Sex Acts and Censorship

The Oregonian’s decision to demure over carrying the Doonesbury strip on its printed pages this week took another turn when the newspaper revealed it reported a lie over the details of Bob Caldwell’s death.

Caldwell, an editor with the newspaper, passed away over the weekend, and Monday’s paper—the same edition that announced the decision to nix Doonesbury–ran warm remembrances of Caldwell. The paper also reported that he passed away in his car.

Turns out Caldwell died as a result of what the newspaper called a “sex act” with a young woman.

The Oregonian ran the corrected story, a tribute to journalistic standards of reporting truthful information even in the face of hurtful facts. The story avoided the salacious, sticking to the police report and avoiding conjecture.

My pal George Rede noted on his blog, “I will remember Newsroom Bob fondly. But I will forever wonder what made The Other Bob engage in such reckless behavior. I can only imagine the depth of hurt and shame that have been inflicted on his wife and three adult daughters in an unavoidably public way” (see

I applaud The Oregonian’s decision to report with accuracy and grace the facts of Caldwell’s passing, but still find courage lacking in the decision to cut Doonesbury.

Doonesbury deals with the reality that women in Texas are now required to submit to an additional procedure (a sonogram) in their quest for a legal abortion: a test that is unwarranted and unnecessary and one that emerges from a moral perspective, rather than a health need. Pity.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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