Friday, March 11, 2011

Bridge Blog 391: We get letters

          Last weekend I found the following message in my AOL e-mail:

Hi Dale,

I continue to find your Saturday bridge notices humorous in their one sidedness. It amazes me that you are comfortable as a professional abusing your position in that way.

Nevertheless, it shocked me to see that you were unable to print two first names attached to the phone numbers to call for the Pro-Am last week, but yet you can print the supposed value (I bought my 6th edition of the EOB for $5) in the newspaper!

It takes all kinds, sheesh. Is this why newspapers are dying?

Best regards,
Kathy Pollock
          My reply:

Dear Kathy:
   Nothing would delight me more than to be able to print announcements in their entirety -- with allowances for cleaning up grammar and spelling, of course -- in the Saturday duplicate bridge column in The Buffalo News. I continually get complaints about it from all quarters, clubs and unit chairpeople alike. So please allow me to use this occasion to restate my dilemma to you, as I have to them.
   The Buffalo News has imposed a box and column format on the print version of the duplicate bridge column that, despite a series of protests on my part, has proven to be inalterable. In short, the thing is too tight to accommodate everything that's submitted for it and there's nothing that The News will do about that.
   Furthermore, due to another quirk in the computerized layout format, the announcements are restricted to the first column of type and there must be at least two or three lines of six-point results underneath them. If not, the computer formatting simply rejects the whole thing. As a result, there are only about 18 lines worth of space for the announcements.
   So in order to make the announcements fit and to acknowledge everything that's submitted to me and to keep things newsy, I am obliged to trim things down to the essential information. And I find that I have to trim everything. In the case of those phone numbers you mentioned, the names added more lines that I could fit in without trimming something essential elsewhere.
   I have no such restrictions in the online version of the duplicate bridge column.
Announcements have room to stretch out there. Names are included along with phone numbers when the chairpeople or club managers provide them. Events in the distant future are listed. It's wonderful. I invite you to check it out -- the Web address is at the bottom of the print version of the column. It appears shortly after midnight every Saturday morning.
Warmest regards,
   P.S.: Please be aware that nobody else at The Buffalo News has the faintest idea what duplicate bridge is all about and, despite the written instructions that I leave for them, nobody bothers to spend much time or effort straightening out the column if I don't do it. And they certainly don't bother to post it on the Internet. On a couple rare and unfortunate occasions when I have been on vacation and unable to communicate with the layout editors, the results were painful. Lucky individual announcements ran unedited and the unlucky ones were simply left out. The scores, chopped from the bottom in typical newspaper editing fashion, suffered the same fate.
  P.P.S: at the moment offers three new copies the Encyclopedia of Bridge at prices ranging from $77.59 to $159.65, plus shipping. The list price on the book itself is $54.95. If removing the price from column would have saved me an extra line, it would have been trimmed.

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