Have you ever opened the newspaper to the obituaries page and been shocked to find an old friend or acquaintance has died?

One reader called in response to my column last Sunday to suggest he would like to know when people are seriously ill so that he might visit them.

He suggested the newspaper inform readers when someone in the community is sick, similar to a prayer list. I like the idea. He was one of five people to contact me with ways we might improve The Valdosta Daily Times.

Some newspapers publish hospital admission and discharge lists. I plan to explore the possibility of doing so in The Valdosta Daily Times.

I floated the idea past Robert Bauer, the chief administrator at Smith Hospital in Hahira. He said he would consider providing such information, with patients' permission, if other area hospitals do so, and proper procedures are set up. Patients would need to sign forms allowing the release of their names.

Of course, with shorter stays in hospitals, maybe hospital lists are no longer useful. By the time someone's name appears in the paper, he or she may already have been discharged.

I would like to hear from other readers about this idea and other ways we might share community news of this kind.

Another reader, a local high school tennis coach, wrote to complain about what he considered the second-class coverage of to his sport. Quite frankly, he's right.

It's a legitimate criticism I've heard at many newspapers. Football, baseball and basketball dominate coverage of scholastic sports for obvious reasons -- more players, bigger crowds, more revenue for schools.

I was pleased he reported all his contacts with our current sports staff have been positive but just not as frequent as he would like. He wants to get all area tennis coaches together with my sports staff for some "creative problem-solving" so that we can find a way to recognize these athletes.

Here are other e-mails:

"Nice article in the paper. As one who subscribes annually, the only input I would make is: Please do not eliminate the Celebrity Cipher. It has become an enjoyable daily habit with me, as well as the crossword puzzle, Good job! Keep it up."

The crossword puzzle is a scheduled feature on the television page each day, but the Cipher is used in the classified section, and is sometimes bumped for reasons of space. However, we'll look into moving it to a place in the paper where it can be safely anchored.

Another e-mail:

"I read your Sunday appeal to readers with interest, and I have a request: Would you consider or push the bureaucrats who may make those kinds of calls toward reverting to the Times' old flag, the one in old English? I don't know the font, the one that most of the papers readers grew up with, the one it carried for more than 100 years, the one that should have remained. Did I say I liked it?"

This change is unlikely because one of my copy editors who has been here awhile said the font (the lettering style) is probably no longer available.

But please send other ideas to me.

I got a wonderful thank-you card from Mary Eye of Garnett, Kansas, whose 100th birthday I mentioned in a column a few weeks ago. She said she has many friends in Valdosta because of the many years she has visited her son, Frank Eye, and his family here. She had more than 200 people attend an open house in her honor and received citations from President Bush and Billy Graham.

Ron Wayne is the editor of The Valdosta Daily Times. You can reach him at 244-2400 ext. 229 or e-mail ron.wayne@gaflnews.com

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