Something’s been bothering me for a while. It’s been wriggling around in my head as I go through the “what is blogging” spiel for the umpteenth time to one of our journalists. It irritates me late at night, when I should be thinking about more important things like phat lewts in Karazhan or Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack. What should journalists be bringing to blogging that’s different to the mainstream blogger? What should expect to see from a journalist blogger’s blog?
I’ve been working on this a little. I’ve boiled it down to four factors that define journalism for me, and I’ll explore each of the four in later posts. These four are my ideas about the core concepts behind journalism, when you step away from the format-specific monikers of “news”, “features” or “opinion”. Those headings have less and less meaning in the online world, because they’re often defined by the amount of physical page space they occupy and their position in a publication. These aren’t issues on a blog, so we have to think about the underlying principles in a different way.
And here, in summary, are my answers for your delectation and delight:
- **Inform **– find out things that people don’t want your readers to know – or that they don’t know they want to know. This is good, fundamental investigative and agenda-setting journalism. Find out original stuff, and tell your readers about it. Don’t just recycle press releases – or other people’s blog posts.
- **Explain **– Give context and wider information about a story. Got a product story? Give context as to competing products or the need (or lack of it) for this one. Got a political story? Give the historic context and the likely motivations at a deeper level for it.
- **Connect **– This is the new one. Or the one that is changed out of all recognition. After all, journalists have always been connectors. We’ve talked to Group A, distilled the best and then published it for the edification of Group B. Now, we can cut some of that process out. Group A is already publishing to the web, on their own blogs. Know your readers, know what they’re interested in. Point them to the best writing on the topic.
- **Entertain – C’mon. You write for a living. You should be able to write well, not prosaically.
So, when you post anything to your website, ask yourself – which of these four does the post fulfil. If it manages all four, fantastic. If it manages two, great. One is OK, but don’t do that too much… And if, from your reader’s perspective, it does none of the above, why are you bothering?
(This would have been my post for the Carnival of Journalism, but Real Life got in the way, alas) It appears that kind Adrian has, in the way of long-suffering editors everywhere, allowed me to scrape into the Carnival, despite missing the deadline. “God Bless You, Guv,” says I, tugging my forelock, ever so ‘umbly.