Columns and-blogs-


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Columns and-blogs-

  1. 1. Tips for the beginning enthusiast Columns and Blogs
  2. 2. 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]
  3. 3. The purpose and the point <ul><li>What is the purpose of a column or blog? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To convey the writer’s opinion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To offer a fresh perspective on the news of the day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To argue a point and convince readers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To challenge accepted wisdom </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To amuse and/or entertain the reader </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To validate the writer’s point of view </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To validate the reader’s point of view </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. It’s OK to have an opinion <ul><li>Columns are short items, sometimes produced on a regular basis – in the same place and style each edition </li></ul><ul><li>A column moves beyond the ‘mere facts’ to include ‘well-researched, informed comment’ [ Intro ] </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledge your own views, justify and contrast your opinion with that of others </li></ul>
  5. 5. 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
  6. 6. 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
  7. 7. Choosing a topic <ul><li>A column or blog can be about practically anything </li></ul><ul><li>Select something that you are knowledgeable about, or willing to learn about </li></ul><ul><li>If you have a passion or special interest – how can you make it relevant and exciting </li></ul><ul><li>Establish your personality early on </li></ul><ul><li>Pick something that’s fun for you </li></ul>CraftJuice – Nerida K
  8. 8. Find your voice <ul><li>Style and tone are important </li></ul><ul><li>Is the style suited to the topic </li></ul><ul><li>Is the tone of the piece appropriate to the subject matter </li></ul><ul><li>Are you able to make yourself clearly understood </li></ul><ul><li>Can you find an original, clean voice </li></ul>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
  9. 9. Types of columns <ul><li>Opinion piece: a regular spot in the publication for commentaries on the issues of the day </li></ul><ul><li>The journalistic column: the accent is on news and analysis, colour, background and context </li></ul><ul><li>Personal: viewpoints and opinions that don’t always or necessarily relate to news or topics of the day </li></ul><ul><li>Gossip: amusing insights about public figures, or snippets from the social diary </li></ul>
  10. 10. Opinion column <ul><li>Expert commentary from non-journalists </li></ul><ul><li>Slightly off-beat take on a topic </li></ul><ul><li>Peace activists charged, but freed by a jury after damaging some computers in a protest at Raytehon’s plant in Ireland </li></ul><ul><li>Kicker finish… </li></ul>
  11. 11. 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
  12. 13. Journalistic column <ul><li>Typically weekly </li></ul><ul><li>Often about key issues of the day </li></ul><ul><li>Senior reporter </li></ul><ul><li>Makes a point about actions of central figure in the news </li></ul><ul><li>Less formal style than news </li></ul><ul><li>Establishes reporter’s credibility over time </li></ul>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.
  13. 14. Personal column <ul><li>Personal columns have a wide range of topics </li></ul><ul><li>Wine, food, family, children, sport, film, theatre, television </li></ul><ul><li>Review-style columns are common </li></ul><ul><li>Rely on a particular “device” for effect </li></ul><ul><li>Often attempt to be humorous </li></ul>
  14. 20. How do you write a column? <ul><li>The million dollar question </li></ul><ul><li>Start with an idea – a point you want to make </li></ul><ul><li>Outline a structure – develop a plan </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Which bit of the story will you start with? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do you want to make a dramatic entrance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can you capture the reader with humour or shock-value </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Know where you want to go – define your end point </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The conclusion is as important as the lead </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Remember it’s not the inverted pyramid </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hour-glass structure or more narrative style is acceptable </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Use lively and entertaining language – but use it well </li></ul>
  15. 21. Practice makes perfect <ul><li>Regular writing exercises improve both thinking capacity and eye-hand coordination </li></ul><ul><li>Writing often helps sharpen your focus and establish your voice or point-of-view </li></ul><ul><li>Start with things your know about </li></ul><ul><li>Read widely and often </li></ul><ul><li>Read good writers, analyse their style and structural tricks </li></ul><ul><li>Develop an interest or speciality based on your own passions </li></ul><ul><li>Build your expertise </li></ul><ul><li>Experiment with different styles on the same piece </li></ul>
  16. 22. Structure <ul><li>Lead – unlike a news story, a column lead can be delayed or less formal </li></ul><ul><li>Tell the reader what it’s about </li></ul><ul><li>Background / justification for your point </li></ul><ul><li>Take the reader someplace else </li></ul><ul><li>Explain / present your new information and insights </li></ul><ul><li>Expand on detail </li></ul><ul><li>Complete the circle </li></ul><ul><li>Finish with a twist </li></ul>
  17. 23. Top of hourglass <ul><li>Lead – unlike a news story, a column lead can be delayed or less formal </li></ul><ul><li>Tell the reader what it’s about </li></ul>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
  18. 24. Middle - variable <ul><li>Background / justification for your point </li></ul><ul><li>Explain / present your new information and insights </li></ul><ul><li>Take the reader someplace else </li></ul>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.
