“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.
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.
Rich Rein (Princeton, Class of ’69) will speak at the Princeton chamber breakfast on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to my former boss telling stories old and new. And I also like the tradition, at the breakfasts, that everyone gets to stand up and introduce themselves. Perhaps I’ll see you there?
The day before (Tuesday) is the chamber’s Midsummer Marketing Showcase starting at 4 p.m. In past year’s it’s been plagued with weather cancellations, but predictions are good for tomorrow. And it’s one of my favorite Princeton Regional Chamber events, in part because it’s free.
I couldn’t help but smile when I saw that Boston Globe reporters, frustrated by delivery problems, volunteered to get out and actually deliver Sunday’s paper themselves. Article here, courtesy of my Twitter feed. In 1986, for my first week at U.S. 1, everyone on the staff (plus the freelancers) loaded up with papers and headed out from Mapleton Road to their delivery routes.
As Rich Rein used to say . . . “When you deliver, you get to know your readers.” Our deliverers are also paid to be reporters — to note when companies come and go. Even when we moved “up” to Roszel Road, cheerful willingness to pitch in on delivery was a condition of employment.
I couldn’t help but be sad when I realized that the Globe fired 600 people who worked for its former delivery service. Yes they hired 600 more but the previous workers were surely living on the margins, some struggling to learn a new language in a new country. You don’t work midnight to eight, putting miles and miles on your car or your feet, unless you really need the money.
Then I remembered how gratifying it was for those of us who wrote the paper to actually deliver a paper that is warmly welcomed by its readers. In virtually all the buildings, I would be greeted by — “Oh good, U.S. 1 is here, thank you!”
Back in 1987, when U.S. 1 Newspaper was still a monthly and everyone on staff was also on the delivery team, my route was downtown Princeton. I tried to deliver to Princeton Newport Partners at 33 Witherspoon, on the corner of Witherspoon and Spring Street. Later Spring Street would be publicly notorious in the scandal of Lyle and Eric Menendez, owners of Chuck’s Spring Street cafe. But the 33 Spring Street building would be quietly notorious as an address associated with Princeton Newport Partners, raided by the feds in 1987for its possible involvement in the Michael Milken junk bond case. (The charges were later dropped, as explained by my boss Richard K. Rein in his column last week.)
But when I arrived at the Princeton Newport Partners office I didn’t know about the investigation. All I knew was that no one at that office wanted to talk to me. And for later visits the office was closed.
Venture capitalists, private investors, investment bankers — all are notoriously close mouthed, none more so than Andrew Shechtel. He apparently still has an office at 33 Witherspoon and is now listed as the third richest man in New Jersey. As reported by NJ Biz, and also by Zachary R. Mider in Bloomberg News, Shechtel put $9.7 billion into two trusts . . .some of it going to camps for Jewish youth, most of it to a Forrestal Village-based foundation dedicated to research into Huntington’s disease.
The guy who hired me to work at U.S. 1 Newspaper in 1987, Richard K. Rein, has just published a column, a mini memoir, recalling his 50 years in journalism, starting with a summer job as a high school intern.
My BFF, Sharon Schlegel, said goodbye to her column today in the Trenton Times because she is moving to St. Augustine. I won’t reveal her age but I’m betting she can count at least to 50 years in the business if she starts with her own newspaper, as a kid, and counts her stint as the first woman reporter on the U of Penn newspaper.
Both talk about what journalists call their “voice.” Rein says he turned down a theoretically more prestigious job in order to “find a writing style of my own.” Schlegel says that developing a voice of her own was “an evolving process, an opportunity to explore myself as well as my subjects.”
My style is not as distinctive as hers, but I’m trying to preserve what I do have by continuing with this blog. Use it or lose it applies to wordsmithing as well as to exercising.
I also resonate with a point that Rein makes. He says, “If I see a story (and somehow I see stories in the strangest places) I need to tell that story. I can’t help it. If I edit a story, I want to make it better. Can’t help it.”
Me too. I can’t help it. Hence this blog.
Schlegel’s readers will miss her voice. I’ll miss it in newsprint, but I’ll get to hear it on email — and in person. We plan to Skype a lot, and Florida is just a plane flight away. Perhaps I can persuade her to be a “guest columnist” for Princeton Comment from time to time, or maybe she will write for a Florida paper. I’m betting she’ll have stories to tell.
It was written in response to the January 15 U.S. 1 cover story, Bully Pulpit, written by my colleague, Dan Aubrey. As editor Rich Rein says in his column today, Aubrey wasn’t eager to revisit an unjust lawsuit. “Then Aubrey and I both realized that his story might not connect the dots between Christie and Guadagno, but it would provide another dot that might help paint the full picture of this administration.”
Following that cover story in U.S. 1, economic guru Paul Krugman, a Princeton resident, wrote about it in his blog post , pointing out that though print media struggles, print media reporters are important, and that a mere transportation reporter broke the “Bridgegate” story.
Powell credits the Star Ledger with investigating and clearing Aubrey of any evidence of wrong doing. Powell looked further and found — Lo! — Guadagno’s attacks on the New Jersey State Council on the Arts were attacks on herself. “The lieutenant governor and Department of State, it turns out, had control of the Arts Council’s spending all along. Her divisions signed off on every payment.”