Off the Record

On Oct. 31, Daily News hockey columnist Sherry Ross got to write a hockey column of sorts. Former Islanders and Rangers center Pat LaFontaine, Ms. Ross recounted, was training himself to become a triathlete. “The hardest part for me is going from the bike to running,” Mr. LaFontaine told her. “For the first few miles of the run, I couldn’t feel my legs at all.”

In an ordinary year, Ms. Ross-a hockey buff since her teenage years-wouldn’t have been thinking about bicycling or running, let alone swimming, come Halloween. The Rangers would have been coming off a game with the Maple Leafs the night before.

But the Rangers weren’t playing. The National Hockey League is shut down, its players locked out by owners bent on imposing a salary cap and other restructuring measures. The lockout was such a foregone conclusion, Ms. Ross said in a phone interview last week, that when the N.H.L. released its schedule in August, she skipped her annual ritual of copying it into her datebook.

Instead, Ms. Ross, who also covers horse racing for the Daily News, spent October covering the Breeder’s Cup. After writing up the races and filing the LaFontaine piece, she broke even further with tradition: “I had anticipated a lockout, so I took a two-week vacation in November,” she said. “I did Disney World with my family.”

What is the sound of a hockey puck not dropping? For most sports fans, the N.H.L’.s disappearance has barely registered. Three professional teams in the New York area are idle, but readers of the sports pages would be hard-pressed to notice.

Editors say there’s plenty of material to occupy the frozen void. “That’s never a problem filling the space,” said New York Times sports editor Thomas Jolly. Normally, Mr. Jolly said, the N.H.L. takes up a fifth or a sixth of The Times’ sports hole. But the other 80-odd percent of the sports world easily makes up the difference.

For sports editors, Mr. Jolly said, late fall is “the toughest time of year, in terms of space.” College and pro football are heading into the stretch run; college and pro basketball are getting started. Baseball executives are starting to court free agents and negotiate trades. If the N.H.L. wants to skate out of the way, there’s “plenty of work covering the Nets,” Mr. Jolly said.

When baseball shut down, Daily News sports editor Leon Carter said, “You heard it from baseball fans: ‘When it is coming back?'”

Not so for hockey. “I have not received one call,” Mr. Carter said. Rather than looking for daily bulletins on the labor impasse, Mr. Carter said, the readership appears to be saying, “Just get back to me when there has been some progress.”

Part of the apathy, Mr. Carter suggested, has to do with the low wattage of the home teams. “If you look at the New York Rangers for the most part the last couple of years, you don’t see too many hockey back pages,” Mr. Carter said.

On an ordinary weekday, Mr. Carter estimated, hockey would occupy about two pages of 18 in his section, including the agate. With the N.H.L.. gone, that gives the sports desk a chance to fit in other stories, such as a two-page Nov. 15 profile of Alonzo Mourning’s cousin, who donated a kidney to the ailing N.B.A. star.

“We had tremendous response on the Alonzo Mourning piece that we did on Monday,” Mr. Carter said.

There’s now also room to pay more attention to off-season baseball intrigues. “In the past, you may not do a big story on [free-agent pitcher Carl] Pavano meeting with the Red Sox,” Mr. Carter said.

Besides going deeper, the paper has also taken the opportunity to go wider. According to Mr. Carter, readers have e-mailed to thank the Daily News for running soccer and cricket scores in the agate, in the space vacated by the Penguins and Canucks. “We started a soccer page in the Sunday section,” Mr. Carter said. “We would like to keep that once hockey returns.”

Still, for Ms. Ross and for Mr. Carter’s three hockey beat writers, there’s no real substitute. “If they really wanted to be a football writer, they would go and be a football writer,” Mr. Carter said.

Ms. Ross was feeling the strain. Every day, she said, she checks the Web site of TSN-“Canada’s ESPN,” she explained-for the latest lockout update.

“They’d better come back soon,” Ms. Ross said. “I may only be able to take another month of this.”

Ms. Ross said she’s accustomed to spending the winter watching hockey each night, either covering games in person or watching on television. Now, she may have to focus on the other half of her portfolio and cover the races at Aqueduct. “You want to talk about depressing-oh, my God,” she said.

In the normal hockey offseason, she puts in her track time at Saratoga-a “beautiful racetrack,” she said, with high-quality racing. At Aqueduct in winter, “it’s cheap horses and it’s bad weather, and you just kind of count the days till spring at that point.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Ross said, she was planning to go to the Mennen Arena in Morris Township, N.J., to watch her 9-year-old nephew play hockey on Nov. 21. “He’s a goalie,” she said. The puck was scheduled to drop at 7:30 a.m.

A new face appeared on page 1 of The Wall Street Journal on Nov. 18. At least, a new kind of face did. In the leftmost column, snuggled up beside the second and third paragraphs of a Greg Ip article about Alan Greenspan’s record, there was a tiny rendering of Mr. Greenspan-a tiny, cute rendering of Mr. Greenspan.

The Fed chairman’s nose was an elongated pentagon, point downward. His eyebrows were line segments, seemingly drifting away from each other. His itty-bitty necktie was blue, his face a deep, rich pink. He looked as if he were preparing to deliver a lecture on the long-term economic implications of productivity gains to the Powerpuff Girls.

