Fact Check

Was 'Doonesbury' Censored by Gannett Newspapers on Feb. 18, 2024?

A strip about the censorship of information itself being censored was sure to go viral.

Published Feb. 23, 2024

Updated Feb. 26, 2024
 (X user @CheriJacobus)
Image Via X user @CheriJacobus
Claim:
The Feb. 18, 2024, "Doonesbury" comic strip was "banned" or "censored" from appearing in newspapers owned by Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the United States.
Context

The Feb. 18 strip did not appear in newspapers owned by Gannett, but that was because a decision had been previously made to drop the strip entirely as part of a reorganization of the comics section across all Gannett-owned newspapers. It had nothing to do with the content of the strip.

On Feb. 18, 2024, readers of the hundreds of newspapers around the United States owned by Gannett, the country's largest newspaper publisher, opened their Sunday papers, probably expecting to see Garry Trudeau's Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip "Doonesbury" gracing the funny pages as usual. But it wasn't there.

Former Iowa state Rep. Bob Krause posted six panels of the comic to his X (formerly known as Twitter) account on Feb. 19, starting a storm of social media posts revolving around the strip's absence in Gannett papers. Although Krause did not, other users on X implied that Gannett had a conservative agenda and was censoring the strip because it criticized Republican-enacted education policies in Florida.

It even led to a Feb. 20 article on the humor website Cracked, making the same claim. But although "Doonesbury" has had individual strips pulled from publication in the past, as far as Snopes could tell, the Feb. 18, 2024 strip was not one of them.

Snopes found two articles explaining what was actually going on. The Daily Cartoonist, which provides industry news for cartoonists, reported in September 2023 that Gannett papers would be consolidating the comics pages in its newspapers to a set of 34 comics. "Doonesbury" was not on that list. So, as the papers made the change (individual papers made the switch at different times), "Doonesbury" suddenly stopped appearing.

An article from CBR.com, an online publication dedicated to covering comic books and strips, confirmed this, and mentioned that several of the Gannett papers had announced they would be dropping "Doonesbury." The Akron Beacon-Journal even ran a letter to the editor expressing disappointment over the strip's disappearance in January, weeks before the supposed "censorship" occurred.

Snopes reached out to Gannett separately to ask about the strip and the recent changes to the funny pages. A company representative provided the following statement:

"Doonesbury was one of several comic strips included as part of our comics pages transition plan which began in October 2023. Each market where our refresh was implemented received thorough communications over the past several months. The Doonesbury strip was not singled out or censored."

Sources

Cronin, Brian. "Was the Latest Doonesbury Comic Strip 'Banned' by Gannett-Owned Newspapers?" CBR, 22 Feb. 2024, https://www.cbr.com/doonesbury-comic-strip-banned-gannett-owned-newspapers/.
"Doonesbury Comic Strips by Garry Trudeau - February 18, 2024." Doonesbury. www.washingtonpost.com, https://production.doonesbury.com/strip/archive/2024/02/18. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.
"Https://Twitter.Com/CheriJacobus/Status/1760732790033895482." X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/CheriJacobus/status/1760732790033895482. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.
"Https://Twitter.Com/KrauseForIowa/Status/1759697931601334537." X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/KrauseForIowa/status/1759697931601334537. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.
Kelly, Keegan. "Conservative Newspaper Conglomerate Proved Their Opponents' Point When They Banned This 'Doonesbury' Comic Strip." Cracked.Com, 20 Feb. 2024, https://www.cracked.com/article_41196_conservative-newspaper-conglomerate-proved-their-opponents-point-when-they-banned-this-doonesbury-comic-strip.html.
"Letters: 'Doonesbury' Will Be Missed; Free Speech Isn't Absolute; Legislators Are Bullies." Akron Beacon Journal, https://www.beaconjournal.com/story/opinion/editorials/2024/01/21/doonesbury-comic-strip-will-be-missed/72231586007/. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.
"Snoopy Is Back! ABJ to Unveil Refreshed Comics Lineup for 2024." Akron Beacon Journal, https://www.beaconjournal.com/story/news/columns/2024/01/07/abj-adding-peanuts-dennis-the-menace-wizard-of-io-comics-lineup/71741373007/. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.
The Gannett 34 – The Daily Cartoonist. 24 Sept. 2023, https://www.dailycartoonist.com/index.php/2023/09/24/the-gannett-34/.

Updates

This story was updated to add a statement from the newspaper publisher Gannett and to clarify that former Iowa state Rep. Bob Krause made no claims of corporate collusion—those claims came from other users.

Jack Izzo is a Chicago-based journalist and two-time "Jeopardy!" alumnus.

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