Commentary Law and Policy

Reluctance to Print Doonesbury Will Only Make it More Visible

Brady Swenson

Several prominent newspapers chose not to publish a series of Doonesbury comics becasue they address forced ultrasound legislation. So, help us make sure these are among the most seen Doonesbury comics ever. 

Several prominent newspapers chose not to publish a series of Doonesbury comics because they address forced ultrasound legislation. But in the new media world we live in, their decision not to publish the comic strips ensures they will be much more widely read. 

And you can help!

Let’s make sure these are among the most seen Doonesbury comics ever.

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Here’s a short link to use for this comic:

Here’s a short link to use for this comic:

Here’s a short link to use for this comic:

Here is a list of the media outlets who refused to publish these comics.  Take a couple of moments to post the comic in their comment sections, Facebook pages and Twitter streams.  You’ll have to “like” the media outlet on Facebook to post on their pages… a small price to pay for activism! 

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The Los Angeles Times refused to publish the Doonesbury comics in their comics section, where people would look for them. They published them, but in their op-ed section. We know, we know – we don’t see an “opinion” either. 

You can post on their Facebook wall here, comment at their website here or you can click this button to tweet at them: 

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The Houston Chronicle in Texas (!) likewise refused to publish the comics in their comics section. Instead, they moved the strips to their “Outlooks” page, where no one would know or care to look. If any publication should be publishing these comics on their front page, it’s any publication located in Texas!

You can post on their Facebook wall here, comment at their website here or you can click this button to tweet at them: 

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The Athens Banner-Herald in Georgia refused to publish the comics because the editors “thought there was a real possibility that readers might confuse the topic of this week’s ‘Doonesbury’ with Georgia’s proposed abortion legislation.” Umm, all the more reason to discuss the issue in your paper!

You can post on their Facebook wall here, comment at their website here or you can click this button to tweet at them: 

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The Oregonian refused to publish the comics because they “went over the line of good taste and humor.” Yeah, maybe, but only because forced ultrasounds and shaming of women goes over the line of good taste and humor. 

You can post to the Oregonian‘s Facebook page here, comment at their website here or you can click this button to tweet at them: 

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The Indianapolis Star declined to publish the strips in print. You can post to their Facebook wall here or tweet at them here:

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The Arizona Star likewise declined to publish (in print). You can post to their Facebook wall here or tweet at them here: 

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The SC Herald refused to publish the comics because the editors were “concerned about the graphic content.” How this excuse applies remains unclear.

You can post to the SC Herald‘s Facebook page here  or you can click this button to tweet at them:

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The CA Reporter refused to publish the comics because “[e]ditors believe [cartoonist Gary Trudeau] has expressed that opinion in a manner that skirts, if not crosses, the boundaries of good taste expected in a family newspaper.” Because good taste would obviously be to encourage anti-choice legislation, duh.

You can post to the CA Reporter‘s Facebook page here or you can click this button to tweet at them:

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The Ocala Star Banner is not running the series of strips.  Hit up their Facebook wall here and tweet them:

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The UT Standard-Examiner refused to publish the comics because the “language in the original strips was not appropriate for a comic that could be viewed by children.” Tell that to Rush Limbaugh. This is a political comic strip and “slut” is a political word, these days.

Tweet at the Standard-Examiner here:

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The Press of Atlantic City refused to publish the comics because “Texas abortion cartoons venture too far for the comics pages.” That’s really not an explanation.

You can post to the Press of Atlantic City‘s Facebook page here.

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The Gainesville Sun in Florida refused to publish the strips. Find them on Facebook here and tweet at them by clicking here:

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The St. Paul Pioneer Press refused to publish the comics in print because “[t]he editors have decided the commentary in some panels is inappropriate for the comics section in the newspaper.” Not this again – what’s the criteria for “appropriate” comics?!

You can post to the St. Paul Pioneer Press‘ Facebook page here, comment at their website here or you can click this button to tweet at them:

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The Fort Worth Star Telegram refused to publish the comics in print, and today published an article stating that “the reason for not printing the strip has nothing to do with left- or right-wing politics. It has everything to do with civility and consistency.” Come on, really?

You can post to the Fort Worth Star Telegram‘s Facebook page here, comment at their website here or you can click this button to tweet at them: 

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The North Carolina News & Record and the Winston-Salem Journal (both smaller NC newspapers) refused to publish the strips in print. You can post to the Winston-Salem Journal’s Facebook site here. You can tweet at the News & Record here: 

 or at the Winston-Salem Journal here: 

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The Utica Observer-Dispatch refused to publish the strips in print. You can post to their Facebook page here, comment on their website here (registration required) or you can click this button to tweet at them:  

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The Tallahassee Democrat refused to publish the comics in print, and no one will say why. According to one reader, “Thus far, [there has been] no disclosure about its decision either in the paper or online.” After all, TD, you wouldn’t want to say the wrong thing.

