As some of you know first hand, U.S. 1 is slowly but surely (perhaps more of the former than the latter) rolling out elements of its revamped website at www.princetoninfo.com. We have a better database for events, companies, and health and fitness practitioners, and a more accessible way of archiving our stories. And at just about every point of interaction there is a way for a reader (or should we say viewer?) to post a comment.
Those comments pose their own set of journalistic challenges. For example, the posting of last week’s U.S. 1 articles generated two highly opinionated — but unsigned — comments on each of two stories: Kathleen McGinn Spring’s cover story on the redevelopment plans at the Trenton train station and Scott Morgan’s Life in the Fast Lane story on IPA, the software company that has given up its bricks and mortar office and created a virtual working environment.
If you visit the archives section of our website (you will find a link on the left hand side of the home page) and click on the option to search by article date, you can then check out the October 8 issue and you will find those two comments at the end of the article titled “All Trains Lead to Trenton.” But you will not find a trace of the comments on the story titled “Veteran Software Firm Goes Virtual.” How come?
Journalism’s purists (if that’s not an oxymoron) will say that no letters to the editor should ever be printed without a verified name and address. But the Internet clearly is another beast, and the technology that permits instant self publication opens the door for anonymous posting (copied, of course, to an editor who has the ability to delete a comment that is inappropriate).
In this case the comments on the virtual company were not only opinionated but also accusatory — the kinds of accusations that no journalist would print without verifying the credentials of the accuser and without attempting to get a response from the person accused. The train station comments, on the other hand, were opinionated but not accusatory.
So, for the record, we encourage visitors to our website to post their comments and opinions, and we will try to err on the side of freedom of expression in our editing of those comments. If we see a comment that we think would also serve as a letter to the editor, we will E-mail the comment writer and ask if we can use their name and company or geographic affiliation.
About those train station comments: The first was from a person skeptical of the various proposals for office towers in the near vicinity of the Trenton’s newly reconstructed train station.
“Many neighbors are opposed to this plan,” the post stated. “It will involve the destruction of yetmore historic buildings and people’s homes to put up yet another empty office block to bring in yet more people who come at 9 and leave at 5, promise yet more retail that will never materialize or be open on Saturday, attract affluent residents who will never move here because of the lack of decent schools and safe streets, promise yet more jobs that will fail to materialize since there is not much of an educated workforce here and whoever comes will bring employees with them. It may even come with walkways that mean you never have to set foot on a Trenton street!
“This is nothing more than the same old same old Trenton has been attempting for 40 years to no avail. With the current economic climate, no retailer would set up here and no business tenant with a choice would either (in this state with the highest taxes and most onerous regulations?). And if we have to give them huge tax credits to lure them in, we end up with nothing but taxpayer supported day trippers and we already have a whole lot of those in Trenton.
“Any public money that goes into this project would be much better spent on police and schools — a point that was made over and over at the meeting by people who live here full time.”
That comment triggered another one, from another Trenton resident, but one with a different point of view:
“Many of my neighbors support this plan. As a matter of fact there are several on the board who are helping to move this plan forward. None of the historic buildings in Trenton are doing much for the city. It’s time for Trenton to move forward and stop protecting a past that isn’t helping the city bring in any revenue.”
So what do you think? Your comments are welcome not only through a posting to our website but also via the old-fashioned letter to the editor. Mail it (12 Roszel Road, Princeton 08540), fax it (609-452-0033), or E-mail it directly to our editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.