To say that The Wall Street Journal follows certain conventions of portraiture is like saying that Cardinal Edward Egan has a steady Sunday-morning routine. The Journal’s standard half-column-wide, engraved-looking images of its story subjects are a prized part of the paper’s lore-so fetishized that the paper reserves one of the links on its sparely designed corporate Web site for an explanation of them.

“‘Hedcuts’, as they are called,” the document says, “are dot drawings composed of tiny ink dots and lines illustrated by artists using pen and ink, not computers.” Producing them is a six-stage effort, according to the official explanation, in which photographs get cropped, traced and shaded to Journal specifications: “The entire process takes from 3 to 5 hours. Great attention is paid to shadows and highlights.”

“It looks expensive, those things,” said Brooklyn-based illustrator Stephen Savage, who drew the shadow-free version of Mr. Greenspan. “They look hard to do. And they’re not naïve at all. They’re very adult.”

So whence the cartoon? According to a Journal spokesperson, the newspaper’s rules for portraying people are unchanged. It’s just that Mr. Greenspan had transcended his personhood and become a concept.

In Journal terminology, spokeswoman Nicole Pyhel explained via e-mail, Mr. Greenspan’s portrait was not a hedcut but a “bug”-a graphic logo that illustrates the theme of a series of stories. Mr. Ip’s work was a two-part set on “Greenspan’s Legacy.”

“This was the first package devoted to a person to our knowledge,” Ms. Pyhel wrote.

Previous bugs have been “more photographic or photomontage in nature.” There was, for instance, a Stars-and-Stripes bedecked “Campaign ’04” logo and a farm-business emblem consisting of a wheat-stalk- cum-flagpole with multiple countries’ flags flying from it.

But the Greenspan bug was a head-and-shoulders image of a famous person, nearly indistinguishable in size and composition from The Journal’s two official hedcuts of Mr. Greenspan. Those two-one with arched eyebrows and facing slightly to the reader’s right, the other smiling and also facing slightly right-ran with Mr. Ip’s stories inside the paper on Nov. 18 and 19, respectively.

Mr. Savage said he approved of the hedcut style. “Since he’s the one in charge of all the money, he should look like he’s on a dollar bill,” he said.

The illustrator has been selling his own non-currency-ready, geometric heads of public figures since 1996. Most of them, he said, have run in Entertainment Weekly, which puts a premium on shrinkability. “You’d like your illustrations to be big,” Mr. Savage said, “but if it means that people get to see them …. ”

Mr. Savage is also the illustrator of the lullaby book Polar Bear Night, which was just named one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 best illustrated children’s books of 2004. He holds an M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts and now teaches a course in caricature there. It’s an elective for seniors, he said, and in the name of salesmanship, it’s called “Two Eyes, Nose, and a Mouth.”

“I do stress that-and all caricaturists will tell you this-that less is more,” he said.

That’s the dead opposite of The Journal’s house style. But Mr. Savage’s method ends up taking him about as long as the Journal-approved three-to-five-hour crosshatching sessions. To capture Mr. Greenspan’s “sad-looking” expression, Mr. Savage said, he spent roughly half a day doing freehand drawings in pencil on tracing paper, working out which lines he needed.

When he was satisfied with the pencil-and-paper image, he scanned it into a computer and spent an hour or so drawing over it in PhotoShop. “Throw in some quick color and that’s it,” Mr. Savage said.

Year in which Harper’s senior editor Charis Conn joined the magazine: 1984

Year Harper’s Index first appeared: 1984

Number of weeks’ notice given by Ms. Conn when, according to a magazine spokesperson, she resigned earlier this month: 2

Number of Harper’s staffers put on probation this month: 1

Number of staffers promoted or given expanded duties: 3

Number of former interns promoted or given expanded duties: 3

Number of men: 3

Old and new rankings on Harper’s masthead of Roger Hodge: 4 (tie), 2

Old and new rankings of Ellen Rosenbush: 2, 4

Old and new rankings of Ben Metcalf: 3, 3

Estimated number of minutes after a man answered editor Lewis Lapham’s phone and said “I’ll see if he’s in” that the line went dead: 10

Number of subsequent phone calls that reached Lapham: 0 sales rank of The Harper’s Index Book, Charis Conn and Lewis Lapham eds.: 330,618

Rank of 30 Satires by Lewis Lapham: 450,444

Rank of Gag Rule: On the Suppression of Dissent and Stifling of Democracy by Lewis Lapham: 17,818

Number of pages in the December issues of Harper’s and The Atlantic Monthly, respectively: 100, 204

Percentage of pages in the December Harper’s taken up by series of decontextualized facts: 2

Percentage of pages in the December Atlantic Monthly taken up by series of decontextualized facts: 0.5

Percentage of December Harper’s inside pages taken up by full-page ads: 16

Percentage of December Atlantic Monthly inside pages taken up by full-page ads: 40.5 magazine sales ranks of Harper’s and The Atlantic Monthly, respectively: 27, 83 Off the Record