PHARES: Messing with funny pages a serious business

Publisher of the Register Messing with Social Security benefits is considered a "third rail&quo
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010


Publisher of the Register

Messing with Social Security benefits is considered a "third rail" issue in politics. The reference is to the middle, or third, electrified rail that powers some trains. Touch it and you will be electrocuted.

In the newspaper business we have third rail issues as well -- most notably our TV listings and the comics selection. Most publishers know messing with either one of these will get you zapped by your readers.

Some days we just don't listen. During the last few months we have been refining how we present and organize news for you. Many of the changes have been subtle -- different spacing on some type, a alternative heading on pages and moving story jumps from page 2 to later in the A section.

Included in these changes were a reorganized Friday TV guide a few months ago and the recent move of daily listings from an inside page to a spot next to weather on the back page, complete with color highlights. Our goal is to make the newspaper easier for you to use every day.

We'd make each change, publish the edition and hold our breath to see what happened ... for the most part, nothing. You accepted the new format, or at least didn't call or write to set us straight. We got confident.

Perhaps too confident?

This past Sunday we changed our color comics and it didn't go so well. We had made a decision about three months ago to discontinue the section we had delivered for years. We had bought into it as part of a cooperative deal a long time ago, which made sense at the time. As the years passed, though, the section included comics that were dwindling in interest while the cost of the cooperative kept climbing.

We decided we could offer you a better package, one that matched the daily comics, by printing them ourselves again. Great idea in concept, but the execution was a little rocky.

We had to notify the printer months ago we were done using their edition, and then work out deals with the syndicates that own the strips we wanted. What sounds easy was not. The syndicates were slow to respond, leaving us without a full package for you by Sunday. And, because the old edition was printed several weeks in advance, they did not have any available for us to use.

We had to punt with what we had available, which is what you received.

Boy, you were not happy ... which is why I am writing this now.

The comics section you receive today moves closer to what we had intended, matching the Sunday offerings to the daily selection. During the next few months we plan to try out new strips in the daily paper and ask you which ones you like best. When we get that all settled down, we'll move on to align the Sunday section to the best of them.

So, please bear with us. I like the Sunday "funnies" as much as you do. We'll get it there.

Please keep us in line, though, and tell us what you think along the way by e-mailing