HERE’S A DUAL POST — FROM ME AND GUEST WRITER EILEEN N. SINETT. EILEEN GOES FIRST...
“Stories Still Matter: In Print and Online” was the theme of the Princeton Chamber’s Business before Business breakfast networking meeting this morning. Richard K. Rein, founding editor of U.S. 1 Newspaper, shared stories that only dig-deeper news people would know. His speech was informative, entertaining and well-delivered.
As a Speech Coach, I was especially taken by his smart opening which was void of verbiage. Yes, Rein opened with silence, four seconds worth (as the audience later learned). He created the “verbal white space”™ that level-sets audience attention and highlights opening remarks. Silence is often scary for societies that talk a lot.I noticed one or two people in the audience getting antsy after 2 seconds of quiet, but saw the other 90 people in the audience palpably poised to listen and patiently await the stories that would soon unfold.
Starting a speech with silence makes perfect sense. It can feel risky and uncomfortable at first, but the positive impact is quite rewarding. Silence is to speech, what margins are to writing. The ability to be present without words in speaking and in life, can be a strong differentiator.
Rein pointed out that his four seconds of silence equals the four seconds needed to read a Tweet of optimal length, 100 characters. Other statistics show that our focused attention is just 8 seconds, one second less than that of a goldfish. We want instant gratification and can google just about anything and be instantly satisfied.
In this digital age, we have become great multi-taskers and short-cut communicators.
However, I’m not sure that these gains offset our low tolerance for silence or our reduced listening attention.
— Eileen N. Sinett, Speaking that Connects
Narratives can change opinions, said Rein, citing the late John Henderson (a former reporter who built his real estate business on the lyrical descriptions of his listings) and Jerry Fennelly, who issues real estate analytics in story form. Long form narratives can also clarify the thinking of the writer (as well as the of the reader) and help establish credibility for both writer and subject.
Then it was story time: Rein told of almost-missed stories about Colin Carpi, lawyer Bruce Afran, and Muhammed Ali (as written by himself and fellow Princetonian sports writer Frank Deford) and he related a bit of gossip about Larry L. King. (Based on observing Ted Kennedy at a party, King vowed to do everything he could to keep that Kennedy from being president.)
In a lively Q&A Irv Urken asked about the value of print in a digital world: Brandishing the articles he used in his speech, he said, “you don’t have to worry about your batteries going down.” He also cited “the science of touch” and suggested that some presentations and pictures “require a bigger screen.” That print media has a limited space means that somebody must edit it to fit the space, and when editors get to do more than just run a spell check, readers read more carefully. Then Rein gave a shout out to Urken’s offspring who have media careers — one works for Newsweek and Street, the other for Yahoo.
Former reporter Vickie Hurley-Schubert (now with Creative Marketing Alliance) asked which was his favorite story. Hard to pick, but Rein cited one early in his career, for New Jersey Monthly, on the scandal surrounding Circle of Friends.
I liked his answer about whether the media has a liberal bias: “When you spend time with people, you begin to assimilate their values. Media does have an ego, but it also bends over backwards to present other points of view.”
So — down with ‘scooplets,’ which, as Rein explained, are what Jill Abramson calls the focus on quick content that spawned $1.9 billion in free publicity to the Trump campaign.
Up with narrative journalism. Long live the long form stories in the likes of U.S. 1 and Princeton Echo.
But I still get good info from Twitter.
— Barbara Fox