Robert Ehlert: Welcome to the three-ring circus of audience engagement

June 5, 2013 

At the top of Wednesday's page, we changed the the masthead to @Opinions — one day only — to underscore how we're reaching out to all print, online and social media platforms.

One of the most exciting things about news media is the being on this new frontier of audience engagement.

Though my title is editorial page editor and my traditional canvass is this page, I have parachuted into a multidimensional/ multiplatform universe that was just learning to walk digitally when I left the Sacramento Bee in 2009.

I arrived in Boise just two months ago to find Statesman colleagues doing their traditional roles as sports columnist, copy chiefs and assignment and photo editors while simultaneously juggling digital news production online, on tablets, on phones on a 24/7 schedule.

We don't look at it as more work and responsibility here - though it is. We look at it as an opportunity to reach more people and connect with more readers. The Treasure Valley is a treasure trove of opinions, but I am not going to find them all sharing a printed newspaper at a coffee house. I am going to find new audiences commandeering laptops, tablets and smartphones - sitting right next to the people reading letters to the editor and filling out the crossword puzzle in the good ol' traditional paper.

This is not a news flash. It's reality. The available audience has expectations that we engage wherever and whenever, on their timetable, not ours.

That is why I have been attempting to execute what I call the Three-Ring Circus of Ehlert Audience Engagement: print, online and in person. Working with the Editorial Board, we craft opinions that appear in print and online. I use Twitter and my blog when I want to get the word out quickly on opinion-related matters, and then follow up in print.

Since coming to Boise I have shared coffee and conversations with dozens of you. I hope to expand this face-to-face interaction by partnering with local citizen groups and perhaps other media to produce live issue-related forums in the last half of this year.

Some recent digital manifestations of my outreach include running a semi-serious #Twitorial contest (winners in the green box above) on Twitter. Last month I challenged you to write an editorial in 130 characters. You can read what the winners had to say.

On Monday we assembled a panel of educators and concerned community representatives and invited our audience to discuss the oft-controversial education reform concept called Common Core. Our state's version is Idaho Core Standards.

A mostly civil debate occurred online from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. involving our panel and anybody who wanted to ask questions or relay comments via email. A steady group of 60 to 70 people participated. Want to see the chat? Check it out at

In the future our digital initiatives are going to grow and spread to other social media platforms where we find a willing audience. I know you are out there. Two out of the past three days I happened into the Java Coffee House in Hyde Park, I noticed the same man in the corner hunkered down over a laptop and a tablet. I hope to get on his opinion radar.

As always, I welcome your ideas, comments, criticisms and invitations to coffee.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman's editorial page editor. Contact him at 377-6437, or on Twitter @IDS_HelloIdaho.



Tweet me via Direct Message and I will treat you to two preview tickets to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

Kristin Magruder @MagruderKristin

Higher Ed rigid / Idaho left in the dust / economic shame #Twitorial haiku

Tom Kettwig @trak2k

How about we replace the #IRS with a consumption tax. Also remember to vote on Tuesday otherwise don’t complain. #Twitorial

Mike Reineck @MikeReineck

U.S. medicine spending shows rare dip due to self rationing. What does this mean to future health care costs if trend continues? #Twitorial

Charles Eddy @blueturfattack

#twitorial Benghazi shld b mprtnt 4 every American. Our govt failed 2 protect its citizens then has hid the details. Why is that?

Walt Thode @wthode

Why does every reply to reasonable gun-related legislation include the “take away our guns” memo when that’s never the intent? #twitorial

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