I'm speaking on a panel Thursday morning as part of the Story Week
festival of Writers put on by Columbia College. It's about the 'Contract with the Reader.' A fascinating concept, and while a bit of navel-gazing on the part of writers and editors, it is
something that is important to reassess from time to time.
What does 'Contract with the Reader' mean? I interpret it to be about what our role is in relation to the reader. I would say I feel a bit of a split personality on this contract. For example, the readers of Nightspots, Identity and Windy City Times all have different agendas when they pick up these publications. Not to mention those who go to our web site, listen to Windy City Radio, or receive our e-mail newsletter. While there may be some general overlapping expectations (GLBT content), each has its own special niche. Nightspots readers want to know what's happening, and want to see pics from the recent events around town. They seem to expect humor, hot bods, and calendars.
But of course, every single reader of any paper comes in with different expectations. We get input over the years that adjusts what we do, and we do events so we are 'out there' to hear comments. Some of it may become intuitive, but editors and writers are like sponges, always absorbing compliments and criticism, and making short- and long-term adjustments.
Our 'contract' with the reader evolves over time—and it's not a contract ON the reader! As mainstream media cover gays more frequently, we try to get news quicker onto our web site (to 'scoop' the Trib and TV), and we adjust and change how we cover the community. That contract is a moving target, one we hope you know you can always help shape.