You can post to the Tallahassee Democrat‘s Facebook page here or you can click this button to tweet at them:  

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Commentary Violence

Major League Baseball Has More Work to Do When It Comes to Domestic Violence Charges

Claire Tighe

Major League Baseball's response to charges of domestic violence against Jose Reyes is really just a step in the right direction. The league, its fans, and the media outlets covering it have work to do before there is additional cause to celebrate.

Two weeks ago, the Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball (MLB) team made headlines for designating their shortstop, Jose Reyes, for assignment. The designation for assignment (DFA) means he was removed from their roster, most likely so the Rockies could trade him or release him to the minors.

The decision came after an announcement from MLB in May concluding that Reyes had violated its new Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse policy. Reyes was put on leave in February while the league investigated charges that he had allegedly assaulted his wife in a Hawaii hotel the previous October. Though the charges were ultimately dropped, MLB still concluded that he had violated its policy—which allows discipline no matter a case’s legal status—based on the available police reports. Ultimately, Reyes was suspended for 52 games.

Many sports fans and media outlets are celebrating the Rockies’ decision to designate Reyes for assignment, framing it squarely as a moral response to his domestic violence suspension. As a result of the suspension, Reyes ultimately lost a total of $7.02 million for missing 30 percent of the season and is required to donate $100,000 to “charity focused on domestic violence.” Still, the team will owe Reyes $41 million despite the DFA—and that, spectators say, makes the Rockies’ actions worthy of praise. The Denver Post‘s Mark Kiszla, for example, wrote that the Rockies franchise owner, Dick Monfort, deserves a “standing ovation” for taking a “$40M stance against domestic violence” that was “not just financial.” According to Kiszla, “the franchise did right by battered women by showing zero tolerance for physical abuse.”

Yet instead of a purely moral response that deserves “a standing ovation,” the Reyes case is really more of a step in the right direction. If, as Bob Nightengale at USA Today suggested, MLB is setting a precedent by suspending Jose Reyes, the league and the media covering it have work to do before there is additional cause to celebrate.

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The league could have acted faster and given Reyes a longer, more consequential suspension to show its seriousness in responding to his violation of the policy. In fact, the New York Mets’ recent signing of Reyes, which the team explained as giving him a “second chance,” underscores just how much tolerance for reports of domestic violence truly exists in professional baseball as a whole.

The public excitement about the connection between Reyes’ domestic violence record and his sportsmanship is warranted, albeit overstated. As MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred put it, the league has taken “a firm national and international stance” on domestic violence. Reyes was only the second player to receive a suspension under the new policy, which was approved by the league in August 2015 as a result of the ongoing national conversation about intimate partner abuse in professional sports. His case was the first to be negotiated with the MLB Player’s Association; his was the harshest punishment a player had received at the time.

Even so, while the Rockies’ consideration of Reyes’ charges of domestic abuse in their decision should be appreciated, the DFA should be understood for what it really appears to be overall: based on the team’s response, it was a business decision, not an action on behalf of domestic violence survivors.

“Would we be sitting here talking about this if the domestic violence thing hadn’t happened in Hawaii? We wouldn’t. So it’s obviously part of the overall decision,” said Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich told the New York Times. After all, an incident causing a player to miss a third of the season is enough to make any team pause for consideration.But, as the Times pointed out, there are other reasons that the Rockies were ready to move on, including “never really wanting him in the first place,” the great performance of his replacement during the suspension, and the fact that the franchise had already sunk the costs of bringing Reyes onboard. By the terms of their contract, designating him for assignment was no more expensive than keeping him.

Furthermore, the handling of the Reyes case within the league and the franchise has been mostly professional, but there is still a lingering tone of undue apology toward Reyes—suggesting, again, that the treatment he has received may not be the unilateral condemnation of domestic violence that others have implied.

It begins with Reyes himself, who first apologized “to the Rockies organization, my teammates, all the fans, and most of all my family,” before retweeting Mike Cameron, a former MLB player who said that Reyes just had a “bad moment in life” and deserved forgiveness for committing physical violence against his wife.

Commissioner Manfred walked a thin line in a news conference in November just after the Hawaii incident, stating his interest in maintaining Reyes’ privacy despite the charges against him. “There’s a balance there,” he said. “On the one hand, I think our fans want to know that the case has been dealt with appropriately. On the other hand, whoever the player is, the fact that he’s a major league player doesn’t mean he has absolutely no right to privacy and or that everything in the context of a relationship or a marriage has to be public.”

