Introducing Zork. Zork’s a Martian, a creature new to Earth who’s puzzled by much of what it sees. Zork wonders why gambling’s illegal but the government runs a lottery, why the U.S. believes in the separation of church and state but puts “In God We Trust” on its money, and why daily newspapers think the way to get more readers is to cut staff and content. In other words, Zork sees things we’ve gotten used towithout realizing they make no sense.

Zork’s questions are one of the new features we’ve added to a revamped News section that debuts this week at the front of the Independent. We’re looking for ways to give you more news and commentary about life and politics in the Triangle (and beyond), in ways we hope are interesting and fun to read.

In addition to Zork, we’ve added a weekly Follow-Up to provide updates on stories we’ve previously covered; a Heroes and Zeros column to point out who’s done well (and who hasn’t) in the previous week; a Q&A interview with someone who’s in the news or just has something interesting to say; a Living Green tip of the week, to help us make small changes every day that can make a difference; and an in-depth item from the Act Now calendar pointing out an important opportunity for social action.

We’re giving more prominence to the news stories (and photos) that used to run in our Triangles section, and we’ve kept favorite features like the quote of the week, V.C. Rogers’ Peripheral Visions editorial cartoons, and Gallery, featuring a piece of work from one of our photographers.

Further back, we’ve revived a feature that had to go away when space became tightthe 8 Days a Week calendar that used to open our Arts & Entertainment section, highlighting a few of the best things to do each day from our extensive calendar listings.

Sacrifices were necessary to make this possible. Gone are Best Bets (but we hope 8 Days a Week is more useful) and a whole page dedicated to the Front Porch; instead of running two Front Porch essays every week, we’ll just be running one.

We hope to continue making the front of the newspaper better. And we’d love to regularly hear your suggestions for Heroes & Zeros, for people to interview in the Q&A, or a favorite quote you heard or read. As ever, we look forward to reading your short essays for the Front Porch. Just send them all to and write the name of the feature in the subject line.

And, of course, let us know if Zork contacts you with any questions that have Martians particularly puzzled.

Speaking of better journalism, we won six awards this week in the N.C. Press Association’s journalism competition. See our Award-Winning Journalism page.