Posted on February 12, 2012
Learning how to blog — the right way
Even though the media world is smitten with Pinterest, the newest pretty thing, that old standard of social media — blogging — is far from dead and gone. Blogs are still used for all kinds of professional journalism, from breaking news updates to analysis and backgrounders. Blogs are also used by entrepreneurial independent journalists to promote their work and get noticed.
My friend George Daniels, a veteran TV journalist, teaches at the University of Alabama. He found that his graduate students in journalism are writing blog posts that — as I often put it to my students — not even their own grandmother would read.
So George posted five solutions for blah blogs. I suggest you go and read them.
Like George, I’ve found that the majority of journalism students (both grad and undergrad) produce very poor posts. They start out boring (lacking a punchy first sentence to grab the reader). The posts are too long (George is pushing them to learn the art of the 350-word post). They are text only (go outside and snap some photos with your own camera!). They lack references (links) to useful outside material, which can: (1) add context, so you don’t have to write that part; and (2) show people that you have the ability to find new things they have not seen yet.
Stupid links include (most) links to Wikipedia or the home page of a news site or blog. In the first case — duh, do you think people can’t find Wikipedia without your help? In the second case — a specific article can be useful, but a link to the home page is, again, something everyone can find without your link.
I made an exception (to the second case) in this post, when I linked to Pinterest in the first line. Why did I do that? Because Pinterest is relatively new, and I expect some of my readers might not have seen it yet. So I’m providing a link as a simple courtesy.
I also provided one example of how the media world is smitten with Pinterest by linking to a recent article about how The Wall Street Journal is using it to cover Fashion Week in New York. I resisted the urge to search for examples of how blogs are used for breaking news updates and analysis and backgrounders. Why? Low return for the investment of my time. Few blog readers will click your links, so it’s best to choose only links that will really reward those who click them.
Before concluding (I try to stay within 500 words per post), I’ll add that this statement from George expresses something we really need to pound into the heads of our students:
The only way I got somewhat comfortable in this space is to spend a LOT of time (personal time) here writing. Doing the minimum requirement for a class is not enough.
Too many students write blog posts just to get the assignment out of the way — the poor quality of the blog post reveals that plainly. No future employer is going to be impressed by that kind of writing.