Journalism for Blogging: 6 Things to Consider
There has been an ongoing debate about whether bloggers could be considered as journalists in this digital and information age. Modern technology has enabled anyone with easy access to internet and the most basic blogging knowledge to share with the world whatever information they wish to. The result is that there is a large inconsistency in the standards of blog posts, especially those written by bloggers with no journalistic background.
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Indeed, having the flexibility to present our arguments and opinions in whichever way we prefer is a good thing. Nevertheless, having some form of structure by consulting the fundamentals of journalism is also beneficial to both us and our readers. For one, it makes our blog seem more professional and reliable, such that readers can take our words more seriously. Another is that we can appreciate how our words will be broadcasted to a mass audience and take greater responsibility in how and what we post.
Here are a few things we can take home from journalism, after jump.
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1. The Inverted Pyramid: Headlines & Leads
The idea of an inverted pyramid is that the most interesting and important information should always be placed in the beginning of your article. This is to facilitate your readers in the manner that they are able to understand the gist of your post as soon as possible, and decide if they want to continue reading or move on. The next most interesting and important information will be presented in the next paragraph, followed by the next until the last paragraph.
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What this means is that the headline and the ‘lead’ (first sentence of the article) are the most critical lines that will draw in your readers. Write an engaging and compelling headline and lead and you’ll rouse enough curiosity for the reader to check out the rest. One way to do that is to put something provocative and stimulating to the reader, perhaps by asking a question that starts along the line of ‘Have you ever wondered….". It lets the story relates to them and makes them ponder about it.
2. Brevity & Clarity
This tip can be summed up as such: Get to the point and keep it simple. This means that you should keep your sentences short, and your paragraphs brief. Reduce the number of words by eliminating unnecessary ones. Check if your words are redundant (using too many words to express the idea) or repetitive (reproducing the same words more than required for readers to comprehend). Use simple language; minimize jargons that your target audience may not understand.
Always remember that your role as a journalistic blogger is to communicate ideas to your audience. If you put in more details than it is necessary for them to appreciate your content, attention will be diverted to your writing. This distracts them from absorbing your arguments and points effectively, and this calls for misinterpretations. I’m sure you wouldn’t want that because the purpose of you blogging is to share with them exactly what you have in mind.
3. Distinguishing Opinions from Facts
It may be too easy to blur the line between your opinions and facts when your assumptions are so deeply ingrained in your subconscious. However, presenting opinions and assumptions as facts not only damage the trust that your more knowledgeable readers have over your content, it is also morally questionable to mislead the more naive ones.
Perhaps the worst-case scenario is when you post an entire article based upon an opinion which you assumed as a fact. In other words, you are drawing conclusions on something that is inaccurate and giving your take on the topic. Unsurprisingly, your blog will lose its readership once readers question the reliability of your content.
A black spot on a white paper gets noticed ever-so-easily, so your entries should always be as truthful as possible. The best practice is to maintain a good reputation by ensuring that all your entries have their facts verified before they are even published.
4. Fact Verification
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.
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One straightforward way to verify is to find the original source of information. Don’t take what you’ve read from another blog as the truth until you’ve seen it for yourself. To better convince your readers that you’ve got your facts right, you may also identify and share the sources in your article. For one, it improves the confidence of your readers over your entries. Another is that you avoid being accused of plagiarism.
5. Editing & Re-writing
Rereading, editing and re-writing your drafts are important recipes for good written pieces. This is where you cut down the amount of words and ensure that your story flows from the beginning to the end. Check for spelling, punctuation and grammar; making such mistakes are pretty much unforgivable for journalists. Get another person to proofread and ask them for an evaluation so that you can improve on your writing.
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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.
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 honesty and accuracy to the highest esteem and take great responsibility and pride when they write their pieces.
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 ourselves to ensure that we always write with the right intention.
Sure, 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.
Author: Michael Poh
Michael is a freelance blogger and regular contributor for Hongkiat.com. He graduated from the National University of Singapore with a double major in Psychology and Communications & New Media in 2011.He believes in the power of the written word to influence and inspire. An enthusiastic video gamer, Michael is also actively engaged in various physical activities in his spare time.