The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Big big news that could affect many newsrooms around the world. A new computer language has been launched that greatly simplifies the formatting of agate type. Agate type is that teeny-tiny typeset that you see throughout the sports sections of newspapers for boxscores, standings, etc., and also in the business pages that list all those stock quotes and financial data. There are demos aplenty of the new tool, dubbed SportsML, right here.

Right now, most newspapers and media services employ a certain number of people dedicated to editing and formatting just this type of information, because it's so time-consuming. While working in a newspaper sports department, I spent many a night coralling box scores, standings, individual career stats, and a whole lotta other things and making them make sense to the naked eye. There were plenty of shortcuts built into the editing system, but even with that there was still a ton to do by hand, and you usually needed 2 or 3 other people to pitch in. With most of the coding and formatting taken care of at the source, handling agate would be much easier. So easy, in fact, that many outfits might not need to keep as many dedicated agate editors on staff. As rough as most newspapers have had it in the ledger the last few years, I imagine they'd jump at a chance to reduce payroll anywhere they could.