Iraq War Embedded in Some Kid Content

By: Dave Astor

As adults made war, creators of youth-oriented features tried to help their readers cope — either by writing about the conflict in Iraq or avoiding it.

One member of the former camp was Hollister Kids, which syndicates Newspaper in Education (NIE) and feature material to hundreds of clients. It put together a 16-page supplement called Iraq: How We Came to War that was purchased by nearly 40 papers before the U.S. invasion was two weeks old. And Hollister was focusing on the war for at least four installments of its weekly “Newspaper Plus,” leading to a doubling of that current-event feature’s client list to about 25.

Why did Hollister offer this content (aimed at those in the fourth grade and above)? “The war is such a large event,” said Editorial Director Peter Landry. “And it’s important for kids to see it’s a complicated world where things don’t happen in isolation and don’t happen all at once.” The former Philadelphia Inquirer writer and editor added that older Hollister readers aren’t far from the age when they might serve in the military as volunteers or draftees (if compulsory service returns).

Due to the war, Hollister is giving space-strapped clients the option of ordering “Newspaper Plus” smaller than the usual half-page. And the feature can be purchased for four weeks rather than the usual 12-week minimum.

KRT ‘Corner’ and Copley Column

Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services offered a “KRT OnePage” –developed by the “Yak’s Corner” staff at the Detroit Free Press — that provided answers to kids’ questions about the war, information about Iraq, and more. Another “OnePage” gave tips on dealing with anxiety about the war.

And there was plenty of anxiety, said Copley News Service teen-advice columnist Cherie Bennett. She received only a few questions relating to the war during its early stage, but Bennett detected more stress in those letters. Meaning, she explained, many young people were thinking about the war at least subconsciously. A kid who wrote, “My brother’s picking on me,” may have been indirectly expressing anxiety about the Iraq conflict.

So the “Hey, Cherie!” writer — also a novelist and playwright — felt it was important to discuss the war in her column.

Why weren’t her readers talking about the war more directly? “A kid’s world tends to be small and kid-centric,” Bennett said. “What they see about the war on TV can feel abstract, unless someone in their family is involved.”

Some features aimed at particularly young kids were cautious about discussing the war.

“The Mini Page,” which runs in 500-plus papers, didn’t directly address the Iraq conflict. Among the reasons: “It’s such a complicated issue, and so much is already being reported about it,” said Kathie Kerr, director of communications at Universal Press Syndicate.

“Kid Scoop,” a feature self-syndicated to more than 200 papers, also didn’t directly address the war. CEO/President/Editor Vicki Whiting e-mailed clients: “Keeping ‘Kid Scoop’ a happy and safe place for young readers is our way of keeping a child’s school experience as regular as possible. It also will give families an alternative to television and provide something they can do and talk about together.”

The response to avoiding war content? “I have heard from several customers, and the reactions have been 100% in favor,” said Whiting, who pointed clients to information on how to talk to young kids about the war, and to resources on the topic for older students.

“Kid Scoop” might deal indirectly with the war in a May page about the Red Cross and Clara Barton. Said Whiting: “This may present an opportunity to let children know how they can help the Red Cross donate care packages for our servicepeople and the Iraqi people.”

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Not Pulitzer-Less in Seattle


P-I’s David Horsey Is Honored Again

David Horsey’s first Pulitzer Prize in 1999 brought tangible benefits beyond the thrill and satisfaction of winning. He moved his editorial cartoons from a King Features Syndicate package to individual distribution with Tribune Media Services — and now appears in about 250 newspapers. And the Seattle Post-Intelligencer asked him to get involved in more aspects of his home newspaper, including long-range planning.

So now that the P-I staffer has pulled off the unusual feat of winning a second cartooning Pulitzer, are there any other tangible benefits to be had in the future?

“A company car,” joked Horsey. “How about a company Maserati?”

Actually, Horsey plans to use his latest Pulitzer as incentive to keep working as hard as possible. His cartoons will be especially scrutinized now, and “I don’t want to embarrass myself!”

Cartoons about the embarrasing Clinton-Lewinsky scandal were among the drawings that brought Horsey his 1999 Pulitzer. This time, he took on weightier issues — including corporate corruption, the lead-up to the Iraq war, and the Bush administration’s radical policy changes in areas ranging from homeland security to taxes to the environment. “It was a whole different level,” said Horsey, 51.

