It’s another year and another wave of competition flooding the world of media. This time it’s Patch, the AOL-affiliated nationally based news organization that aims to become the online “hyper-local” news source in 500 or more communities across the country. Central New Jersey already has a half dozen Patch sites either online or about to go online (joining dozens of other hyper-local sites in place — see story, page 29).

Chances are your business faces similar competitive challenges, whether it’s from a website selling discounted electronic equipment or an online forum offering free medical advice. The challenge in all cases is first to make your message be heard and then to make it stand out in the welter of noise.

This annual Survival Guide issue is a chance to revisit themes we have covered during 2010. In recent years this issue has focused on business and personal commitment (quit or commit), creative business resources, career building, and business innovation.

This year’s focus on communication and presentation strategies seems appropriate, given the plethora of media now available from old-fashioned newsprint to new-fangled smart phones and i-Pads. It also feels like putting on a comfortable old sweater. When we started this paper in 1984, skeptics pointed to all the other publications competing in our corner of the world. Oh no, not another newspaper! some proclaimed.

As Brer Rabbit told the frustrated fox who had been so furiously in pursuit of him: “I was bred and born in the briar patch, Brer Fox. Born and bred in the briar patch.”

#b#To the Staff Of U.S. 1 Newspaper#/b#

On an early morning job through Princeton (after the Christmas snowstorm), I bumped into a grown man carrying a child’s snow shovel (who looked like he was soliciting “small” snow removal jobs) and we stopped to chat. That chance meeting has compelled me to write this letter.

In an era where all newspapers are struggling, where editorial staff has been cut, where content has been sacrificed, where everything that means anything has been eroded, U.S. 1, the newspaper, has maintained its quality product. From editorial integrity to “hand” delivery the paper continues to exhibit excellence, which as a reader and an advertiser I personally appreciate.

So what was the motivation for the letter? The grown up with the shovel was your editor, Richard K. Rein, going down Nassau Street shoveling out the snow-covered U.S. 1 newspaper boxes. While the mayor and council of Princeton had no clue about the 12-foot wide banks of snow on sidewalks, the inaccessibility to parking meters, the buried and overflowing garbage cans, your editor was digging out the U.S. 1 news boxes, making the paper available to all who passed by.

As a reader of the paper I appreciate that. As an advertiser continuing to use print I really appreciate that. And as an employee of the paper you should appreciate that.

The grown up with the kids’ shovel, in the signature baseball cap (even though it was 20 degrees) really cares about the continuing success of the paper — and it shows. That’s what makes U.S. 1 the newspaper the special, local paper that it is.

Robert Landau

Landau of Princeton

Richard K. Rein replies: When I first got into the newspaper publishing business I drew some lessons from successful retailers such as Robert Landau, who made me realize that the presentation of the product was an important component of the product itself.

About that shovel. It is a child’s shovel, and I use it in deference to my cardiologist, who does not want anyone to rush into heavy duty exercise without adequate warm-ups. As for small snow removal jobs, I may someday be available (hopefully not right away).

#b#To the Editor: A Wabi Sabi Moment#/b#

Hello, my name is Mio Yamamoto. I came to the U.S. from Japan last year to live with my husband, a graduate student at Princeton University. I am writing this to you as we read your article about Wabi Sabi in the December 22 issue.

I enjoyed your article very much. As I grew up in Japan, it made me feel warm and smile. I imagined the tranquil, tender light you found in your house and wish I could see your gingerbread house.

Let me write a little about my experience about Wabi Sabi in Princeton. I came here from Japan last year and started volunteering at a farm nearby. One summer day, I was asked to arrange flowers they grew for sale. As I finished displaying bunches of flowers in vases and was waiting for customers to come, the farmer recommended to me, “why not make the height of the flowers same? They may look more beautiful.” My flowers were asymmetrical and had small spaces between flowers and uneven heights. I changed some of the bunches following her advice. To my surprise, she was right. Most customers picked up those symmetrical, gorgeous bunches.

I found that I brought in some element of Wabi Sabi beauty, which is not suitable when selling flowers, especially outside of Japan. Or even Japanese people may not like buying asymmetrical bunches of flowers because once they are unwrapped, the balance is lost and they are no longer beautiful. It was enjoyable to notice the cultural difference and the appreciation of Wabi Sabi embedded in me.

Mio Yamamoto

#b#Coping With Clutter#/b#

In your December 22 issue Phyllis Spiegel wrote about a woman bringing her things to a consignment shop and mulled over what possessed this woman to do this. The problem of what to do with one’s lifetime accumulation of stuff is common to many, if not most, boomer-types and older folks. It is a question that comes up frequently in our Engaged Retirement groups.

We have scheduled a speaker, Ellen Tozzi, on this very subject on Tuesday, January 11, at 7 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library. I have also posted a blog on our new website — www.engagedretirement.org — on my own mulling on the same topic.

Carol King

Princeton Senior Resource Center

Editor’s note: See story, page 5.

#b#Engaged Employees#/b#

With respect to the December 15 article “Rules of Engagement:”

I think Karen Nathan has hit on a noteworthy topic in a time when workers have been asked to take on more and more at the workplace and are expected to provide optimum performance. Yet, without investing in various forms of engagement beyond the “stick” of losing their job in a terrible economy, the best an employer can expect is an employee doing their jobs.

Engagement, the “carrot,” is the fire in the belly that excites the employee about their job as Ms. Nathan astutely points out.

Karen Toole

WH Professional Services LLC

#b#Another Side Of Mental Illness#/b#

On behalf of the NAMI Mercer Board, I would like to thank you for your December 22 article on Bill Charlap. The coverage will help generate public interest in the concert, the proceeds of which will go toward improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Hopefully, your discussion of Porter, Bernstein, and Gershwin reduce stigma by showing that people with mental illness have enriched all of our lives.

Maddy Monheit

NAMI Mercer Messenger

P.S.: I loved Jamie Saxon’s December 22 column and hope to become a wabi-sabiite.

Editor’s note: Bill Charlap will appear on Sunday, January 9, at 3 p.m. at the College of New Jersey. Call 609-799-8994 or visit www.namimercer.org.

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