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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sunday comics arriving in a new format

After a week of news focus¬ing on the political and personal tur¬moil of soon-to-be-former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, it’s time to turn the page, to the funny pages.
Let’s talk about the Sunday comics.
Being in charge of the news content of a daily newspaper is an awesome responsibility. Being in charge of the comics is just, well, awesome. I sup¬pose I feel that way because the color comics have always been one of my Sunday morn¬ing pleasures.
As a kid in Brooklyn, I pored over the Daily News, growing up with the gang in Gasoline Alley, enamored by Dondi, and enthralled by Brenda Starr. My admiration for this redheaded bombshell may have sublimi¬nally sowed the seeds for a career in journalism and some awful dye jobs. Decades later I reluctantly gave Brenda the pink slip in this publication. I check her out occasionally in out-of-area papers and she hasn’t changed a bit.
Things change, though, and starting March 16 there will be a change in The Saratogian’s Sunday comics: It will be pub¬lished in four pages instead of six, with almost all the features remaining intact.
The change is a cost-cutting measure, plain and simple. Eliminating a single two-sided color-printed sheet once a week reduces spending on paper and ink. The savings add up in a painless way as news¬papers everywhere seek ways to economize without sacrific¬ing the product or people.
But how can six pages be squeezed into four, without risking readability?
For starters, the kid-oriented science feature, “You Can by Beakman and Jax,” is moving from the Sunday comics to the Saturday Life section. That’s why it’s here today. It seems like a good fit, since we also run the “minipage” in this sec¬tion each Saturday, and kids have the whole weekend to do the experiments.
All but three of the remain¬ing comics fit into the revised format that you’ll find tomor¬row.
Almost every Sunday comic includes a “filler,” a rectangle with the name of the comic, to use if needed. By eliminating the fillers in the horizontal strips, a vertical comic could be added to the page.
Once upon a time, all multi¬ple-panel comics contained the same number and size squares, week after week.
The retired Bill Waterson broke that pattern with his wonderful Calvin & Hobbes. Now it’s hard to find strips that can consistently run vertically. Three that work are Dilbert, The Lockhorns, and Non Sequitor.
I know that when it comes to newspaper comic enthusiasts, messing with the Sunday is section is no laughing matter. So, take a look and let me know if there’s a strip you miss and what you’d rather see pulled.
I was extremely tempted to retire The Family Circus. Then I worried you’d make tracks all over the paper looking for it. And if you asked who cut it, I’d have to say, “Not me.”

Barbara Lombardo is man¬aging editor of The Sarato¬gian. Her column is published Saturdays. Tell her about the Sunday comics, or anything else about The Saratogian, via e-mail at blombardo@sarato¬ or by calling 583-8711.


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