The former Association of American Editorial Cartoonists president wishes more newspapers shared the P-I’s belief in the importance of editorial cartoons. Many papers do, but a number of others haven’t replaced staff cartoonists — or never hired them in the first place.

“Most readers like editorial cartoons,” said Horsey, who joined the P-I in 1979. “Even if they hate them, they like hating them! Cartoons are a point of entry into newspapers, and they give people something to argue about. They have a very intense readership.”

Horsey is only the 11th cartoonist — and the first since 1985 — to win multiple Pulitzers since the category began back in 1922.

Other 2003 editorial-cartoon finalists were Rex Babin of The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee and King, and 2002 winner Clay Bennett of The Christian Science Monitor and Christian Science Monitor News Service.

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Troop Messages Near 2 Million


They’re Sent Via OperationDearAbby.net

The number of messages sent to troops via OperationDearAbby.net could reach two million by the end of this week, a U.S. Navy commander told E&P Online.

“We’ve seen a real surge in traffic during the past month and a half,” said Rudy Brewington, the commander who’s also public affairs officer for the Navy’s Lifelines Services Network — which manages the site.

Operation Dear Abby started in 1967 as a service distributing postal mail to the troops. The Internet version launched in December 2001 (after the anthrax attacks), and it has been since then that the nearly 2 million messages were sent. Many of the letters are from kids, said Brewington.

Messages are routed to service members’ computers. For those without computers, the military prints out and delivers messages at mail calls or posts to bulletin boards.

“Dear Abby” is the advice column created by Pauline Phillips in 1956. The feature is now done by her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, and appears in about 1,300 newspapers via Universal Press Syndicate.

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Killed Cartoon Has Brief Web Life


It Never Ran in Atlanta Paper’s Print Pages

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution decided not to publish an editorial cartoon in its April 15 print edition, but the drawing appeared briefly on the newspaper’s Web site before being pulled.

The drawing, by AJC staff cartoonist Mike Luckovich, showed Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue standing next to a flag emblazoned with the words “I’m With Stupid.” The caption stated: “A flag Georgians of all races could unite around.” Perdue was elected partly on platform to push for a return to a more Confederate-oriented state flag.

AJC Editorial Page Editor Cynthia Tucker initially approved the cartoon but later reconsidered, said Luckovich. By that time, the cartoon had already been routed to the AJC Web site. Another site (http://www.georgiareporter.com) noted the cartoon’s brief appearance and showed the drawing. But the cartoon never appeared in the AJC‘s print edition.

Luckovich said Tucker supported the sentiments behind his cartoon but ultimately opted not to use it because Perdue hadn’t been governor that long and out of respect for the office of governor itself.

“There have only been two or three times in 10 years that Cynthia has had second thoughts about one of my cartoons,” Luckovich told E&P Online. “And she’s such a good editor that I can’t be mad at her about this.”

Luckovich reported receiving little reader reaction to the cartoon, possibly because it wasn’t on the Web site for long. And because of its local nature, the cartoon was never sent by Luckovich to Creators Syndicate, which distributes his work to about 160 papers.

Though the cartoon ended up on the AJC site by mistake, Luckovich didn’t mind too much. “I really like the cartoon,” he said. “I’m happy it got sort of a second life.” But he has mixed feelings about Perdue as a satirical target. “He’s great for me as a cartoonist,” noted Luckovich. “But I’m angry at the guy for what he’s doing to the state.”

Tucker, who also writes an AJC column distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, could not be reached for comment.

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Et cetera …

Weather Central has been providing several new products for Tribune Media Services during the Iraq war. One is a forecast map for the Middle East. …

Five cartoonists are featured in an April 17 Rolling Stone magazine article about “The Art of War.” They include three Universal Press Syndicate creators — Lalo Alcaraz (“La Cucaracha”), Aaron McGruder (“The Boondocks”), and Ted Rall — as well as the self-syndicated Tom Tomorrow. …

Op-Ed columnist Mary McGrory of The Washington Post and Universal has been on medical leave since the middle of last month, according to Washingtonian magazine. …

The Chicago co-op apartment of late Creators Syndicate advice columnist Ann Landers was sold for $3.75 million. …

“Pearls Before Swine” creator Stephan Pastis of United Media did a presentation on comic-strip drawing at a comedy festival earlier this month at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

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