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.
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 report news 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.
Defective Yeti http://defectiveyeti.com/
New York Mom’s Blog
Perez Hilton makes millions covering celebrity gossip
Gawker provides NYC gossip,
such as this:
St. John’s Gossip Blog
Fortunately, this appears to be defunct…
Owned By Pugs
I Can Has Cheezburger?
New York Times real estate blog
Providence Journal 7 to 7 News Blog
Philadelphia Inquirer Phillies Blog
More Phillies Blogs
Philadelphia Daily News High Cheese
• MLB Phillies Blog
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
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 Word
Press to give it a URL (e.g., myblog.wordpress.com).
This may be difficult to change 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
Write clear headlines
For each blog post, you will be prompted by WordPress to 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
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.
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.
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
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 St.
John’s 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
See http://www.google.com/addurl and
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
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.
com and 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.
E-mail me at mark [at] cubreporters.org