a Palin tell-all were indeed actual excerpts from an advance copy of Joe McGinniss’s bio ”The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.”

Trudeau also told Comic Riffs he found the book to be “meticulously reported.” (And so last Friday, I began to write my Style piece — “Sarah Palin could suddenly see Joe McGinniss from her house...” — but didn’t use any then-still-unpublished quotes from the upcoming excerpts.)

Except for the apparent shared silence, newspaper editors handled this week’s “Doonesbury” strips differently. As reported here, the Chicago Tribune chose not to use them; the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reportedly pulled the strips as of Tuesday. The Trib cited unfairness and the inability to verify the book’s claims (“The Rogue” is due out next Tuesday, I say by way of explanation, not promotion — but admittedly, hasn’t Joe “No Interviews Yet” McGinniss played his PR hand to maximum effect this week?); the AJ-C reportedly cited partisan politics.

(The Post, for the record, is running this week’s “Doonesbury.”)

Then there was the wrinkle of whether newspapers should pick up the story of a purported Palin/Rice one-nighter at all. (Poynter’s Jim Romenesko spotlighted the internal debate at the Herald in Miami, where Rice played part of his career.)

As each subscribing paper made its judgment call with “Doonesbury” — and with the entire excerpt — Scott Stantis viewed this from a rare perch: He is both the editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune, as well as the creator of the right-leaning syndicated political comic strip “Prickly City.”

“I truly feel the subscribers to my work — or anyone's work, for that matter — [have] the absolute right to run or not run what they choose,” Stantis told Comic Riffs on Wednesday. “I may not agree with the reasoning ... but I repeat: They pay for the ink, they decide what runs.”

(Interesting side note: In 2005 — before Stantis worked at the Tribune — the paper pulled a “Prickly City” strip that referenced Chappaquiddick; Stantis told Editor&Publisher that his syndicate inserted quotemarks around words being uttered by Ted Kennedy. “In the case of ‘Prickly City,’ “ Stantis tells Comic Riffs, “I didn't even originally have quotemarks ... that the editor of the Trib found so offensive.”)

But Stantis raises a larger salient question.

“Isn't this all academic? With the Internet, no cartoon goes unseen in any market,” Stantis tells ‘Riffs. “This builds my case for pulling all syndicated comic strips from the Web, so the only place they can be seen is in the printed newspaper. The reaction to the Chicago Tribune pulling ‘Doonesbury’ would be massive if it meant no one in the Chicago area could see the offending strips.

“But that is my own platform.”

With that in mind, Comic Riffs asks you in today’s poll [top]:

If you were an editor who published “Doonesbury” daily, would you run today’s Sarah Palin/Glen Rice strip?


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