While domestic violence can happen “behind closed doors,” that does not mean it is an issue of one’s personal privacy. As Bethany P. Withers has argued for the New York Times, there may not be public witnesses to abuse occurring between partners, but we should not ignore professional athletes who are charged with committing acts of domestic violence. Manfred’s comments, as well as Cameron’s, minimize Reyes’ Hawaii incident into “a lovers’ quarrel,” rather than a report of an abusive act of behavior that most likely exposes an ongoing pattern.

Rockies Franchise owner Dick Monfort’s comments were better, though not ideal. In April he told the Associated Press, “I’d like to know exactly what happened. It’s easy for us all to speculate on what happened. But really, until you really know, it’s hard. You’re dealing with a guy’s life, too.” Monfort, while expressing understandable concern for this player, sounds apologetic to Reyes, rather than the woman he was charged with abusing.

Sympathizing with Reyes in this matter, while he may be sorry for reportedly committing actions that had visible consequences, centers the experience of an abuser in a culture that silences, blames, shames, and erases survivors of domestic violence and perpetuates abusive behavior.

Much of the media, meanwhile, has taken action either to diminish Reyes’ alleged crimes or dismiss them completely. The Post‘s Kiszla, for example, was plain encouraging of Reyes, for whom he “hoped nothing but the best, if his wife had forgiven him.” His uninformed commentary shows utter lack of understanding of domestic violence and what Katherine Reyes might be experiencing in deciding to “not cooperate with the prosecutors” on the case. Fox News was similarly insensitive. At the very least, the media can provide a short explanation as to what domestic violence is and why victims may be reluctant to work with police and the criminal justice system in the first place. The “inaction, hostility, and bias” they might face, as the American Civil Liberties Union put it, is real. And their personal fear of consequences are legitimate.

Nightengale of USA Today had a particularly awful response, explicitly sympathizing with Reyes, saying “that one ugly night in Hawaii cost Reyes his pride and his job.” Except that domestic violence, a cycle of power and control, is hardly ever just “one ugly night.”

Furthermore, incidents of reported domestic violence need to be named as such. In the coverage of Reyes’ charges in Hawaii, the media failed to do so. Though ESPN reported Reyes had been arrested on abuse charges, it still said Reyes had “an argument with his wife [that] turned physical.” The Chicago Tribune labeled it as “an altercation.” The Tribune was also inaccurate in reporting that Reyes ‘choked’ his wife, when the it was actually strangulation. Technically, choking by definition is when the airway is blocked internally. Strangulation, however, is the act of blocking the passage of air through the external use of force. While the difference is subtle—in fact, the police report itself logged the action as “choking”—the ramifications are large. Describing the act as an expression of dominance signals to the public that acts of violence have perpetrators. It also gives detailed meaning to “domestic violence,” an all-encompassing phrase whose intricacies are not widely understood.

While it may seem petty to be picking over semantics, accurate framing is the difference between two partners having a disagreement and one partner committing threatening acts of violence against another in a cyclical power dynamic. It’s the difference between public acceptance of horrific behavior and public recognition of unhealthy, unacceptable relationship dynamics.

The focus on costs to Reyes and the Rockies should also be reframed. If we really want to talk big money, we should consider the exorbitant shared cost of domestic violence on all of our systems, both public and private. Domestic violence is “a serious, preventable public health problem.” The epidemic is estimated to cost $8.3 billion annually to the economy due to its effect on survivors’ physical and emotional health, as well as their workplace productivity. Because domestic violence is so widely underreported, this estimate is even a conservative one. It also does not encompass the cost to child survivors and the trauma inherited by future generations. Understanding the ridiculously high costs of domestic violence centers the long-lasting effects of an epidemic on survivors and our society as a whole, rather than the cost to a singular MLB player or team.

Wholly shifting the narrative is vital in Reyes’ case and in the cases of other players disciplined under MLB’s new policy. It is up to the public to connect the dots between all of the players and teams to understand the wide scale and scope of MLB’s domestic violence problem. The Mets’ quick re-signing of Reyes as a “second chance” to the player is a reminder of many teams’ true priorities.

Though the new MLB policy appears to be comprehensive and informed by experts, the league, the teams, and the media haven’t quite perfected their responses. With regard to MLB’s process and ultimate decision, critics are saying the league should act faster and make longer, more consequential suspensions in the future. If Commissioner Manfred is really going to give weight to charges of domestic violence, a quicker, more punitive response to charges like Reyes’ is a good way to start. There is also significant work to be done in the public relations and media responses to domestic violence in the League overall.

Five years ago, there was very little talk about domestic violence in professional sports, let alone in Major League Baseball. Almost ten years ago, it was a big joke. Until 2016, MLB had never suspended a player for domestic violence. It’s becoming clearer and clearer to the public that domestic violence pervades every arena, from professional sports to entertainment. There has been an explosion of coverage on the topic in relation to the National Football League, college campusesHollywood, theater, and the music industry. Domestic violence in Major League Baseball, in professional sports, and in our culture is a much larger problem than one suspension can solve. It’s up to us to see that domestic violence is not just the concern of a singular player, team, sport, or profession. We all have a domestic violence problem. Together we can solve it.

