It may come as a surprise to folks who know me that we're doing our cover story this month on pets.

Let's just say I'm not known for my love of four-legged creatures. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with our friends in the animal kingdom, I just don't want them living in my house. And, I have to admit, at the risk of encouraging the wrath of rabid pet lovers, including more than a few in our own office, that I just don't get the fascination with Labradors, beagles, Persians and such. In particular, I never understood why anyone would press their lips to the face of an animal that's been digging around who-knows-where.

Yet, I realize my views are in the minority, so we have devoted 12 pages to a three-part pets package: a photo essay/Q-and-A of high-profile pet owners, a collection of newsy and service pieces and the results of the Columbus Monthly Pet Contest.

Yes, the shots of Janet Chen's pooch, Algenon Marbley's boxer, Sally Crane's horse, Dale Schmidt's pugs, R.J. Umberger's retrievers and Andrea Cambern's cat are fun and, in some cases, quite cute. (But not cute enough, I might add, to change my mind about this whole pet thing.)

Meanwhile, kudos to associate editor Dave Ghose for a thorough and revealing profile of Ohio Inspector General Tom Charles, who's commanded headlines across the state with major investigations of powerful public officials, including the recent scandal about the inmate program at the governor's mansion. See "The sheriff of Capitol Square," starting on page 54.

And alert readers will notice that our popular shopping feature, "Bargain bits," has a new home in the magazine. After years of occupying space in the back of the book, we have shifted it into the City Journal section. We wanted to give it a different look by adding new graphic elements. The byline stays the same; remarkably, Maggie Kozelek has been finding shopping deals for us for more than 30 years.

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Dick Franks, the new CEO of Columbus Monthly's parent company, American Community Newspapers II, has strong Central Ohio connections. Until departing in the mid 1990s, he spent 17 years with the Dispatch Publishing Company, including four years as executive vice president and general manager of the Dispatch. So Franks has gone from competing against us to now leading our operation.

After Columbus, he served as president and co-chief executive officer of Westward Communications, publisher of more than 80 community newspapers in Texas, Arkansas and Colorado, and later as president, CEO and publisher of North of Boston Media Group/Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company, a Pulitzer Prize-winning conglomerate of daily and weekly publications in northeastern Massachusetts and southeastern New Hampshire. He also has worked internationally as a consultant and expert adviser to banks and venture capital firms managing media interests, acquisitions and holdings.

Franks now oversees ACN II's 86 community newspapers, 14 niche magazines, local websites and targeted custom publications in Ohio, Minnesota, Texas and Virginia. Those holdings include not only Columbus Monthly, but also 22 Columbus-based community newspapers, Columbus C.E.O., Columbus Bride and The Other Paper.

"For ACN and its publications in Columbus, the future really is bright," Franks said in a July press release announcing his appointment. "We've weathered a very challenging time. But our dedication to local readers and local advertisers in Columbus and surrounding communities has stood us in good stead. Even so, we're not going to stand still. We intend to broaden that commitment and to build an even more exciting, targeted and responsive array of local offerings as we look ahead."

Franks replaced Gene Carr, who resigned in May.