Engagement is a word that we have been using a lot around the office lately. How does this newspaper — or any one of its nine siblings — engage its readers with its content? How does this paper, or any of the other nine, help our readers to engage with each other and with their communities?
Good journalism has been thinking about engagement for a long time. “That’s a good story, but it’s not a Princeton story,” someone told our editor a long time ago. “It’s a Route 1 story.” Those words of wisdom, in fact, were what triggered the light bulb that led to the founding of U.S. 1 — a paper to serve the emerging community along the corporate corridor.
The engagement discussion may be even more relevant than ever in this information age. With electronic media capable of linking every desktop — and now even every handheld device — to the rest of the world, the definition of community is changing rapidly. But a publication’s need to identify its community and then actively engage it may be greater than ever.
In our corner of the world, community journalism, we are drilling down deeper than ever when telling stories of the people and the companies in our readership area. Print may be expensive to distribute, but it also has some advantages. Want to see a sample of the artwork in the new exhibit at the community arts center? Here it is, in full color and as large as our format permits — much more dramatic than anything you will get on your smart phone screen.
The Sunday sports section of the August 18 New York Times took that principle to the ultimate level. The lead story was on a little-known but highly successful jockey named Russell Baze. The cover photograph on the front page of the section measured 19 inches by 11 inches — virtually the entire page. Six full pages inside were devoted to the lengthy story, 16 photographs, and one graphic consisting of an additional 12 photographs. Yes, you could read this story online (with attached video attachments), but if you chose to absorb it through the print edition you might have felt you were getting your money’s worth.
We are not the New York Times, but one unusual way we engage our readers is through our annual Summer Fiction issue. As we say every year, the issue is not a contest. In fact, it’s rigged — with preference given to people who live and work in our community.
The point of that weighted selection process, we hope, will be made clear this Thursday, August 22, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Tre Piani restaurant in Princeton Forrestal Village. That’s when we host the reception for all the writers who submitted work to the July 24 issue. It’s open to the public, free, and with a cash bar. Beginning at around 6 p.m. we will introduce the short story writers and ask the poets to read their works. There will be plenty of chatting before and after.
We hope you will join us at this engagement — if you are reading this now you are part of the community.