Prosecutor Will Probe Leak to Novak

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By: Dave Astor

Updated at 11:10 a.m. EST

A federal prosecutor was named Dec. 30 to head the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative’s name to Chicago Sun-Times/Creators Syndicate columnist Robert Novak.

Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, was appointed after Attorney General John Ashcroft decided to pull out of the probe.

Novak named the CIA operative — wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson — in a July 14 column. The leak was seen as retaliation for Joseph Wilson criticizing the Bush administration’s Iraq policies. Critics of the leak said the life of Wilson’s wife may have been endangered by the Novak column. Others said she was no longer working undercover.

A Sun-Times story about Fitzgerald’s appointment said Novak would not comment on the case.


Conflict of Interest for Columnists?

Three Received Money From Hollinger

Three columnists who praised media baron Conrad Black in print did not disclose in their writings that Black had put them on a paid Hollinger advisory board in the 1990s, according to a New York Times story.

The three were George Will of the Washington Post Writers Group, William Buckley of Universal Press Syndicate, and Henry Kissinger of Tribune Media Services. They and other members of Black’s mostly conservative board reportedly each received $25,000 per meeting, said the Times.

When asked if he should have revealed the payments in a positive 2003 column he wrote about Black, Will said no. “My business is my business,” he told the Times. “Got it?”

The Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into millions in unauthorized payments allegedly collected by Black and other top executives at Hollinger — which owns the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph in London, the Jerusalem Post, and other newspapers.


KRT’S Harris Retiring in January

He Started Business News Service in 1991

Bob Harris, director of Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News and KRT Electronic Distributor Sales, is retiring in mid-January.

Harris started KRT Business News in 1991, and it has since grown into a service offering content from about 200 U.S. newspapers as well as a number of overseas contributors.

Earlier in his career, Harris worked for The Wall Street Journal, Crain Communications, and The Journal of Commerce.


More on Cartoonist’s Departure

Was He Pressured to Be Less Liberal?

Differences over a Dec. 9 drawing helped lead to editorial cartoonist John Sherffius’s resignation from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, according to a column by Michael Miner of the Chicago Reader.

Post-Dispatch staffers told Miner the paper was trying for about a year to get Sherffius (Syndicate World, Dec. 11) to tone down his more liberal cartoons. For his Dec. 9 cartoon, Sherffius drew a bunch of Republican elephants having a wild party. The ironic caption: “The party of fiscal discipline.” The Post-Dispatch felt the cartoon was unbalanced, wrote Miner, and Sherffius ended up adding a Democratic donkey.

Editor Ellen Soeteber said she would “never presume to alter the 125-year tradition of what I call the progressivism of the Post-Dispatch.”


Student and Breathed Exchange Views

And Other Developments Relating to ‘Opus’

A fifth-grader named Sarah wrote the Los Angeles Times questioning “Opus” cartoonist Berkeley Breathed’s view that newspapers should drop comics no longer done by their original creators. Sarah said these comics have the right to appear in papers, just like books by dead authors should continue to be published.

Breathed, asked by the Times to respond, said: “The space in a bookstore is not as limited as the pages of a newspaper.” And he added: “We will never be able to discover the next Charles Schulz if we keep rerunning ‘Peanuts’ and other comics by dead artists.”

A number of newspapers have dropped both older and newer comics to make room for the half-page “Opus.”

The Contra Costa Times of Walnut Creek, Calif., is dealing with the “Opus” size issue by moving the Washington Post Writers Group strip from the Sunday comics section to the Sunday arts and entertainment section starting Jan. 11, according to Features Editor Lisa Wrenn. Two strips returning to the Sunday comics section, based on reader voting, will be “Sherman’s Lagoon” by Jim Toomey of King Features Syndicate and “Hagar the Horrible” by Chris Browne of King.

Meanwhile, “Non Sequitur” creator Wiley Miller of Universal Press Syndicate received many positive e-mails after tweaking “Opus” in his Dec. 28 strip.


Large ‘Abby’ Alzheimer’s Donation

It’s Going to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota

The family of “Dear Abby” creator Pauline Phillips has teamed up with an anonymous donor to give the Mayo Clinic $10 million for research into Alzheimer’s disease, according to an Associated Press story.

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic will rename its research center the Mayo Clinic Abigail Van Buren Alzheimer’s Disease Research Clinic.

Phillips, who started “Dear Abby” under the Van Buren pen name in 1956, has Alzheimer’s. Her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, now does the Universal Press Syndicate column.


Et cetera …

Walter Cronkite discussed his months-old King Features Syndicate column on the Dec. 28 CNN’s Reliable Sources show hosted by Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz. Cronkite told Kurtz it may have been “pure madness” to start the weekly newspaper feature at age 86, noting that “it’s a lot more work than I thought it was going to be. I write pretty quickly … but I had not realized how much personal research I was going to have to do … . I’m thinking of hiring a researcher.” Cronkite also discussed his career, the state of TV news, and more.

Dave Barry of The Miami Herald and Tribune Media Services took part in an online Washington Post chat on Dec. 29. One Connecticut questioner asked: “Do humor columnists attract groupies?” Barry answered: “Tragically, we do not. We attract middle-aged attorneys who would like to be humor columnists.” A Washington, D.C., resident asked: “Do you have any involvement with the cartoons that run with your column?” Barry replied: “No, unless you like them a lot, in which case I draw them.”

Ellen Kanner’s “The Edgy Veggie” column about vegetarianism is being distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

The Oct. 15-16, 2004, Festival of Cartoon Art at Ohio State University will focus on censorship, self-censorship, and editorial control. For more information, see

Wink the cartoon bear in Rob Harrell’s “Big Top” comic wanted Katie Couric of NBC’s Today show to blow him a kiss for Christmas. An illustration of Wink received the kiss at the end of a Dec. 24 Couric interview with Harrell, whose comic is distributed by Universal Press Syndicate. Between Dec. 17 and Dec. 25, the circus in “Big Top” came to New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza — right near the Today show’s studio.

Continental Features/Continental News Service launched a Web site (; signed Jack Pullen, creator of the “Boomtown” comic; and signed Pam Trout, who does the “Dear World” column.

To read previous Syndicate World columns, visit our index page.

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