By: DAVE ASTOR
Times are so tough that even fictional journalists are getting the boot. As “Doonesbury” readers know, reporter Rick Redfern was forced to take a Washington Post buyout in a story line that began in mid-September. But Garry Trudeau didn’t stop there. By mid-October, Redfern had joined many of his real-life brethren in launching a blog ? and the experience wasn’t easy for the post-Post guy. For one thing, sources were definitely less interested in talking to a blogger than a print reporter.
What do real-life bloggers think of that? “Well, ever since I started writing about bloggers a few years back, there’s been some defensiveness,” Trudeau replies via e-mail. “No one likes to work for nothing, which most bloggers do, because narcissism then becomes the only other explanation. So it’s pretty easy to touch a nerve.”
But the Universal Press Syndicate cartoonist does add that “I find some blogs indispensable, and, of course, I host a blog myself ? ‘The Sandbox’ ? on Doonesbury.com.”
During the week of Oct. 13, Redfern did a phone interview with Barack Obama about a great day the Democratic presidential candidate had shooting hoops with soldiers in Kuwait (see the Oct. 15 comic accompanying this article). Any reaction to that sequence from Obama or his campaign? “No, but there’s reason to believe they might be pleased,” says Trudeau. “The item Rick was working on is a true story, related to me and Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter by Obama when we bumped into him in a hotel lobby during the trip to Berlin.
“The Department of Defense film clip of Obama sinking a three-pointer had been in heavy rotation on cable TV, but according to him, the senator had actually sunk eight out of 10 three-pointers during two games of ‘horse’ in front of hundreds of troops. He was justly proud of his performance, and we got the distinct impression he wouldn’t mind if the full story got out.”
Trudeau adds: “Personally, I think it has real bearing on his qualifications for office. We’ve never had a president who can bring it, and I think if it becomes widely known, it will go a long way towards erasing those unfortunate images of him bowling.”
When asked what the name of Redfern’s blog might be, Trudeau replies: “I haven’t decided that yet, but it would have to mask his self-loathing ? something robust like ‘Game-changer’ or ‘Doubling Down.'”
As noted at the start of this story, Redfern’s blogging began after he was forced out of the print-newspaper realm. Did Trudeau talk to any jettisoned journalists to gather info for his fictional reporter’s fate, or did he instead rely on the many depressing press reports about buyouts? “The latter,” the cartoonist responds. “I do know some of the journalists who’ve been laid off lately, but I didn’t discuss it with them as research.”