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Herald-Mail's new look will debut Monday

September 28, 2008|By JOHN LEAGUE

Tomorrow morning, you might notice a slimmer Herald-Mail.

With the Sept. 29th edition, we will be publishing a paper with pages that are 11 inches wide, a reduction of 1 1/2 inches from what you've been used to for the past four years.

You also will notice a slightly new look.

The latter has been in the planning stages for several years. The Herald-Mail was due for a redesign several years ago. We briefly contemplated doing so when we ceased publication of our afternoon paper about a year ago.

It was at about that time that we decided we would cut down our press from a 50-inch format to 44 inches. That move was related to an anticipated increase in the cost of paper on which The Herald-Mail is printed.

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At the time, we believed that the cost of paper - called newsprint - would increase significantly. It has. A year ago, newsprint was about $525 per metric ton. Today, it's $200 more than that, and it will be higher by year's end.

To reduce those expenses without raising the price of the newspaper, we decided to reduce the width. This reduces the amount of newsprint we need, and thus reduces the cost of publishing the paper.

We are making some changes in content. We'll reduce the daily stock listing to only those stocks you ask us to publish.

And there will be some other changes in content. But for the most part, the features you have enjoyed still will be offered.

The changes were the result of a market survey in which we asked readers what they would like to see more of and less of in the paper. Without a doubt, local news and information were at the top of the list, and they will continue to be our bread and butter.

When we took the redesigned paper to focus groups, most of the changes were applauded. Surprisingly, many didn't even notice the reduced width of the paper until we told them about it. Several who did said it was easier to read.

Reducing the size of the paper requires some big changes to our presses and a lot of commitment on the part of nearly every department at the newspaper.

Many of our employees worked weekends and after hours because much of the work could be done only when we were not publishing a paper or beginning the publishing cycle.

We spent hundreds of hours reformatting and reprogramming computer systems to accommodate the new dimensions, contacting vendors to adjust orders and seeing to hundreds of other details.

This has been a challenging project, but we have great people here. I'd like to salute all of the people at The Herald-Mail who made this happen. To each of you, great job! And a special tip of the hat to Mark Kelly, our operations director, and Doug Hoffman, our pressroom manager, for their leadership.

This is Doug's third cutdown and Mark's second. I've promised both it will be their last.

Our readers, our carriers and independent contractors have endured some disruptions in our production cycle. We appreciate your understanding and patience.

If you have a comment about the new look, e-mail me at the address listed below. We'd like to hear from you.

John League is editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7073, or by e-mail at jleague@herald-mail.com.

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