An English professor at NC State argues that academics shouldn't necessarily bother to connect to a broader public. He says that--especially for those in the humanities--we don't know what will become relevant and why.
So academics, stay in your offices. Write books that few people will read. The results might be more significant than any of us first recognise.
As you might guess, I don't agree. At least for me, it is a lot of fun to articulate what I do to a broader audience. At UNC Charlotte, my dean (also an English professor) has created programs that, for example, involve events with faculty discussing their new books to a public audience, and these are really well-attended. I always read English professor Miriam Burstein's (aka The Little Professor) blog, which is all about her work on Victorian fiction. I don't know anything about the topic, but you can sense the enthusiasm.
In other words, you can have your cake and eat it too. Write about whatever topic you're passionate about and that passion should be infectious when you're communicating it to the rest of the world. Why only communicate with a select few other scholars if you don't have to?