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Report to Readers

Report to Readers: You’ve got questions? I’ve got (some) answers

When the Monitor switched to its new publishing system for the newspaper and the website this week, our first priority was to simply get the paper out the door and into your hands on time. A low bar, perhaps, but mission accomplished.

The change has meant teaching our newsroom staff a new page-design system, new protocols for preparing photographs, articles and graphics for the paper and the web, a new writing and editing system and more.

When everything is finally running smoothly, the new system will have modernized our production methods, improved our ability to showcase photographs and stories online and greatly enhanced our online presentation on mobile devices. These days, mobile users (folks who read the Monitor on their phones and tablets) are about 10 percent of our traffic, and that figure will only grow.

We’ve been training for the past several weeks – amid high school sports tournaments and the final days of the election. And with all that going on, the technology hiccupped repeatedly (a mild description – perhaps “belched” would be more accurate) in our first few days.

In other words, the switch hasn’t come without challenges. I’ve been swamped with calls and emails from readers with questions. Here are some answers:

*From a woman in Bow: “I sort of like the look of the new Monitor website, but where the heck are the archives?”

This reader was referring to the nearly 10 years of stories available on the old version of the Monitor website which readers (and journalists) could use for reference. They’ll be back! We had hoped to transfer the archives seamlessly from the old system to the new, but it wasn’t quite that easy. (One early attempt resulted in coverage of last summer’s Olympic Games being dated as if they occurred this week – not too helpful!) Fixing this is a priority. We’ll get the archives back – and will let you know when we do.

*From several callers from across the region: What’s with the list of newspaper titles at the bottom of the website homepage? Has the Monitor been bought out by a giant corporate chain?

Nope. The family-owned company that publishes the Monitor is called Newpapers of New England. It owns several other newspapers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts too. That’s not new. The new list on the website allows you to check out those publications too, by clicking on their titles.

*From a man in Webster: “Are my eyes playing tricks on me, or does the printing suddenly look different in the Monitor?”

Your eyes are (probably) fine. With the new system came some changes in the fonts and styles we are using for headlines, photo captions and the Sports Scoreboard page. Some are working as we hoped. Others will need some small adjustments. Adding to your eyesight suspicions: For the next few days we will actually be producing the newspaper with both our old system and our new system. That means some pages will look like the always have, and some will include the new typefaces you’ve noticed. This is extremely temporary. We’re hoping to shift completely to the new system shortly.

*And in a related question from multiple readers: The new website may look nice, but the stories seem old. What happened to the news?

Of course, our goal for the website is fresh news! Our temporary decision to produce some pages on our old system and some the new way makes it difficult to transfer all the stories and photographs quickly onto the website. This is a short-term situation. Here’s one good alternative for you in the meantime: Near the bottom of the homepage you’ll find our e-edition: It’s a complete replica of the day’s newspaper, from cover to cover.

*From multiple readers with mixed opinions: What happened to the commenters?

The commenters – readers who add their two cents at the end of Monitor articles and opinion pieces on the website – have experienced extreme difficulty over the past several days. They’re rightly frustrated – and we apologize for the technical hassles. (No, this isn’t an election-season plot to foil leftwing or rightwing commenters, as more than a few callers have suggested.)

On the other hand, readers who have never liked the commenting feature because the conversations sometimes gets out of hand have wrongly assumed we pulled the plug on the feature and thanked me erroneously. Alas, sorry to you too. We are working to fix this feature asap.

*From readers in Andover, Chichester, Pembroke, Concord and beyond: Where’s my letter?!

Well, here’s a problem I can blame not on new technology but on President Obama and Mitt Romney – not to mention Charlie Bass and Annie Kuster. The volume of election-related letters to the editor flooding the Monitor newsroom these days is unprecedented. Most writers want to tell the world how they’re planning to vote on Nov. 6. As I write this, there are more than 100 unedited letters awaiting me.

We will publish as many letters as we can between now and the election. Some reminders: The word limit is 250. Your letter will have a better chance of being published – and published just as you intended – if you keep it that short or even shorter.

If you’ve already told Monitor readers how much you love the president or hate your state senator once, your new letter on the same topic will have less chance making it into print than a letter from a new writer on a different topic. We’re hoping to make room for as many different voices as possible. Time and space are running short.

And if you live outside the Concord area – I’m talking to you, Sylvia McKernan of California and that large family of Romney fans in Seoul, South Korea – we’re unlikely to be able to make room for you at all before the vote. Our priority goes to the local community.

Have I missed your question? Email me at fbelman@cmonitor.com.

1. I would like lists of prior comments by poster accessible on the site. A poster who goes by the screenname "sail" especially liked it when I referred back in order to to copy and paste the Republican tax cut/finance charge/debt numbers, homemade spreadsheets, tax rates by town, etc. 2. What happened to the voting feature along with the list of the most highly voted comments? 3. What's with the new policy of waiting and waiting for comment approval before posting? Isn't the report abuse button for something? 4. Why roll this out just before the election anyway? - right as last minute undecided voters are trying to learn all about the non-existent specifics in the Romey/Ryan plan (other than more right winger policies of tax cuts for the wealthy, wars for no reason, killing medicare, killing Social Security, increasing the rate of debt increase, more finance charges, war on women, war on gay marriage, more assault weapons on the streets, energy guzzling, advancing climate change, and going backward to denying millions of Americans affordable health care coverage). PS: If anyone logs in and spends time writing a comment - be sure to make a copy first before clicking submit or you will likely lose the whole thing when a message appears saying you are not logged in.

