Why blog? 1. It will make you a better journalist Writing a blog will make you better at everything related to being a good journalist. You will become a better writer, researcher, investigator, skeptic, listener, communicator — and editor. You will also become better at everything concerning the Web.
Why blog? 2. If you want to get a job in journalism after college, you need to be able to write for the Web. Americans now view the Web as the best source of information. Journalists need to keep up with the times and be able to reportnews online. Editors expect recent grads to have multimedia skills; being a good writer is not enough, and writing for the Web is different than writing for print publications.
What is a blog? There’s really no set definition for a blog. Blogs are whatever people want them to be. Generally, though, most blogs feature posts in reverse chronological order, hyperlinks, a section for readers to comment and a writing style that is a bit more casual than writing seen in newspapers and academic papers. There are many different types of blogs. Whatever topic you can think of, there’s probably a blog – and, perhaps, even thousands of blogs – about it.
Personal diaries Defective Yeti http://defectiveyeti.com/
Moms’ blogs New Jersey Mom’s Blog http://jerseymomsblog.com/
Gossip Blogs Perez Hilton makes millions covering celebrity gossip at:http://perezhilton.com
Gossip Blogs Gawker provides NYC gossip, such as this: http://gawker.com/5812604/educated-snob-berates-train-conductor-for-no-good-reason
Pets Blog Owned By Pugs http://www.ownedbypugs.com I Can Has Cheezburger? http://icanhascheezburger.com
Newspaper blogs New York Times real estate bloghttp://realestateqa.blogs.nytimes.com Providence Journal 7 to 7 News Blog http://newsblog.projo.com/ Philadelphia Inquirer Phillies Blog http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/phillies_zone/
More Phillies Blogs Philadelphia Daily News High Cheese http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/phillies/Oswalt-or-Worley-An-alternate-viewpoint.html
Blogging as journalism Remember:blogs don’t always equal online journalism. And this is an online journalism class. So, while you will be writing for a blog, remember, you’re also a journalist. As such, your blog posts shouldn’t be mere rants or photos of your cat. Blogs are certainly less formal than standard newspaper articles, but this doesn't mean that anything goes in a blog. Basic journalism values still apply.
Fundamentals still apply Even though this is “new media” and some things are different, don’t forget the basics: tight, succinct writing, you still have to have a strong lead, sources, facts, newsworthy info (does it pass the, “why should I care test?”). The basics of journalism are still very much part of online journalism. As LA Observed editor Kevin Roderick, formerly a journalist for LA Times, said of his blog, his goal is to be "informative and useful."
Provide value for readers Most importantly, your blog should provide value for readers. Don’t just regurgitate information easily available elsewhere in the Web. Be enterprising. Provide insights and analysis. The old hunter-gatherer model of journalism is no longer sufficient. Now that information is so plentiful, readers don't need new information so much as help in processing what's already available. Put it into context, give it theoretical framing and suggest ways to act on it.
Don’t get stuck in the past At the same time, don’t just think of a blog post as a newspaper-type story that you’re posting online. There’s a reason the Internet has become the #1 source of news – ahead of traditional media, like newspapers, TV and radio. Because it allows journalists to tell stories in ways they can’t in other mediums. So, your posts should combine text with multimedia elements, such as photos, video, audio and hyperlinks.
3 musts for a good blog 1. Have something valuable to say If you’re just posting pictures of your cat, no one’s going to care, except you and your mom. If your merely opining on the New York Jets game, why would strangers care more about your opinion than an ESPN analyst like Ron Jaworski? You’re not providing value. So, either cover a topic better than anyone else does or choose a niche topic that’s not being adequately covered.
3 musts for a good blog 2. Publish regularly If you have lengthy time gaps between posts, readers will forget about your blog and stop coming back. You need to feed their appetites. In this 24-7 media cycle, if you don’t, someone else will and they’ll go elsewhere for their news. The best blogs are updated multiple times a day. At a minimum, you should post at least one substantive post per week – and that’s just if you want to get a ‘B’ grade.
3 musts for a good blog 3. Build an audience. If you have something valuable to say and regularly publish, the audience will usually follow. We’ll discuss ways you can expedite the process and generate publicity for your blog. Keep in mind that making a name for yourself in the blogosphere can take several months or much more time. It won’t happen overnight.
Choose URL carefully When you start a new blog, you will be asked by Blogger.com to give it a URL (e.g., myblog.blogspot.com). This cannot be changed later, so what you pick for “myblog” matters a lot. Choose a blog name that relates to your blog topic.
Explain your blog Only returning visitors will know what your blog is about. Don’t force new visitors to have to figure out for themselves what your blog is about. Chances are they won’t stick around to find out. Instead, make it easy for them by filling out info in the “About Me” section and by creating an introductory post. Include an e-mail address people can reach you at if they have news tips or feedback. Invite reader comments.
