Craig Cassidy, The Union Democrat

Union Democrat readers will notice a number of changes in coming months to the paper.

We're adding new content, beefing up some existing sections, redesigning section fronts and re-organizing some material to help readers better navigate through the paper. We're also cutting newsprint costs by slimming down the width of our pages.

The most apparent change will be the addition April 5 of a feature section dedicated to home improvement, gardening and crafting. Democrat Features Editor Margie Hiser is already designing the "Sierra Living" section, which will resonate with green thumbs, crafters and general readers alike. Among the features: Two gardening columns, plus expert advice on home decorating, repair and maintenance.

The addition of Sierra Living will complement other changes in recent

years geared toward our reader interests - including the Monday "Health

& Medicine," Tuesday "Food and Drink," Wednesday "Business," and

Friday "Community" sections.

What happens to Thursday's "Travel and Leisure" content?

Much of that is moving into the Weekender, our weekly entertainment

publication. Its purpose is being broadened to include outdoor

recreation and travel, making this highly popular publication an even

better-rounded guide to arts and leisure in the Mother Lode.

These changes to The Union Democrat will be accompanied the first

week of April with a redesign of our pages. It's our first redesign in

six years and will make our newspaper crisper and better organized.

This coincides with a reduction in our page width on April 2.

Each page of The Union Democrat will be slightly narrower -

dropping from 12.5 inches to 11.5 inches. Reduced page width has become

an industry standard. Many newspapers in the Central Valley and the Bay

Area are now 11 inches wide or less.

The narrowing allows us to trim some operating expenses. Newsprint

is our biggest expense behind payroll and employee benefits. Over the

last 10 years, news-print prices have risen 35 to 40 percent.

We hope you'll find the narrower width easier to handle - and the

upcoming redesign even more helpful and useful. On our end, all this

will help The Democrat control costs and keep our newspaper affordable,

as well as attractive and interesting.