"What's with the new policy of waiting and waiting for comment approval before posting?" They must have you mixed up with a Republican.

Sorry for the delay. I signed in and typed a reply, then clicked submit, then got an error message that said I needed to sign in, then typed this, and now my reply to your comment again: You could be right. Maybe they're just too busy working on the glitches and mistook me for a mixed up Republican.

Earthling, I can answer some of those concerns but I must say that few of us liked the skewed statisitics which you posted. Are you sure that "sail" liked it or are you being sarcastic? 2. The voting feature meant nothing as 85% of the posters are progressives and only under the free-for-all forum in the beginning did the votes mean anything. Once they started charging, it all changed. 3. Having been on moderation for almost a year because they don't like my tone, if you remain under moderation, you will get used to it. Moderation is punishment for those who they don't agree with, generally, so you will probably get back your privileges. But they certainly do not like criticism or challenges to their authority so that certainly won't change. 4. I wondered about the political ramifications and the elections and maybe they figured that people challenging their editorials would be a detriment but then I realized that the most posts come from progressive types so I am not sure that is valid. However, earthling, nice squeezing in all of the false, anti-Republican talking points. On your log in comment, you are right on the mark, however.

My statistics aren't skewed, but the GOP ball cap gamers pretend they are. Unfortunately posting spreadsheets is impossible in the new CM format. Here are some links on statistics for anyone with a basic understanding of math: http://www.treasurydirect.gov/NP/BPDLogin?application=np http://treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/ir/ir_expense.htm http://www.skymachines.com/US-National-Debt-Per-Capita-Percent-of-GDP-and-by-Presidental-Term.htm http://zfacts.com/p/1170.html http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XU2yiWb8nM The debt problem will not be solved unless voters understand how for 3 decades Republicans have been rolling their tax cut/finance charge/debt snowball of wealth redistribution to the wealthy from the middle class, from future SS and Medicare recipients, and from the kids credit card. "most posts come from progressive types" is hogwash - I've seen a slew of right winger postings - sometimes making some good points. I liked reviewing the most highly voted comments (which usually didn't include mine). I thought our politicians might be checking them out too - to see if there were any good ideas, or to get a sense of what readers thought was important. PS: This comment was written in 5 separate paragraphs. I'll click submit and see if the new format is an upgrade. Newspapers may be having a tough time competing with the internet these days. Newspapers with the best internet sites could come out ahead of competition.

People could argue your statistics all day long. Your point about paragraphs is far more pertinent. Newspapers with the most balanced coverage and least slant could come out ahead of the competition OR they could play propaganda spin machine.......agenda politics and sell themselves out for say, Obama and Democrats. Imagine of a newspaper like the Monitor actually operated on giving the folks balanced news coverage....sans the spin........its not just the internet site.

1. I would like lists of prior comments by poster accessible on the site. A poster who goes by the screenname "sail" especially liked it when I referred back in order to to copy and paste the Republican tax cut/finance charge/debt numbers, homemade spreadsheets, tax rates by town, etc. 2. What happened to the voting feature along with the list of the most highly voted comments? 3. What's with the new policy of waiting and waiting for comment approval before posting? Isn't the report abuse button for something? 4. Why roll this out just before the election anyway? - right as last minute undecided voters are trying to learn all about the non-existent specifics in the Romey/Ryan plan (other than more right winger policies of tax cuts for the wealthy, wars for no reason, killing medicare, killing Social Security, increasing the rate of debt increase, more finance charges, war on women, war on gay marriage, more assault weapons on the streets, energy guzzling, advancing climate change, and going backward to denying millions of Americans affordable health care coverage).

Gran8Stater: Thanks for your concerns -- they're my concerns too! The commenting interface clearly didn't launch as smoothly as we'd hoped. But with luck, this constant signing in will be a temporary situation. On our giant to-do list, fixing this is among the priority items. As for the day-old news: That, too, is temporary. The problem is a technical one: Our old system -- which we're still using this weekend to produce some pages -- doesn't communicate easily with the new website. Van: Regarding the ability to edit your comments after they've been posted: Let me look into that one and get back to you.

Also, the ability to view all your comments and have the link to the story there would be great.

First of all I like the clean crisp appearance. Easy to read font. More appealing to the eye. Now the questions: When are us long time users going to get our "Monitor Identities and status" back? Why do we have to sign in every time we log in if we want to make a comment? What happened to the title section for each comment? Why are most of your stories, editorials, and letters about 1 day behind?

My guess is the new format will turn off a lot of folks. When it comes to web design, simple is the way to go. It will depend on who is in charge of the site. That will be obvious, on how long it takes to fix problems. Starting out with too many snags, is not a good sign. ,

Could you also include the ability to edit your post? that is a great feature.

I dont like the new mobile format. It seems too bare bones. I suppose if you just want to read a news story, its fine.

Good point, I concur!

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