Welcome to the new Belleville News-Democrat; here's a guide to the changes

July 7, 2014 

Welcome to the new, three-section Belleville News-Democrat, featuring more color throughout the newspaper and a redesigned A section that focuses mostly on local news and information.

Following is a series of questions and answers that will help guide you through the changes.

My paper doesn't include the Local News section today. What happened to it?

Our expanded A section is the home of all of our local and Illinois news Monday through Saturday. So the A section is now one big local news section, and the B section is sports.

Most of our features content will continue to run in the Lifestyle section and the BND Magazine, while the Sports section will continue to be the home for most of our sports content. (Exceptions are when local features and sports content appear on A1). Color daily comics will run in the Lifestyle section, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and in the classified section Wednesday and Saturday.

Our daily editorial, Glenn McCoy cartoon and your letters will remain on Page A4.

Where are the obituaries and the list of local deaths?

The list of deaths will appear every day now on Page A2. Obituaries will also run inside the A section. Tuesday's obituaries start on Page A7.

The Answer Man and Wally Spiers columns used to run on the front of the Local News section. Where can we find Roger and Wally in the three-section paper?

We will normally run The Answer Man and the Wally Spiers columns on Page A5. Today The Answer Man is on A5, but Wally's column is on A1.

I see that business news also moved to the A section, but I noticed you cut the number of stocks and mutual funds. Why did you do that?

Most people follow their stocks and mutual funds online. As a result, many newspapers have eliminated stock and mutual funds listings or drastically reduced them. But we decided to continue listing specific stocks and funds requested by readers. That amounts to more than half a page, which you will find inside the A section. Today it's on Page A6.

What else has changed?

Classified pages are now grouped together rather than spread across the newspaper, as they were when our format was four sections. Our customers requested this change, and we are glad to be able to do it. Today you will find classified ads on pages B5-B8 in the sports section.

We've also improved print quality by widening each page by about an eighth of an inch to reduce smears along the edges. Some customers, particularly puzzle fans, had asked for us to work on this problem. We hope you are pleased with the result.

By combining the A and Local News sections, are you reducing our local news coverage?

Not at all. Our goal is to be the first, best and most trusted source of local news and information; to be a watchdog over public institutions, officials and your tax dollars; to cover issues from all sides and to tell the stories of metro-east residents. Local articles and photos will continue to be our priority -- news, features, sports -- because it is your priority. We plan no cuts in coverage of the metro-east and across Illinois.

Did you eliminate national and international coverage when you combined the A and the Local News sections?

We remain committed to giving you a strong national and international news report, though we have reduced the amount of wire content. You'll find most of the national and international news toward the back of the A section. Today it's on A9. We will give you as many headlines as possible so that you get a wide-ranging overview of what's happening around the nation and the rest of the world. That means you will see lots of news briefs. We'll continue to give you longer stories on the biggest or most interesting news of the day, with our highest priority being articles from the BND Washington Bureau. For additional national and international news, you can visit the Nation/World section at bnd.com.

Couldn't you have made all of these changes in a four-section newspaper, rather than changing the format to three?

The three-section format will help us better manage one of our biggest expenses, paper, plus allow us to add more color to our inside pages.

In a four-section newspaper, our printing equipment required that the first and third sections and the second and fourth sections match in size. For example, if you had six pages in the first section, the third section had to have six. If you had eight pages in the second section, you had to have eight in the fourth. Many times we had too much space in places where we didn't need it simply to balance the paper.

With the new format, we can make each section the size we need it each day.

What's next?

We are planning to add more color after we install a new piece of equipment on our printing press in mid- to late-August.

How can I comment on the changes? Do my comments matter?

Your comments do matter. We want to hear what you think. You can comment on the changes by calling our reader hotline at 239-2743 or by sending an email to ideas@bnd.com. We can't respond to every call or email, but we can promise that we'll review every comment.

Thanks again for reading the BND and visiting bnd.com.

Jeffry Couch, editor and vice president of the BND and bnd.com, can be reached at jcouch@bnd.com or 239-2551. Follow him on twitter @jcouch.

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