Write clear headlines For each blog post, you will be prompted by Blogger.comto provide a headline or title. Titles are as important as content. Titles should be dead-clear. Think about a person typing search terms into Google. Your choice of keywords in the post title is of paramount importance to the findability of the post itself. Every word counts. The title also needs to be short — five or six words is an ideal length. Firstly, don't use puns, metaphors or wordplay. Use your keywords in the title instead - in may not be as exciting, but it works. Most readers will find your blog using a search engine. Secondly, keep headlines short: evidence suggests that Google pays greatest attention to the first 60 characters of any headline and many RSS feeds cut the headline off after this too.
Use short paragraphs A 150-word paragraph looks pretty long on a Web page. Long paragraphs send a signal to the reader: This will require effort. The writer expected you to have a lot of spare time. Sit down and read awhile. Short paragraphs send a different message: “I'm easy! This won't take long at all! Read me!” Also, consider using bullets and numbered lists when possible.
Write tightly Omit all unnecessary words. Web journalists can’t waste words, even though they don’t really have limits. It’s hard to read much text on a computer screen. You can’t afford to bury the lead online. Tell readers quickly what the story is about and why they should keep reading – or else they won’t. Also, use active verbs. Passive verbs bore readers. Bored readers leave. Avoid redundancy. One thing to remember is that the absence of space limitations online should not be viewed as an invitation to ramble on about things.
Use inverted pyramid According to research, only 16 percent of online users read a webpage word by word. The vast majority scan read. Most people are not going to reach the end of your article so there is no harm “giving the story away” in the first paragraph. Most content management systems are also set up so that your first paragraph appears as the snippet of text underneath your headline on a Google search result. This can account for 43 per cent of a user's decision on which result to choose – making it even more important than the headline. So, use the “inverted pyramid” writing style. In this format, the most important information comes first. In each successive paragraph, the information is a little less important.
Provide up-to-date info There are time constraints with traditional media. Adelphi’s student newspaper, for example, is published biweekly, therefore reporters have to write their stories well in advance of when they actually get published. In Web journalism, you don’t face those same time constraints. Publication is immediate. This is a big reason why the Internet is a superior medium for journalism and why carbon copies of things you may write for the newspaper won't work well. So, if you’re covering a event, blog about it ASAP. Don’t wait to publish your blog post until a week later, when it’s old news. If you’re writing about a sports team, include the most recent stats and results.
Cite credible sources A source provides reliable, truthful information on a topic. Each blog post should contain at least two sources – at least one of which should be a primary source. A primary source offers the best and most reliable information on a topic – information that’s essential to your blog post. Often a primary source is an expert, someone recognized as a leading authority on a topic. Or a primary source may be a person with firsthand information on a topic. A primary source may also be an original document or an official report. Always find at least one primary source for each substantive blog post. But don’t just stop at one. Use as many as you need to tell the story
Cite credible sources A secondary source offers reliable second-hand information on a topic. Reference books, newspaper articles and other media are common secondary sources. People with informed opinions on a topic can also serve as secondary sources. For example, you may quote a student’s opinion on a guest speaker. Use secondary sources to expand your information. Note: always avoid using anonymous sources.
Use hyperlinks Hyperlinks allow the writer to provide a wealth of related information to the reader, opening gateways to source documents, related stories, multimedia enhancements and much more. A link must give the reader a reasonable expectation of what she will get when she clicks. Linked phrases such as "click here" or "Web page" do not provide helpful information, so avoid them. Integrate the text of your blog posts with relevant links
Use hyperlinks Keep links short. A long phrase (more than about five words) can be hard to read, or just ugly, when underlined and/or in a highlight color. Finally, link to useful websites. If your blog relates to Adelphi University, you need not link to the university’s webpage every time you mention the school in a post. But, if you’re writing a blog post that mentions a professor, it may be useful to link to that professor’s webpage. Every post should contain at least a couple links, if possible. But don’t over do it with links
Use non-textual elements Bring your story to life. Engage with your readers and give them something they can't get in print. With images, charts, graphs, video, etc. Even different font sizes and colors. Newspaper stories limit you. They’re usually one dimensional, with just text. The Web allows you to incorporate all kinds of different ways to tell a story, not just through words. Think about those other visual, non-textual elements before you write your story, not after. Try to include at least one non-textual element in every blog post.
Write regularly All your posts need not be substantive. For example, you may post an interesting photo that relates to your topic. But you should have at least one good, substantive post per week (this means a post where you reported on something newsworthy, interviewed sources, had links and/or photos or videos, etc.).
Provide value for readers As Robert Niles of the Online Journalism Review states: With the Internet, readers have no need to be patient with stuff that doesn't meet their immediate needs. Other sources stand ready to inform, a quick mouse click away. That’s changed people's reading and viewing habits. Newton's first law works against individual publishers now: readers are clicking around, and will tend to keep clicking, unless you provide some powerful source to stop them. What are you going to offer that will make a reader stop surfing? Where's the value in what you write? What's the "take-away" from your piece, from your website, from your publication that's so valuable that it not only will make a individual reader stop and take notice, but also "Like" it on Facebook, tweet it to followers and e-mail it to friends?
