From the newsroom
Sangeeta Cavale RK
There is a lot common to both the basics of writing an article and to blogging. Certain vital tools and tricks learnt during the course of one’s career as a journalist would certainly come in most handing in honing one’s blogging skills. There are not rigid hard and fast rules here but some important guidelines and pointers that will make your blog topical, impactful, interesting, useful and with the most hits.
If you keep in mind the basic tenets of journalism, your blogs can make a lasting impression on your reader and not be just another piece of useless information on the Net.
You need to map your blog first. Don’t write a vague piece without any focus or angle. Ask yourself who your audience is going to be, their age group and demographic profile. A journalist needs to be alert, with a keen sense of observation and with a sense of curiosity. These very qualities would help a blogger too.
Says Matthew L Brennan, writer and blogger, “Journalists are master story tellers. They implement a little-known writing secret: people want to read about people. Journalists know that readers want a little action with their morning coffee. So, when you sit down to write a “list” blog, why not give us those tips with a little action? My initial example could easily be summed up in a short sentence on a list blog:
“To defeat writer’s block: Get up and move around. When you walk away from the computer inspiration can strike.”
Sure, this might be helpful, but seeing it in action creates a stronger mental image. I guarantee your competition will likely not write about the creative inspiration stirred up while fixing a ham and cheese sandwich at 2 a.m. A personal story shows that your tip or trick works. It shows the frustrations that come with writer’s block, and the corresponding action to battle it.”
Adds, Matthew Brennan, “Journalists can teach bloggers something when it comes to enticing a reader. A good journalist is always considering how to make their story stand out. They’re regularly competing with their counterparts from different newspapers, but also with the journalists who wrote the stories that surround theirs. They crave the attention of a reader. They act on it by capitalizing on the human element.”
Zoom in, zoom out
“Journalists give us a close-up image. Think of it like a magnifying glass on somebody performing an action. Once they have a reader hooked, they pull the magnifying glass back to give us a view of the big picture. Say, for example, you own a health club. Instead of just dully writing about the three best exercises for flatter abs, maybe you begin the blog writing about your workout, or the workout of one of the trainers. If it’s working for the poster child of the physically fit, readers will be more interested when you pull the magnifying glass back to establish the bigger picture, says Brennan.
Visualise an upside down pyramid, broad at the top, narrowing towards the bottom. Imagine it filled with information with the most important facts at the broad top, supporting details in the middle and smaller bits at the bottom. This is known as inverted pyramid in the world of journalism and remains a popular way of organsing a news or feature article for more than a century. It could work well for a blog too. The opening of an article called the lead gives the reader a gist of the most urgent or vital piece of information right at the beginning. This can work wonders for a blog. If the beginning of the blog is packed with the most urgent or gripping pieces of information, the reader could be interested to read the rest of the blog as well. The lead usually contains the five Ws and one H. What, when, where, who and why. The H is how?
You can give your topic a headline so as to make it attractive and stand out. If the blog is lengthy, use sub headings to break the monotony.
Research and investigation
All good articles are well researched and facts investigated. News gathering is vital to ensure that the piece is genuine, true and authentic. Once you collect information, make notes you need to check and double check facts, names, quotations, numbers, spellings etc before incorporating them into your blog. A well written blog is one which has accurate facts and figures, genuine quotes from experts and therefore is one which has credibility. Name of people mentioned must be correct with the right spelling. Designations if any need to be right as well. A good journalist will always have a thesaurus and dictionary handy. If the blog is a descriptive one like a travel blog, the description of places, sites, animals etc should be accurate and vivid.
You need to focus on good writing for a clear and appealing article, the same is the case with a blog. Use simple and precise words, avoid jargon, slang, abusive words and long sentences. Tighten up flabby phrases and use succinct language. Complex ideas, ideas and themes can be conveyed in the most basic words if those words are chosen well and organised carefully. If the blog is on a specialised or technical subject avoid technical jargon so that even a pay person can read it and grasp what it is trying to convey.
A good writer avoids repetition of words and redundant terms as far as possible. Verbosity is a big no no in blogging too.
How to bring your point across quickly and succinctly in the few sentences of your blog is something known to journalists. Then a journalist has to be proficient in the language in which they write. Mastery over the language is an invaluable tool for bloggers as well. A blog can be descriptive, imaginative and magical with the writer’s own sense of humour thrown in. To some extent, writing feature articles too involves use of imagination, wit/humour and vivid/lucid language.
Good journalists and bloggers have ethical standards that ensure the reliability and integrity of what they have written. Inaccurate names and addresses, poorly supported facts and figures can lead to lawsuits and complaints. This does undermine the credibility of the blogger/writer.
Says writer and blogger, Michael Poh from Singapore,“Rumors can be masqueraded as facts in the sea of information on the net, and it’s your role as a journalistic blogger to verify and confirm them. One problem with bloggers is that there’s diminished accountability for what we write when we compare with true blue journalists. Nevertheless, if we make it a habit to always verify what we post as facts, our blog will soon establishes a level of credibility. Such quality will draw in the crowd and make them stay.”
Slander, bias, racism, use of vulgar and obscene language are all taboos in journalism. A good blogger keeps way from all this as well. Sensationalism might make you popular for a while but unless it is backed by some real facts, you could wind up losing readers.
Internet censorship laws are getting stricter by the day.
“Journalists realize that their articles can have a substantial impact on the people who read them. They understand that their role is to be objective and be as accurate as possible in providing the information to them. Therefore, they hold honestly and accuracy to the highest esteem and take great responsibility and pride when they write their pieces,” says Michael Poh. He adds, “Similarly, our blogs can significantly impact anyone who stumbles upon them. Do you take things out of context to skew readers to a certain personal view? Do you conceal your opinions and present them as facts? If you get sponsorship from companies to write good reviews about their products and services, will you still be truthful and objective in what you will post? These are some of the questions we have to consciously ask re, blogs may not be treated as seriously as official news sources, but remember that whatever you publish can be accessed by anyone with internet connection. This is especially so when more and more people are using social networking sites to share their links and such. You’ll never know the implication your post could potentially have. We ourselves have to ensure that we always write with the right intention. As with other great things in life, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to writing. Editing and rewriting makes for the road to perfecting your writing skills. Attaining that discipline of habitually checking your work again and again and making amendments will polish up all your final products.”
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