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A note to our readers


Beginning today, we are making some changes in the markets pages of the weekday Business sections.

While we are reducing the amount of space devoted to markets information by approximately one page, we are not reducing the number of stock and mutual fund listings, or altering the type size or readability of the listings. Many of the changes will be transparent to most readers. And we're offering some new features.

Newspapers all over the country have been reducing the amount of space devoted to markets listings as more investors turn to the Internet as their principal source of this information.

Some metropolitan newspapers have eliminated listings entirely or required readers to pay extra to receive them. We are not doing that. Even after these changes, The Sun is presenting about 2 1/2 pages of markets information each weekday, which remains considerably more than many newspapers of The Sun's circulation. Here are some of the changes:

Put and call options listings are eliminated.

On daily New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq/Amex and mutual fund listings, the one-year return data field is eliminated.

Some adjustments have been made in the number of listings in top gainers and losers, foreign exchange and futures.

We are also making two important additions to the listings:

A new box breaking out the daily performance of mutual funds managed by Maryland companies, with more information than we offer on other mutual fund listings. This box includes nearly all funds offered by the Legg Mason, T. Rowe Price and Calvert fund families, as well as funds offered by the larger local banks and some boutique funds. These listings will not be duplicated in the main table.

A breakout box with information about the markets features available at our Web site, www.baltimoresun.com.

Decisions about financial listings are difficult for us. Only about 30 percent of our readers turn to them in our newspaper, according to our readership studies, but those who do are intensely interested in them. Our balancing act attempts to preserve as many listings as we can for those readers who care passionately about them while assuring that we can maximize space in the Business section for local and regional news.

To help address your concerns, we've established a new e-mail box, stocks@baltsun.com, where you can send requests for stocks or mutual funds to be added to our main tables, ask questions about our listings or just express an opinion.

I will read every e-mail in this box personally, and requests to add specific stocks or funds will be sent to our vendor, the Associated Press, within 48 hours.

Here are some answers to a few specific questions we expect will come up often for readers:

Q: Are you making the type smaller or less bold, squeezing lines closer together or changing the type face?

A: No.

Q: Why are you eliminating the put and call options?

A: Investors who use this information are typically online investors for whom any such listings in a newspaper are outdated on arrival. Few metro newspapers still carry this information, for that reason.

Q: You're forcing me to go to other sources to get detailed markets information. Why should I have to do that?

A: The mission of The Sun Business section must be reporting and explaining local and regional business news, with an emphasis on content readers cannot get from other media. We understand that markets information is a critical component of a complete business report, but we cannot fulfill our unique mission if we allow it to squeeze core regional content.

Q: Why are you taking out data fields?

A: Faced with a choice between making changes in data fields or eliminating hundreds of stocks and mutual funds altogether, we chose the former.

Q: I can't find my T. Rowe Price fund in the mutual fund list anymore. Where did it go?

A: Look in the new Local Mutual Funds box on the main mutual funds page.

Q: My stock/mutual fund isn't listed in the paper at all. What can I do about that?

A: Send an e-mail to stocks@baltsun.com and we'll forward your request to our vendor. E-mailing rather than calling will enable us to have a written record of your request, making it easier for us to get you what you want.

- Bernie Kohn Assistant Managing Editor/ Business 410-332-6892 bernie.kohn@baltsun.com

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