Jamie Kelly, Writing Hurts blogger for The Gazette, answered my questions about blogging an email. I wrote earlier about Jamie’s social media guide role in a Gazette column. This is one of several posts related to Bloggers share lots of advice.
How is blogging different from writing stories and how is it similar?
It’s different in one important way: your product is visible from the very beginning. That’s scary, but it’s also liberating. No one expects it to be perfect, just as correct as it can be given what you have. The ability to update makes blogging very powerful. But the same rules apply: you need to write what you know to be true, avoid speculation and be fair.
Blogging tends to be more conversational than news writing. What are some tips on developing the conversational style? And do you have any cautions about topics or beats where that may not be appropriate (or where it’s absolutely appropriate, though journalistic reflexes might say otherwise)?
Think of blogging as a conversation with both your audience and your sources. Write the same way you would talk during an interview, or how you’d summarize your reporting to an editor.
Do you have some tips to share on engaging the community and crowdsourcing stories through a blog?
The beautiful thing about blogging is its ability to reach your audience directly. The first step is to make sure you’re asking questions of readers. This needs to be a two-way conversation. Another thing you can do is to have a poll in your post. It’s not scientific, but it can give you a sense of what people think. Read your comments and respond to them. If there’s a particularly strong one, make a post highlighting it. (See what Mike Johnston does. He’ll pull out a good comment and feature it at the end of a post.
What, if any, ethical issues should bloggers address?
You’re still a journalist. That means being fair at all times, not taking sides and making sure that when you interview people who have a stake in an issue, you make it clear what that stake is.
What other advice do you have for bloggers who are more experienced with reporting than with blogging?
The difference isn’t as bad as it seems at first. For years, we hid the process from public view. But now, the public can see how we report stories. That might feel uncomfortable at first, but in the end, it’s going to make for better stories.
What are some good online links for blogging journalists?
The thing that continues to surprise me about blogging is exactly how unpredictable it is. When I posted this article, it got a whole lot of buzz. It was topical, and people were discussing it.
But since then, traffic to that post has died, and instead, people are linking to this one. It’s gotten 10 times the views of the previous post and nearly all of that is from links to other blogs.
So two lessons here: 1) you can never really know which posts will resonate and 2) links to your content are the best source of traffic. Google searches are great, but they don’t often lead to regular traffic. If someone links to your post, you have a chance to wow new readers.