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WENZEL: Daily Republic debuts new features

Korrie Wenzel

Today's edition of The Daily Republic is a bit like a new feature we've unveiled on our comics page.

Starting today, The Daily Republic will publish "Hocus Focus," a gamelike puzzle that asks readers to determine what's different between two similar -- but not quite matching -- drawings. For instance, a woman's hat may be different from one picture to the other. An object may be missing elsewhere in the frame, or a sign in the background may have different wording.

So it is today with The Daily Republic. We've made a few minor changes that, like "Hocus Focus," may have readers realizing something is slightly new, perhaps even slightly askew.

They include:

• An entirely new weather package on Page A2. This was unveiled last week and replaces a worn-out and clunky weather package that we offered for about five years. The new version is much easier to read, and it also gives a better look at our region -- including an in-depth look at the highs and lows of many area towns, meteorologically speaking, of course.

I especially like that we now can tell readers exactly what to expect in terms of hourly wind speed and "realfeel" temperatures. After all, this is South Dakota.

• As mentioned, "Hocus Focus" takes over a spot of prominence on our comics page, which generally is found in the middle of our "B" section. We hope it's something that is appealing to readers of all ages, and we envision parents and young children working on it together.

• A new comic strip called "Tundra" starts today, too. The strip is reminiscent of the old "Far Side" comic, and offers a wacky outlook at life. And the animal kingdom. And, for some reason, talking snowmen. No comic strip was replaced to make room for "Tundra."

• The horoscope feature has been moved from the comics page to our "Good Morning" section on Page A2. I'm a big fan of our A2 package, which offers a very quick look at things we feel are of daily importance to readers, from today's schedule of events to upcoming happenings and even quick factoids that simply serve as an accompaniment to your cup of morning coffee. It seemed natural to move the horoscopes to that section.

Nothing has been removed or discontinued to accommodate these changes.

I know, I know. A few readers will cringe nonetheless, and that's OK. I appreciate that people really care that much about their hometown paper to complain when changes -- however slight -- occur.

A year ago, we redesigned The Daily Republic, and we still hear some comments about it. Many are goodnatured and complimentary and some are decidedly not.

We've had complaints that our type is now too small, although it was actually increased a week after last year's redesign. Although the type is a bit lighter than before, it's never been bigger in sheer size.

We've had complaints that there are fewer local stories in the newspaper. That's just not true -- we counted in 2011 and there were more than 2,800 local bylines that year.

We've had complaints that we have cut the news hole. Actually, we have added at least two news pages in the past year, including A4 daily and on D1 on Saturdays. Those pages were used for other things up until about a year ago.

Also, we average upwards of 16-20 or more pages most days. Saturday's edition sometimes runs around 30 pages.

I recently came across three random editions from the 1970s and 1980s that had dropped behind a cabinet, and their average size was 12 to 14 pages. One Saturday edition was just 12 pages. I have a hunch I'd be getting a call from North Dakota (where my boss works) if we had a 12-page Saturday edition.

I also have received complaints that news coverage gets put into the sports section too often. Here's the deal: That second section isn't just dedicated to sports.

We also keep some space in there for news, comics, etc. If late-breaking news occurs, it gets placed in our second section because the "B" section is printed an hour and a half after the "A" section.

Sports didn't receive more space with last year's redesign, either. In the past, sports generally took up Pages A7, A8, A9 and sometimes A10, during the busy season. Now, sports can be found on B1, B2 and B3, and sometimes B4.

Meanwhile, we appreciate your comments, and even your complaints. Somewhere around here, I keep a clipped-out quote that says: "A newspaper that gets no complaints is a dead newspaper." I couldn't agree more.

We certainly aren't perfect and readily acknowledge that. But under my watch, we'll continue to push for a better product. Sometimes we'll swing and miss, I suppose, but we'll definitely step up for an at-bat.

I hope our new weather package, "Hocus Focus" and "Tundra" are -- as we so often hear in our business -- read with interest.