  19. 25. Expand into bottom <ul><li>Explain / present your new information and insights </li></ul><ul><li>Expand on detail </li></ul>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.
  20. 26. The big finish <ul><li>Complete the circle </li></ul><ul><li>Finish with a twist </li></ul>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.
  21. 27. Column or blog post? <ul><li>Column </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Usually appears in regular spot at regular intervals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develops a style based on chosen persona of columnist </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Should fit demographic and reading habits of audience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Has a clear purpose </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Blog post </li></ul><ul><ul><li>More irregular </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Has strong individual style, usually written in first-person </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is open to a wider and more diverse audience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Has a purpose and a point </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Less fixed in time and space </li></ul></ul>
  22. 28. Stoltz’ five top tips for newbieloggers <ul><li>A personal blog is as valuable to the writer as the reader </li></ul><ul><li>Entry titles are as important as content. Titles should be dead-clear </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t expect your best content to be rewarded. Accept that blog audiences are so unpredictable and that some of your most valuable gems will stay buried </li></ul><ul><li>Stand on the roof in a thunderstorm holding up a rake. You never know when lightning will strike, but you can improve your odds </li></ul><ul><li>Write short and use pictures </li></ul>
  23. 29. What the blogger gets out of it <ul><li>A near-daily obligation to write forces you to learn something new or create an insight about something you already know </li></ul><ul><li>Writing a blog lets you educate yourself in public </li></ul><ul><li>Writing demands discipline – regular updates creates good work habits </li></ul><ul><li>Your writing gets better </li></ul><ul><li>More posts = more traffic </li></ul>
  24. 30. 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]
  25. 31. Make your headlines “dead clear” <ul><li>Web users are brutally impatient prowlers, unforgiving of ambiguity and unlikely to hang around to figure things out. But provocative works too. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fear and loathing in SkyCity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A fool and his money </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Was Tony Veitch being blackmailed? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Short, snappy headlines that are also “teasers” tend to work best </li></ul><ul><li>Make your meta-tags work for you </li></ul><ul><li>Live up to your promise (deliver the content!) </li></ul>
  26. 32. 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
  27. 33. Realistic expectations <ul><li>Traffic grows slowly at first </li></ul><ul><li>Be patient and regular </li></ul><ul><li>The more entries you have, the more likely you are to get random traffic </li></ul><ul><li>Visit blogs with similar content, or a post that you like and leave a comment. This links back to your own site and can generate traffic </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t be disheartened if it takes a while to take off </li></ul><ul><li>Blog on current events – have something to say </li></ul><ul><li>Sub-edit and correct your work </li></ul>
  28. 35. Attract lightning <ul><li>If you’re “on topic” and current – and relevant – you will be noticed </li></ul><ul><li>Blog traffic usually grows by word-of-mouth </li></ul><ul><li>Start your own blogroll, but don’t link to the usual suspects </li></ul><ul><li>The major blog sites already get enough traffic, fish in the smaller ponds at first </li></ul>
  29. 37. Write short, use pictures <ul><li>The obvious advice: </li></ul><ul><li>Intros should be catchy and have a good hook </li></ul><ul><li>Keep paragraphs short – use space between pars </li></ul><ul><li>Illustrate your story – where possible use original pics taken on your cellphone or digital camera </li></ul><ul><li>If you can use video – shoot your own and load it to YouTube and link back </li></ul><ul><li>Think about how you embed links and other media </li></ul><ul><li>Use the “read more” tool effectively – don’t crowd your front page with long posts </li></ul>
  30. 38. Have fun, don’t be boring <ul><li>Confidence comes with experience </li></ul><ul><li>Try new things </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone can be funny </li></ul><ul><li>Develop a “love-hate” relationship with your writing </li></ul><ul><li>Sharpen your observation skills </li></ul><ul><li>Write a 300 word opinion piece every day </li></ul><ul><li>Start a blog with friends </li></ul><ul><li>Read magazines in print and online </li></ul>