Faithful readers will recall that just a month or two ago we concluded our little discussion of how to create a community newspaper and how to think critically about the final product. We noted that, once a community is defined and an editorial scope is determined, the actual process of putting together a single issue requires the reasoning prowess of a typical fifth grader.
For that reason no one should be too surprised that in the brief period of time since that discussion, I have encountered three new publications serving our central New Jersey market. Just to exercise our critical thinking -- and not to tell any other publisher how to run his or her business -- I think we should take a look at them. Before we do, though, let me repeat the observation made in the last column of our ongoing "media watch:" publishing people can dish it out, but they often can't take it.
We received the equivalent of icy glares from two of the publications we "reviewed" in our March 19 column, despite the fact that we had major praise and only minor criticism for each. And we also got a few long faces from some of our own U.S. 1 staff, who felt they had been publicly chastened for putting out a paper that wasn't as entertaining as "U.S. Fun" had once been. That said, and hoping that the newfound entrants in the media wars won't take this too personally, here we go:
Princeton. You have to like the title of this new magazine, which appears to be a quarterly, since the issue I saw was "Spring 2003, Issue 2." The cover proclaims that is dedicated to "arts, culture, & living" and above the logo, which is rendered in the style of New York magazine, are other towns within its orbit: Trenton, Bucks County, and New Brunswick.
The staff box inside notes that the magazine is published by Media Resources Group LLC of 379 Princeton-Hightstown Road. What I like is that the fourth name listed in that box, editor-in-chief Gary R. Wien, is the same as the sixth name, production assistant Gary R. Wien. Welcome to the business, friend. I have been here 19 years as editor and publisher and two weeks ago I earned the title of refrigerator decontamination specialist.
As always, I wonder what vision the editor has for the paper and how much control he or she has to implement that vision. This issue of Princeton magazine, oddly, has an excellent collection of pieces on New Brunswick's cultural and social scene. But how do you explain the fawning tribute to the new Westin Princeton at Forrestal Village, written by the editor-in-chief, no less? Maybe the full-page ad on page 13 helped create that vision.
And then there is an appreciative -- but not fawning -- portrait of editor George Taber, owner of the New Brunswick-based NJBiz Magazine, written by Diana Lasseter Drake. No problem there, except that no one bothers to tell the reader that Drake toiled for many years as an employee of Taber. It's a grain of salt that readers deserve when evaluating an article.
Bucks. If you like the glossy feel of Princeton magazine, you will love Bucks, which is both bigger and glossier -- Town & Country in its heft -- and packed with color photographs. Bucks is based in New Hope, but it is showing up in upscale mailboxes in Princeton. The magazine's editorial director, Richard Jaccoma, proclaims in the premiere issue that the magazine is "regional, not provincial" and that it considers its "suburbs" to be New York, Philadelphia, and of course Princeton.
That may sound like a reach, but the first issue acquits itself nicely with a photo feature on Princeton architect Robert Hillier's Bucks County home. And a mini-portrait of actress Blair Brown, who just completed a run in "The Tempest" at McCarter, reveals that the actress has a country home in Sergeantsville, on the New Jersey side of the river.
The biggest challenge for this editor may be that he reports to not one but two publishers -- the co-founders of the magazine are high school classmates from a quarter century ago who are now publisher and creative director and publisher and advertising director. Most editors would prefer cleaning out contaminated refrigerators to reporting to two publishers.
Prime Time Arts & Entertainment. Here is another publication based in New Hope, but which started appearing in a news box on Nassau Street just last month. Unlike the other two publications, this one is printed on newsprint. Its editor (or at least the person who writes the editorial introduction on page 2) is also the president and publisher: Trina Robba.
This publication concentrates on the visual and performing arts, with some dining, movies, and destinations thrown in. Because of its apparent low overhead and lean management at the top, it would get my bet for still being around in another year or so.
But maybe not. I hear there's a fifth grade class in West Windsor-Plainsboro that's about to launch a new publication of its own. We shall see.