Culture & Conversation Media

How Gaming Is Helping to #ReclaimRoe

Shonte Daniels

As of this writing, the 2016 #Spawn4Good gaming fundraiser has raised $2,155 for abortions.

Very few people probably associate the fundamental human rights of abortion and reproductive justice with video games. But the efforts to challenge patriarchal norms in gaming are rooted in the same principles. For example, marginalized gamers, like people who identify as pro-choice, seek equality and an end to identity-based discrimination.

Game developers, however, have yet to fully understand how to meet these basic needs. When it comes to reproductive autonomy, few games, especially among the big-budget titles, show sexual acts with tact, and the ones that attempt to address pregnancy and abortion do so irresponsibly.

Thankfully, the gaming podcast SpawnOnMe, which highlights people of color within the community, is working to change that. This year, it paired reproductive justice with gaming activism to create its second annual charity, titled #Spawn4Good, to help raise money for the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF). (Full disclosure: SpawnOnMe’s producer Kahlief Adams reached out to me prior to this year’s event for insight about the different ways in which women, particularly women of color, are affected by anti-choice attacks. During our brief email conversation I suggested he connect with NNAF about this event.)

Last year’s fundraiser, which sought to “provide a deliberate space for [gamers] to have fun with the community, and to reflect on the unequal way people of color, and specifically African-American people, are treated by law enforcement,” raised more than $5,000 for the Eric Garner Fund and the New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild to continue supporting activists fighting against police violence.

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As of this writing, the 2016 #Spawn4Good gaming fundraiser has raised $2,155 for abortions. Raising money to help those who cannot afford to pay for their own abortions means more than paying for the procedure itself. For many people, particularly people of color, the cost of an abortion can include transportation, lodging, child care, or even staff time if the person is incarcerated. As more abortion restrictions are implemented, the cost of the procedure increases. And, as more clinics close, the distance it takes to get there increases as well (which can increase the number of hours or days a patient might need child care, lodging, and so on).

Abortion funds contributed in 2014 alone $3.5 million to assist 28,000 people nationwide, according to the NNAF.

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#Spawn4Good happened a week before the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision by the Supreme Court to legalize abortion, which falls on January 22. Under the hashtag #ReclaimRoe, #Spawn4Good sought to educate gamers on the battle for abortion rights happening all across the United States.

I watched last year’s #Spawn4Good event and was inspired by the work that went into trying to educate uninformed gamers on the realities of being Black. Held during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, from January 16 to January 17, this year’s event felt no different. Gamers of color banded together to help raise awareness of the current abortion care crisis. The live stream, like last year’s, featured multiple people playing different, mostly nonviolent games. Streamers also shared videos from the 1 in 3 Campaign, a movement seeking “to start a new conversation about abortion,” led by women who have had an abortion.

SpawnOnMe wanted the fundraiser to help women of color in particular, who are disproportionately affected by restrictive abortion regulations, including the Hyde Amendment, the federal ban on Medicaid coverage of abortion. Not only will some of the funds raised support women of color, but I imagine the event helped raise awareness for gamers of color, who can share or use this information in their own lives.

Yamani Hernandez, the executive director of NNAF, spoke highly of #Spawn4Good and the gamers who worked to broadcast the need for reproductive rights to a different audience. “Both the gaming community and people supporting abortion rights are a broad, multi-racial and intergenerational group that are often not given the credit for being so diverse, both in terms of demographics and interests,” Hernandez said over email. “For some this may have seemed an unlikely pairing, but it was a reminder of how intersections come together in real life.”

Many gaming fundraisers tend to focus on highlighting medical issues, such as providing donations to cancer research or children’s hospitals. While these causes certainly need attention and support, social issues also affect many gamers and should not be overlooked.

Though the fundraiser did not reach its goal of $5,000, Adams celebrated the platform’s success on Twitter.

As successful as this fundraiser might have been, don’t expect any big-budget titles to tackle reproductive justice anytime soon. While movies and television shows have depicted stories with abortion plots, popular games seem to be too timid to break from the status quo.

Games may be lauded for their escapism, but the reality many people, including many players, must face is that abortion care is not accessible for all. Sometimes it feels so tiring to have to repeat the fact that games are not in a vacuum, or that all people have a right to reproductive health, over and over. That repetition, however, is crucial in showing that these issues should never be ignored, not in a real nor virtual space.

Gaming for societal good is a new norm, and SpawnOnMe is guiding that path.