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Tribune Apologizes For Badly-Timed 'Broom-Hilda' Cartoon

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Tribune issued an apology this week, after running a "Broom-Hilda" cartoon that seemed to be in bad taste following the Colorado movie massacre -- even though it was written well beforehand.

The comic strip, which ran on Wednesday, shows Broom-Hilda the witch walking through the forest with a curly-headed female character who appears to be speaking very loudly.

"It makes people mad when I talk in movie theaters," the curly-headed character says.

"I'll bet," Broom-Hilda replies.

"Especially during action adventure films," the other character says. "They can't hear the gunshots."

The character's voice appears to grow louder in each panel, and in the last, she knocks Broom Hilda to the ground with the force of her voice.

The Tribune mounted an explanation and an apology for publishing the cartoon later in the day.

"What might have caused a smile before the Aurora, Colo., mass slayings last week at a screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' seemed inappropriate today," wrote Geoff Brown, associate managing editor for the entertainment section.

Brown explained that the Tribune reviews all comics a week before publications, and two weeks ahead of time in the case of the Sunday funnies. That process requires editors to review 164 comic strips in one sitting.

"If a strip doesn't meet our standards of fairness and taste, we routinely ask for substitutes from the features syndicates that provide our comics. When news breaks that turns a harmless cartoon into one of bad taste, someone flags it in time," Brown wrote. "But not this time. Today's "Broom-Hilda" had passed from memory by the time the slayings occurred."

Brown added that the newspaper was not trying to make an excuse, only an explanation, and wrote that the editors were "kicking (them)selves."

"Broom Hilda" was not the only newspaper comic strip that prompted an apology in the wake of the massacre, in which James Holmes, 24, allegedly opened fire on a crowd at a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 people and injuring 59. This past Monday, Francesco Marciuliano, the writer for "Sally Forth," apologized for a Sunday strip in which Sally and her husband, Ted, discuss going to a 2 a.m. screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."

Marciuliano wrote that the strip had been penned three months in advance, and "was in no way a direct comment on–or reaction to–the unbelievable tragedy that occurred this weekend at the 'Batman' premiere."

"Sally Forth" runs in the Chicago Sun-Times.

There has been no reported comment from Russell Myers, the author of "Broom-Hilda."

"Broom-Hilda" has been running since 1970, and has been syndicated by the Tribune Media Services, a division of the Chicago Tribune's parent company, from the beginning.

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