Respect copyright law U.S. copyright law does apply to ALL IMAGES you see on the Web, on any Web page. So it is absolutely NOT okay to copy an image (photo or otherwise) from somewhere online and use it in your blog. It is still NOT okay if you add a link to the original and/or a photo credit line. Those do NOT constitute permission from the owner of the photo. In fact, the U.S. Copyright Office bluntly says: “Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.” The image does NOT need to have a copyright symbol or a copyright notice to enjoy this protection. All published works are automatically protected by this law — and that includes ALL images online.
What to do for visuals? First, you could just take your own photos or make your own artwork. This would impress me and count as a non-textual element in your post. Second, some people have chosen to allow limited use of their Web-published work — that is, they have given you permission in advance. For more info, visit http://www.newslab.org/2011/03/03/free-multimedia-resources/
How to build audience Remember, journalism is writing for the masses. Therefore, you should seek to share your blog with as many people as possible. To incentivize you, I offer extra credit to whichever student receives the most traffic the last week of classes. There are many and varied ways to promote your blog and/or website to increase traffic. The 10 ways listed next are probably the easiest and most efficient ways. Plus, they're all free!
1. Word of mouth This is a very basic and old school way of marketing but it has remained because it really is effective. All you have to do is tell all your family, friends and co-workers about your new site or blog and let them do the work!
2. Submit site to Google Submitting your site to search engines will ensure your site or blog is include in indexes for search engines and shows up when people do Google and Yahoo searches. See http://www.google.com/addurland http://search.yahoo.com/info/submit.html
3. E-mail signatures At the end of your e-mails, attach a link to your blog. Many e-mail programs, including Gmail and Adelphi’s, allow you to change your settings to automatically include a signature everytime you send an e-mail. Mine includes my name and contact info along with a plug for my website “Find journalism jobs, internships & more @ CubReporters.org”
4. Social Media Put a link to your blog or latest post on your Facebook page. When you post a video to YouTube, put a link in the description.
5. Twitter There are two options. First, you can manually tweet about your blog using Twitter. You can post your own personal tweets with links to your blog posts, link to other people’s content, ask readers questions, etc. Second, you can set up an RSS feed using Twitterfeed. This is free and will do all the work for you. Basically, anytime you make a new post, a tweet will also appear on Twitter. You could also do a combination of the two: utilize Twitterfeed and also make your own custom tweets. See twitterfeed.com
6. E-mail kindred spirits E-mail organizations and people who are interested in your topic: I have a website about journalism careers, for example, so I e-mail journalism professors to let them know I have a website that might be useful for their students. E-mailing a professor may result in dozens of their students learning about my website. Likewise, I contact various journalism organizations, such as the Society of Professional Journalists and Asian American Journalists Association, in hopes that they will spread the word to their members.
7. Link exchanges It is important to exchange links or get one-way links from relevant sites. The best way to do this is to manually search for websites and blogs related to your site and contact them for a link exchange. Use http://blogsearch.google.com . When soliciting links, remember, flattery will get you everywhere. When you pay someone a compliment, it piques their curiosity in who you are. “Who is this person with impeccable taste?” Be honest and sincere in your flattery, but it shouldn’t be hard to come up with a compliment. Something like, “Hey, I liked your post about [insert topic] because [insert compliment]. I also have a blog that I thought you might be interested in because [insert why it’s relevant]. My blog’s URL is [insert Web address].”
8. Make comments Regardless of what you cover, there are likely Internet discussion boards and numerous blogs related to your topic. If you’ve got a post that you think relates strongly to something that another blogger has written about or that is the topic of discussion on a forum – leave a link to your own post. The key to pulling this off without being labeled a spammer is to leave a genuinely useful comment on the blog or forum. The comment itself should add value, be right on topic and contribute to the conversation. Then if you include a link introduce it with a ‘I’ve written more about this at….’ type comment rather than just a spammy call to action. Relatedly, many newspapers have likely, at some point, written a story related to your blog topic or one of your blog posts. And many newspaper websites these days allow readers to post comments about stories. You can do a search using Google News.
9. Write Press Release Some press release services don’t cost anything and they can be surprisingly effective with a little luck. For example, see www.i-newswire.com, www.free-press-release.comand www.prlog.org
10. Pitch media Some posts will have mainstream media appeal. Shoot a reporter at a paper, magazine, TV or Radio station an email – you might get lucky. For example, if you write about Adelphi’s theater department, you might email the theater critic or arts writer at local newspapers. If you cover Adelphi sports, you might e-mail the college sports reporter at Newsday.
Questions? E-mail me at mgrabowski [at] adelphi.edu