STOCK TABLES DITCH FRACTIONS FOR DECIMALS

By: Todd Shields

Newspapers Follow Stock Market Lead





by Todd Shields



Like comics, crossword puzzles, or TV listings, stock tables rank among
the most sensitive features in daily newspapers. Mess with the lineup,
and readers are likely to call in.



But complaints were few and far between last week as newspapers completed
a fundamental change in the way they report stock prices. Taking a cue
from major stock exchanges, nearly all daily newspapers are stating stock
prices in decimals rather than fractions.



At the stock exchanges, the switch promises clarity and perhaps savings
for investors. At newspapers, the switch puts pressure on the news hole.
It takes more space to print decimals, which can include several numerals,
than to print one fraction.



Responses varied. Some papers eliminated one or more columns of data.
Others scaled down the typeface for stock quotations, squeezed the distance
between numerals, or used space-saving superscript.



Neither the tactics nor the underlying change seemed to bother readers, said
Randy Picht, director of markets information for The Associated Press, which
feeds stock tables to more than 900 newspapers. Picht said many newspapers
began using decimals months ago, even though the stock exchanges switched
their first 13 stocks Aug. 28. All stocks are to be traded in decimals by
April.



Among newspapers switching last week was the Fort Worth (Texas)
Star-Telegram, whose change coincided with a makeover of its entire six-page
spread of financial tables. ‘We’ve had real good reaction from readers,”
said Steve Kaskovich, senior editor for business. ‘Nobody even mentioned
decimals. It was a non-event.’







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Todd Shields (tshields@editorandpublisher.com) is the Washington editor
for E&P.















(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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