Local journalism is at the core of what we do at The Gazette, and we’ve had to make some difficult choices to ensure our newsroom can continue its award-winning work.

The paper on which The Gazette is printed, called newsprint, is our second-biggest expense, and a tariff on Canadian newsprint has increased that cost by more than 30 percent. Newsprint produced domestically is not available to us, so we’re forced to look for ways to save paper and reduce other expenses.

The following changes go into effect Tuesday, June 12:

Page width

The most obvious cost-savings choice was to narrow the newspaper pages. Most newspapers already print on pages 11 inches wide, and some of the other newspapers we print have been asking about using narrower paper. After modifications to our press, we are now able to accommodate them and use the narrower paper ourselves.

The one-inch difference creates significant savings.

The narrower pages prompted us to change the designs of our front page and sports front page. We have decided to eliminate the “Gazette at a Glance” column along the right edge of the front page and to move the index to the bottom of the page.

On the sports front page, we are eliminating the “Out of Bounds” column along the left edge and moving some of that information to the bottom of the page.

We believe the changes will free page designers to create engaging pages that better showcase our award-winning photography.

Inside the paper, columns on some pages will be narrower, but the size of text in stories will not change.

Eliminating features

More difficult was identifying non-local features we could eliminate to save space and expense. A group of editors pored through editions of The Gazette and ranked the features we purchase from vendors. Those that contain information readily available elsewhere ranked lower.

We decided the weekly On Entertainment section of TV listings should be eliminated. Readers who want to check listings still can use the TV/Advice page in the daily paper that includes a TV grid. Leaving the TV/Advice page, however, will be the “Tune in Tonight” column by Kevin McDonough and the JATV listings, which are being eliminated.

Other features being eliminated include “Aces on Bridge,” “Last Word in Astrology” and the extra crossword puzzle in Sunday’s paper.

We do this knowing some readers will be upset. Everything in The Gazette has a constituency, but we’re making hard choices to preserve our local journalism.

Other changes

Other adjustments include reducing the minimum size of the weekly kicks entertainment section and trimming the size of the calendar on the Every Day page. Student art will continue to be published when space is available.

You also might notice changes in how advertising is distributed through the paper to make the most efficient use of every page.

Sound Off

This last change is prompted not by economics but by journalism. We are eliminating the Sound Off column, which has appeared for many years on the Opinion Page every Sunday and Wednesday.

Sound Off was created before The Gazette had a website and before Facebook and other social media were invented. At the time, some in the newsroom objected to the notion of publishing comments from anonymous callers. Sound Off came to be known among its detractors as the “Cowards Corner,” but it was intended to provide a channel of commentary for readers who felt they had no other way to share their views.

The world has since changed. Facebook, Twitter, other social media and GazetteXtra give readers the ability to easily share their views.

What has not changed is the concern among some in the newsroom that anonymous commentary has no place in a publication that takes pride in its journalism. We don’t include in our news stories comments from people if we don’t know who they are, for example.

And while Sound Off contains the occasional uplifting sentiment, it’s mostly become a list of negative and sometimes hurtful commentary.

In this era of the media being pummeled with accusations of “fake news,” we feel it is more important than ever to make sure our journalistic integrity is unquestionable.

Sound Off cannot be defended as journalism, and we’re eliminating it.

Arriving at these changes was not easy, and these adjustments likely won’t be the last.

We are grateful for the continued support of our readers and advertisers. Their support, through subscription payments and advertising orders, pays for the local journalism we are working to preserve.

Sid Schwartz is editor of The Gazette. He can be reached at 608-755-8293 or sschwartz@gazettextra.com.

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