This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Woe to the editor who has messed with a reader's beloved comics page.
A staple of American newspapers since the 19th century, comic strips have long been among their most loyally read content. The famed newspaper wars between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst featured numerous incidents of the two tycoons dueling over the most popular comic artists of the day, one stealing away the other's by doubling his salary. And it was Hearst who else? who came up with the idea of devoting an entire page of expensive newsprint to nothing but comics.
Comics held such a valuable place in the media landscape that by the time "Peanuts" usually considered the most popular strip of all time was at its apex, income for author Charles M. Schulz exceeded $1 billion annually. Holy cow, Charlie Brown!
And it seems like every newsroom has stories of the poor old editor who decided the time for "Mary Worth," "Beetle Bailey" or "Judge Parker" had come and gone and replaced it with a newer strip only to be forced into submission by an unrelenting stream of complaints by those strips' loyalists as the old classics were eventually reinstated.
At The Tribune, we've been fairly conservative in making changes. The last thing we want to do is alienate loyal readers but, more significantly, the evolution of the Web has allowed us to provide readers with many more options than we ever could in print.
And, as in print, comics and puzzles are an integral part of our overall offering of content, as the audience for comics increasingly transitions to digital. Comics and puzzles at sltrib.com typically account for about 1 percent of the site's total page views of any given day, far more than all but a handful of the most popular stories.
Beginning this week, we are making a significant change in our comics package online. In addition to retaining the most popular of the strips and puzzles we already offer, we are launching "Comics Kingdom," a massive collection of more than 80 strips and a slew of additional puzzles and games. (From the sltrib.com home page, you'll find our comics and games under the Entertainment tab).
Simultaneously, we're making two rare changes in print. This week "The Pajama Diaries" replaces "For Better or For Worse" in our daily lineup.
It should be a comfortable change for Tribune comics aficionados, as "The Pajama Diaries" has been a part of our Sunday lineup almost since it debuted in 2006. You can read more about "The Pajama Diaries," the strip's characters and author Terri Libenson on Page 3 of the Sunday Mix section.
Meanwhile, "Pearls Before Swine" replaces "For Better or For Worse" in our Sunday lineup. This should be an easy change as well. The Tribune was among the country's first newspapers to pick up "Pearls" Stephan Pastis' topical and sometimes dark chronicles of four anthropomorphic animals that debuted about 10 years ago for its daily comics pages.
Why replace "FBOFW"? Author Lynn Johnston has retired, and we've been publishing reruns.
The strip had an epic 30-year run, like "Peanuts" appearing in more than 2,000 newspapers at its height as it chronicled the Patterson family through life's trials and joys. Unlike most every comic before it, characters aged in real time.
In the final strip, a grandmother gave this advice to Elizabeth a small child when the comic began on the eve of her wedding: "It's a promise that should last a lifetime. It defines you as a person and describes your soul. It's a promise to be there, one for the other, no matter what happens, no matter who falls. ... For better or for worse, my dears ... for better or for worse."
Not a bad way to go out.
Michael A. Anastasi is a Tribune managing editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.