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New Modesto Bee format spurs lots of comments, hits a few 'bumps'

"I love the new Bee," wrote one reader.

"I hate the new Bee," said another.

"I usually don't like change, but the new Bee format is great," one reader told us.

"You have absolutely achieved crap," e-mailed another, this one a neighbor of mine, no less.

A week into our new narrower format and printing at our sister Sacramento Bee plant, we've heard from scores of our readers. Whether their reactions to the changes were positive or negative, we're glad they took the time to share their comments, compliments and criticisms with us.

I wish I could report that our first week was one smooth ride from start to finish. In reality, it felt at times a little like we were living in the comic strip "Speed Bump" as we encountered one pitfall and pothole after another. No sooner would we solve one problem, but another one would pop up, from a technology glitch to printing problem to a distribution and delivery challenge.

As people involved in any production- related industry know, that's not uncommon when you're making significant changes in how and where you produce your product -- and especially when you're doing it without temporarily shutting the operation down to retool.

Enough about us; back to you.

We've listened to and logged your comments -- all of them, that is, except the handful of coarse and crude ones. But, whether positive or negative, we value your feedback, and encourage you to continue to share your thoughts with us.

Many of you have responded favorably to the narrower page. You've told us it is easier to hold, easier to fold and easier to use. We're pleased but not surprised; that's been the reaction of newspaper readers across the country.

Many of you have told us you like the color we've added to the paper -- especially the daily comics. We're pleased but not surprised by that as well.

And many of you have told us you like the organization of the paper, especially the beefier B section that includes local news, obituaries, business and weather.

On the other hand, many of you have been displeased -- and rightfully so -- over a variety of things.

Many of you have complained about the ink rubbing off. We understand that. After 20 years of reading a paper that had no ink rub-off, it's not enjoyable to have the touch of black on your fingers that comes with an offset method of printing. The good news: The ink is soy-based and does wash off. We'll do everything we can to minimize the rub-off.

Many of you have complained about the uneven reproduction of text and images, about poor color, about blurriness. Those are legitimate complaints, which we are addressing as we continue to fine-tune the press.

Many of you have complained about things that used to be in the paper but can't be found in the new format. At the top of the list, many of you have complained that the daily stock market report no longer includes specific investments of interest to you, such as certain stocks, metals and commodities.

Many of you also have called to complain about the daily weather page, and have asked us to reinstate tide tables as well as information on specific cities, ranging from Stockholm, Sweden, to Laughlin, Nev.

Many of you have complained that the crossword, Crypto and other puzzles still are too small and too squeezed and squished to suit your tastes.

We'll continue to gather your comments, evaluate them and try to accommodate as many of your requests as possible. As a start, we're adding back some stock listings starting next week.

Finally, many of you are upset that your paper is being delivered later than normal, and in some cases too late for you to read before you leave for work. You have every right to be unhappy, and Michael Miller, our vice president of circulation, and his team are working hard to fix that.

As we move forward into Week 2, please continue to share your feedback with me. Because of the volume, I can't promise that I can answer every call and e-mail personally. But I can promise that we'll take your comments into consideration as we refine the "new" Bee.

On this seventh day of what has been a change- filled week for you and for us, I want to thank you ...

For reading The Bee and modbee.com.

For sharing your comments, compliments and criticisms with us.

And, for showing patience and understanding as we work to smooth out the "speed bumps" and deliver a quality newspaper -- and a level of customer service -- that you desire and deserve.

Mark S. Vasché, The Bee's editor and senior vice president for news, can be reached at mvasche@modbee.com or 578-2351.

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