Tips for the beginning enthusiast Columns and Blogs Te Waha Nui / CityBeat http://artsweb/Louise_dev/devWP Martin Hirst http://ethicalmartini.wordpress.com
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]
Columns are short items, sometimes produced on a regular basis – in the same place and style each edition
A column moves beyond the ‘mere facts’ to include ‘well-researched, informed comment’ [ Intro ]
Acknowledge your own views, justify and contrast your opinion with that of others
The obligatory Orwell slide I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. …. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. George Orwell , Why I Write , 1946
Write about what you know A column or blog has to be believable A good opinion piece is based on relevant facts Do your homework Have a point of view
Is the tone of the piece appropriate to the subject matter
Are you able to make yourself clearly understood
Can you find an original, clean voice
I dropped Maria off in front of the tattoo parlor just before midnight. There was no place to park on the street, so I sent her inside and found a place on the sidewalk, in front of a house with no lights. Why not? I figured. Black car, dark sidewalk, nothing but cranked Chinese teenagers on the street…and we did, in fact, need the story. The week had been too long and fast for wise and considered reflection. I had lectured for something like 166 straight hours on morals and manners and politics, in addition to drugs and violence. I had been awake for too long. ‘ Saturday Night in The City’ , Generation of Swine , HST
Peace activists charged, but freed by a jury after damaging some computers in a protest at Raytehon’s plant in Ireland
The outcome was so remarkable, you almost dare to imagine a day when Blair and Bush are in a cell with Karadzic, arguing about whose turn it is to slop out. But mostly, I wonder if, when the computers hit the ground, they flickered, “You have performed an illegal operation”. Mark Steel, W/H 26-07-08, p.21
Makes a point about actions of central figure in the news
Less formal style than news
Establishes reporter’s credibility over time
Winston Peters has to be brought to his senses. So the Prime Minister has been holding the smelling salts under his nose. Judging from yesterday’s angry press conference, they are taking some time to work. If he has to go, he will have to go. On yesterday’s evidence, he will not go quietly. But there are no surprises in that.
Lead – unlike a news story, a column lead can be delayed or less formal
Tell the reader what it’s about
As I wash dishes at the kitchen sink, my husband paces behind me irritated. “Have you seen my keys?” he snarls, then huffs a loud sigh and stomps from the room with our dog Dixie, at his heels, anxious over her favourite human’s upset. Now, I focus on the wet dish in my hands, I don’t turn around. I don’t say a word I’m using a technique I learned from a dolphin trainer
Explain / present your new information and insights
Take the reader someplace else
These minor annoyances are not the stuff of separation and divorce, but in sum they began to dull my love for Scott So, like many wives before me, I ignored a library of advice books and set about improving him…. Then something magical happened.
Explain / present your new information and insights
Expand on detail
I listened, rapt, as professional trainers explained how they taught dolphins to flip and elephants to paint. Eventually it hit me that the same techniques might work on that stubborn but loveable species, the American husband. The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t. After all, you don’t get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband.
Back in Maine, I began thanking Scott if he threw one dirty shirt into the hamper… I was using what trainers call “approximations”, rewarding the small steps to learning a whole new behavior. One morning, as I launched into yet another tirade…Scott just looked at me blankly… He finally smiled, but his L.R.S. had already done the trick. He’d begun to train me, the American wife.
A near-daily obligation to write forces you to learn something new or create an insight about something you already know
Writing a blog lets you educate yourself in public
Writing demands discipline – regular updates creates good work habits
Your writing gets better
More posts = more traffic
Tip No. 1 cannot be emphasized enough among journalists and journalism students. Writing a blog will make you better at everything related to being a good journalist. Word. You will become a better writer, researcher, investigator, skeptic, listener, communicator — and editor. You will also become better at everything concerning the Web, if you really apply yourself to blogging. I speak from personal experience on this. Teaching online journalism [Mindy McAdams]
Web users are brutally impatient prowlers, unforgiving of ambiguity and unlikely to hang around to figure things out. But provocative works too.
Fear and loathing in SkyCity
A fool and his money
Was Tony Veitch being blackmailed?
Short, snappy headlines that are also “teasers” tend to work best
Make your meta-tags work for you
Live up to your promise (deliver the content!)
Tip No. 2 has a direct relationship to No. 3, and I think we could learn something from Stolz’s own post. His post title: “Five Lessons from a Year of Blogging.” My title for this post: “5 tips for blog beginners.” Now, think about a person typing search terms into Google. Lessons and blogging ? Or tips and blog ? 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. Mindy McAdams