One morning last week, the editor arrived at his office to find this voice mail message from a reader awaiting him:
“We really don’t like the new format of the paper,” she said, “and hope you go back to the old.”
After leaving a voice mail for the reader, who had been kind enough to leave her name and number, we finally got to talk a couple of days later.
Her complaint was that the newspaper’s page was so narrow it was awkward to handle and turn pages.
The editor assured her that sheet size wasn’t a recent change.
He consulted with production coordinator Ernie Appleyard on a more precise date of the change.
It was April 2009.
WITHOUT A DOUBT, the newspaper page has a more vertical look these days.
The month that this editor arrived in the Sauk Valley, April 2008, the news page went from 12.5 inches wide to 11.5 inches.
A year later, it was reduced to 11 inches.
But, because of press requirements, the depth of the page never changed.
That makes the page noticeably skinnier – especially if you compare it to our newspapers of long ago.
The top story in the Sterling Daily Gazette on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 1941, was “Yanks Defeat Dodgers, 3-2, in Series Opener,” which was one of 15 articles on Page 1 – which was 17 inches wide.
Those were the days.
Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
REDUCING THE SIZE of the sheet saves money for a newspaper.
That’s why newspapers – virtually everywhere – are printing these days on a smaller page – narrower, shorter, or both.
As you can imagine, paper is a huge cost for a daily newspaper. These days, however, it costs us less than $1 million a year – and has every year since 2009.
Even though the page is 35 percent narrower than it was in 1941, it’s still in a format that the newspaper industry ironically calls “broadsheet.”
But some newspapers have gone even smaller, to tabloid size, which is about half the size of a broadsheet page.
By the way, the Yankees won the ’41 World Series in five games.
DiMaggio hit .263.
AS THE PAGE HAS shrunk, so has some newspaper content.
Maybe you saw the letter in a recent edition in which a reader asked that we publish a chess column.
Well, we do publish a bridge column, so ...
This editor remembers, during a previous life, when his newspaper published lots of specialty columns – from just about any local aficionado who was willing and able to meet a weekly deadline.
We had several locally written columns – on photography, stamp collecting, coin collecting, even aviation.
But back then, in the days before pre-printed advertising inserts, we had more pages to accommodate in-paper ads.
And these days, people who are really into their hobbies can find more about their specific interests than they could ever consume in a lifetime – just by accessing the Internet, which creates virtual communities of like-minded people.
Of course, that is not an option if the warden won’t let you get online.
WE DO STILL HAVE space for some entertainment features, such as comics and puzzles.
Seldom do we hear more from readers than when we publish the wrong puzzle or leave out an answer.
Something like that happened last week with our daily Sudoku puzzle, which at least one reader noticed when the difficulty ratings were no longer included.
“This week’s had no rating and all were fairly easy to solve ... not much challenge,” he wrote. “I’m not sure who provides the puzzles for the paper, but I would prefer the former format to what was used this week.”
Turns out that a new member of the ad design staff, which places the puzzles in the classified ad section, chose the wrong files to download from among her available options.
We think/hope that’s been fixed.