‘Tribune’ Names Successor to Landers

By: Dave Astor

Ann Landers’ just-named successor at the Chicago Tribune will also follow Landers into syndication.

Amy Dickinson is launching her advice column July 20 in the Tribune. Then, on Sept. 1, Tribune Media Services will begin distributing “Ask Amy” to other newspapers. A TMS spokesperson said July 9 that the syndicate was just starting to sell the seven-day-a-week feature, and thus had no client numbers yet.

Landers, who died in June 2002 at age 83, appeared in 1,200 newspapers via Creators Syndicate.

In an introductory piece in the July 9 Tribune, Dickinson wrote: “I’ll tell you right now that I won’t always know what to say. When your problems land on my desk, I’m going to do some serious thinking, make some calls, consult the experts and do my best to get you an answer. In years of reporting on the human condition, I’ve developed a Rolodex of sources and a file cabinet of ideas… . Really tough questions may necessitate a call to my mother, who always seems to know what to do.”

Like Landers, Dickinson will take a general-advice approach. But there will be differences. Tribune Communications Manager Patty Wetli said, for instance, that Dickinson — a single mother — may focus more on parenting issues than Landers did. And Wetli noted that Dickinson, as a 43 year old, has a different perspective than someone of Landers’ generation.

Why did it take nearly 13 months to find a successor? “Those were enormous shoes to fill, and we wanted to be thoughtful about the process,” said Wetli. After hundreds of people expressed interested in the job, the Tribune narrowed the list to a few candidates and gave each of them sample questions to answer. “Amy bubbled up to the top immediately. The editors liked her sense of humor and the way she approached the issues,” said Wetli, who added that focus groups were also involved.

Wetli didn’t know if the candidates included former Landers’ assistants Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, whose 2002-launched “Annie’s Mailbox” advice column is syndicated to more than 700 papers via Creators.

Dickinson has written columns for Time magazine and America Online, appeared regularly on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” freelanced for The Washington Post and other publications, and worked as a producer for NBC News, as a teacher, and as a singer since graduating with an English degree from Georgetown University. The upstate New York native — a distant relative of 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson — recently moved to Chicago from the Washington, D.C., area to start her new job. Dickinson will be based at the Tribune, but not in Landers’ old office. Part of that space is now occupied by the staff of the paper’s “Good Eating” section.

The Tribune will continue to publish “Dear Abby” by Jeanne Phillips of Universal Press Syndicate, but will no longer run “Dear Prudence” by Landers’ daughter Margo Howard, according to July 9 Tribune article by Rick Kogan.


Marvin Will Suddenly Mature

Comic Baby to Walk After Two Decades

The title character in “Marvin” is taking his first steps during a series that began July 7.

Cartoonist Tom Armstrong’s sequence concludes Aug. 3 with Marvin finally celebrating his first birthday after 21 years on comics pages. After that, the plan is for him to age one year for every three years of real time.

“Marvin” appears in nearly 400 newspapers via King Features Syndicate.


Web Necessitates Alternate Comic

Cartoon Was Designed for Print ‘USA Weekend’

The difference between newsprint and the Web caused Casey Shaw to create an alternate version of a USA Weekend cartoon.

Shaw’s cartoon, slated for the July 20 edition of the newspaper magazine, invites readers to “scratch ‘n’ sniff: smells just like newsprint!”

This concept wouldn’t have worked online, so Shaw made the version for the Web site (http://www.usaweekend.com) read: “Scratch ‘n’ sniff: smells just like a computer screen!”

“It’s a weird time in journalism,” said Shaw. “In writing the original cartoon, I hadn’t really thought about the fact many people access our content online and wouldn’t experience this drawing on newsprint.”

He added: “I don’t know what to do if they decide to print out a copy from the computer and give the cartoon to a friend. I guess we should do a third ‘smells just like laserprint paper’ version.”

USA Weekend appears in 590-plus newspapers with a combined circulation of 23.7 million.


Et cetera …

Jim Miller, who self-syndicates the “Savvy Senior” column to 400-plus newspapers, is widening his media reach. NBC’s “Today” show is scheduled to air a three-part “Savvy Senior” segment about “senior gadgets” on Aug. 12, 13, and 14. Also, Miller was the subject of articles in Time magazine and The New York Times, and has signed a deal with Hyperion for a spring 2004 Savvy Senior book.

“Successful Investing” columnist Andrew Leckey of Tribune Media Services has been named the first director of the American Press Institute’s new Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism.

“The Bond” pet columnist Dr. Marty Becker of Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services is writing a spin-off featured called “Bite Size Pet News” for KRT.

KRT is distributing the weekly “Ask Mr. Dad” column by Armin Brott, who has written six books about fatherhood.

“Grammar Matters,” an illustrated panel feature with a quiz format, is being syndicated by Copley News Service. It’s by Patty Gibbons Saunier, a former newspaper journalist who has authored three textbooks and founded The Write Stuff children’s classroom newspaper.

“Rhymes With Orange” cartoonist Hilary Price of King Features Syndicate has a new comic collection called Reigning Cats and Dogs: A Rhymes With Orange Tribute to Those Who Shed (Andrews McMeel Publishing).

“Dear Teacher” columnists Marge Eberts and Peggy Gisler of King have authored a new book called Doing Their Best: Encouraging Children to Earn Good Grades (Mars Publishing).

David Reddick — who does staff editorial cartoons and the “Reddick’s Rhetoric” comic panel for The Herald Bulletin of Anderson, Ind. — has a new book collection published through his newspaper. Reddick’s Rhetoric features a foreword by Indiana-based “Garfield” creator Jim Davis of Universal Press Syndicate. Reddick’s comic (http://www.theheraldbulletin.com) also appears in other Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. papers, and is distributed internationally by Artizans Syndicate.

Tom Gibb, the hard-working Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter who died July 4 at the age of 49, also had a background as a cartoonist. He was syndicated at one time, and was a member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. Gibb suffered a heart attack June 19 after attending the AAEC convention in Pittsburgh.

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists site (http://www.columnists.com) features various pieces on last month’s NSNC convention in Tucson, Ariz. Included are transcripts and/or reports of remarks by columnists such as Andy Rooney of Tribune Media Services (winner of the NSNC’s Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award), Ruben Navarrette Jr. of The Dallas Morning News and Washington Post Writers Group, Ray Hanania of Creators Syndicate, and Bill Tammeus of The Kansas City Star and KRT. They spoke about topics such as diversity and religion.

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