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New agate pages leave more room for baseball news

July 20, 2003|by MARK KELLER

Some regular readers of The Morning Herald and The Herald-Mail sports sections may have noticed a few subtle changes in the last three weeks.

Schurz Communications, The Herald-Mail's parent company, recently agreed to test a service from CanWest Editorial in five of its newspapers, including this one.

CanWest, whose home base is in Winnipeg, Canada, produces agate pages for newspapers. That's the page in the sports section with all the small print - box scores, standings and schedules.

Rather than go all out in our test of the agate service, it was decided we would start with a Major League Baseball package first to see how the system worked, and if it would work for us.

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Before we began running the CanWest pages on July 2, we received several page proofs from the company to verify that the style it was using matched our style. There was only one slight difference: At the top of each box score, CanWest included a one-sentence summary of the game.

For years, The Morning Herald had run all of the baseball box scores and a two- or three-paragraph game summary. But recently, with the increase in the number of high school sports, youth sports and recreational leagues reporting results to the newspaper, the space we had available for baseball roundups was steadily shrinking.

It reached a point early this season that we were able to get only one or two sentences in for each game and rarely managed to get any news about transactions or injuries in the paper.

The Sports department discussed the pros and cons of eliminating the baseball roundup in favor of the one-line summaries atop the box scores. I talked to my supervisor, Executive Editor Terry Headlee, and we decided to give the one-liners a try.

If the lack of response to the change is any indication, the new format must be OK with our readers. In the nearly three weeks since we began running the CanWest agate package, I've gotten just one phone call from a reader who misses the old baseball roundups.

We have discovered a couple of benefits to using the CanWest service so far. Obviously, it saves time in completing our agate page as nearly half of that page is being done for us.

By running the short summaries on top of the box scores, it frees up space for more baseball news and notes and more local feature stories.

Though it may seem like we have reduced our Major League Baseball coverage, we've actually increased the amount of baseball news in our section daily.

We still allow the same space for the Orioles. We still get the same box scores that we have always gotten. And while we've shortened the game summaries, the number of other newsworthy baseball items that appear in the section has grown significantly.

If you have an opinion on our new baseball format, I'd like to hear from you. You can contact me at the phone number or e-mail address listed below and let me know if you like or dislike this setup.




Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, extension 2332, or by e-mail at keller@herald-mail.com

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