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Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
Columns and blogs 2010
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Columns and blogs 2010


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A 2010 update of my lecture on column and blog writing …

A 2010 update of my lecture on column and blog writing
Contains useful tips on style

Published in: News & Politics, Education
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  • 1. Columns and blogs
    Advice for the beginning enthusiast
    Martin Hirst
  • 2. Columns and blogs: same beast, different spots
    Appear in print
    A formality of language
    Can have a variety of purpose
    Can vary in tone and voice
    Is stand-alone
    Is text and still images or graphics
    Is ephemeral
    Published online
    More personal language
    Can have a variety of purpose
    Can vary in tone and voice
    Can link to other content
    Can have multimedia content embedded
    Has longevity
  • 3. The purpose and the point
    • To convey the writer’s opinion
    • 4. To offer a fresh perspective on the news of the day
    • 5. To argue a point and convince readers
    • 6. To challenge accepted wisdom
    • 7. To amuse and/or entertainthe reader
    • 8. To validate the writer’spoint of view
    • 9. To validate the reader’spoint of view
  • Never be boring
    In all cases there is one cardinal sin; being boring.
    The columnist must have something to say and appealing style that captures the reader and demands a reaction…
    Everyone has one column, maybe six, in them.
    But column writing week in and week out, let alone at more regular intervals, is demanding professional work.
    [Al Morison, Intro, p. 309]
  • 10. Types of columns
    Opinion piece: a regular spot in the publication for commentaries on the issues of the day
    The journalistic column: the accent is on news and analysis, colour, background and context
    Personal: viewpoints and opinions that don’t always or necessarily relate to news or topics of the day
    Gossip: amusing insights about public figures, or snippets from the social diary
  • 11. The opinion column
    A regular spot – usually in a newspaper
    Focus on news agenda – informed commentary
    Express a strong point-of-view
    Some are regular:
    Finlay McDonald
    Michael Laws
    Guest spots – notable individuals
    Academics, politicians, experts
  • 12. Journalistic column
    Typically weekly
    Often about key issues of the day
    Senior reporter
    Makes a point about actions of central figure in the news
    Less formal style than news
    Establishes reporter’s credibility over time
  • 13. Personal column
    Personal columns have a wide range of topics
    Wine, food, family, children, sport, film, theatre, television
    Review-style columns are common
    Rely on a particular “device” for effect
    Often attempt to be humorous
    IMHO this genre is overdone and most of the time lazy
  • 14. Think it through
    Find a topic(current events, cultural/social/political ‘happenings’, topical controversies, wry observation of the ‘human condition’)
    Use your voice(obviously active, but what else…)
    Use your imagination(devices to add interest: humour, quotes, anecdotes and personal experiences DON’T OVER DO IT!)
    Invite readers in(art of conversation)
    Write for yourself(If you’re not interested and excited, why should we care?)
  • 15. How do you write a column?
    Start with an idea – a point you want to make
    Gather the facts
    Outline a structure – develop a plan
    Which bit of the story will you start with?
    Do you want to make a dramatic entrance
    Can you capture the reader with humour or shock-value
    The opening par must have a good ‘hook’
    Know where you want to go – define your end point
    The conclusion is as important as the lead
    Remember it’s not the inverted pyramid
    Hour-glass structure or more narrative style is acceptable
    Use lively and entertaining language – but use it well
  • 16. Choosing a topic
    • A column or blog can be about practically anything
    • 17. Select something that you are knowledgeable about,or willing to learn about
    • 18. Be prepared to do some research – facts are important to back your opinions
    • 19. If you have a passion or special interest – how can you make it relevant and exciting
    • 20. Establish your personality early on
    • 21. Pick something that’sfun for you
    Comment is free, but facts are sacred.
    Charles Prestwich Scott, editor Manchester Guardian 1872—1929
  • 22. Structure
    Lead – unlike a news story, a columnlead can be delayed or less formal
    Tell the reader what it’s about
    Background / justificationfor your point
    Take the reader someplace else
    Explain / present your newinformation and insights
    Expand on detail
    Complete the circle
    Finish with a twist
  • 23. What is your ‘voice’
    A writer's “voice” is what we “hear” in our head as we read.
    This helps us to form a mental image of the writer and their point of view.
    Our response to the voice also shapes our response to the text.
    “Like” / “dislike”
    “Agree” / “disagree”
    Mode of address:
    First person “I”
    Second person “You”
    Third person “Someone else”
    Mode of address
    Formal / informal
    Ethos / Logos / Pathos
    Author’s viewpoint
    Appeal to reason
    Appeal to emotion
    (author reader)
  • 24. A sense of style
    clarity and correctness of the Strunk and White kind
    style as a synonym for flair or verve(colour, movement, action, vocabulary, insight)
    that which is distinguished and distinguishing about a particular writer
    style has a strong unconscious element(but you need to think about it!)
    expression in subtle deviations from the norm that somehow suit the way you see the world and feel comfortable expressing yourself(Ben Yagoda – Poynter interview)
  • 25. Blogging for beginners
    NZ journalism students who regularly visit blogs
    A blog is a personal diary
    A daily pulpit
    A collaborative space
    A political soapbox
    A breaking-news outlet
    A collection of links
    Your own private thought
    Memos to the world
    NZ journalism students who maintain their own blog
    Hirst & Treadwell (2010)
  • 26. Getting started
    Blogs are not too different from columns
    They are slightly easier
    Good “sand pit” to develop writing skills and voice’
    A social activity with friends or colleagues
    Establish yourself as a professional
    Promoting yourself as a freelancer
    Social activity
    Sharing ideas and opinions?
    Practice your writing and develop a voice?
    Blogging is easy and fun
    What is your blog for?
  • 27. Ideas and content
    Keep a list of ideas – make notes on news stories etc like you would in a story notebook
    Identify a need – do some research
    Imagine a reader – who are you talking too?
    Get out of the echo chamber – be original
    What matters to you – express your passion
    Be topical – timeliness
    Don’t overload the post with too many ideas
  • 28. Writing and linking
    Remember the headline is crucial (post title)
    Controversy and debate
    Ask a question
    Key words (nouns / verbs) + power words (adjectives/description and emotion)
    Humour, wit, quips and puns
    Leads and openings – think like a journalist
    Answer your question
    Tease – anecdote, etc
    Paint a picture
    Details and facts / colour and movement
    Use lists and examples
  • 29. Deepening the reader experience
    Use analogy (‘like’), anecdotes and metaphor
    Case studies
    Use informed opinion
    Discuss different points of view (answer critics)
    Add quotes
    Do an interview
    Add links to relevant content
    Illustrate – original photos are good
  • 30. Exercise your brain
    Regular writing exercises improve boththinking capacity and eye-hand coordination
    Writing often helps sharpen your focusand establish your voice or point-of-view
    Start with things your know about
    Read widely and often
    Read good writers, analyse their styleand structural tricks
    Develop an interest or specialitybased on your own passions
    Build your expertise
    Experiment with different styleson the same piece