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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

My move to Journal Register Co. and Digital First Media and my work for my new companies dominated my writing this year on this blog. I’ve reviewed my blogging each of the past two years, so I’ll do it again in a post that clearly is self-indulgent. Still, I think it’s good to look back on a year’s work, and as long as I’m doing that, I might as well blog it.

The most notable posts of the year were a series I wrote the week before Christmas, explaining aspects of Digital First journalism. The piece on the workflow of a Digital First journalist became my second most-read blog post ever in just a week. While it’s more than 3,000 views behind my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection, I’m sure it will eventually become my most-read blog post. It took the C3 blueprint nine months to reach 5,000 views. The Digital First workflow topped that in just over a week. Three other posts in the series topped 1,000 views quickly.

My work for JRC and DFM contributed to the blog in lots of other ways. I explained what community engagement means. More than a dozen blog posts offer tips, links and slides for workshops I did in visits to Digital First newsrooms. I also blogged frequently about how Digital First Media colleagues are using social media and engaging the community: (more…)

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I’ll be leading a daylong workshop today for the CBC music staff on writing for the Web. Some topics we’ll cover:

Here are my slides for the workshop:

We’ll start with this song that brings music and journalism together:

I used the Detroit Free Press’ outstanding Respect package as an illustration of pulling multiple digital storytelling techniques together.

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Reporters and editors everywhere battle and complain over length of stories. Even online, where newspaper space or tight broadcast schedules aren’t an issue, you need to write tightly to hold the reader’s attention and keep the story moving. You need to hone your ability to organize information and write tight stories that make every word count.

Plan to write tight

Coordinate with your editor. Discuss story ideas in some detail with your editor before you start gathering information. Make sure you agree on the probable scope of the story. This can save time wasted gathering information you don’t need. As you are gathering information and writing the story, you will need at some point to agree on a probable length if you are writing for print. If you delay this discussion too long, you may waste more time and effort and invite more frustration.

Consider the reader. A failing of some long stories is that they are written for sources, rather than for readers. Consider why you are including information in a story. To impress sources with your knowledge? To keep a source happy? Or to inform the reader? A tougher challenge is to decide whether you are writing for the reader with strong interest in the issue or for the reader with average interest. For most stories, you should write primarily for the average reader who would read the story. (more…)

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The “5 W’s” of journalism are the building materials for web writing. Most journalists learned these fundamentals our first day in a newsroom or a journalism classroom. But we occasionally need reminding and refreshing.

These questions can guide your reporting as you interview, observe and research to gather the facts for your story. They can guide your writing, whether you are live-tweeting an event, writing a brief summary or a video script or crafting a long narrative. They can raise ethical issues to consider. They help you find links to add context or visual content to illustrate. They guide you to possible visual content for a post. I will address each of these possibilities for each of the fundamental questions:

Who?

Reporting. Accuracy and verification are the heart of good writing. Make sure you get the names spelled right. Ask a person to spell his or her name for you (even if it’s a common name), then spell it back and/or show what you wrote in the notebook. Get it in writing: from a business card, web bio or other source. If the written version doesn’t match what you have in your notes, resolve the conflict directly with the source. Who is more than a person’s name. Your research should uncover a person’s title and role in your story, the relationships, experience, perspective and motivation. (more…)

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Readers give you just a few seconds to capture their interest before their eye moves on to the next story, photo or link. On any platform, in any format, you need a crisp lead and a strong focus to keep the reader going.

Keep a sharp focus

To write a strong lead, you need to identify and understand the focus of your story. Using any or all of these techniques before you even start writing can help strengthen your story, especially the critical top few paragraphs:

Ask what the story is about. As you gather information and as you write, ask yourself frequently why a reader would want to read it. Novelist Bruce DeSilva, formerly of the Associated Press, suggests asking these questions as you try to find the story’s focus: Why do you care about this? Why did you want to write this story in the first place? What touches you emotionally? Who is benefiting/being harmed, making money/losing money? How are readers being affected by what you have found? What is new here? When you know what the story is about, you know what you need to tell the reader at the top of the story. (more…)

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I want to crowdsource much of the content for my workshop this week, The Blogger’s Voice.

I want to help journalists who are beginning bloggers understand how blogging is different from writing stories or a column. I have lots of thoughts on this, but I want to share more than my thoughts. So I welcome advice from experienced bloggers on all these questions (you will be credited by name):

  • How is blogging different from writing stories and how is it similar?
  • What is good advice for reporters (and their editors) who start blogging about whether/when opinion is acceptable?
  • 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)?
  • Do you have some tips to share on engaging the community and crowdsourcing stories through a blog?
  • What, if any, ethical issues should bloggers address?  
  • What other advice do you have for bloggers who are more experienced with reporting than with blogging?
  • What are some good online links for blogging journalists?

Thanks in advance for your help. I will be posting the handout for the blog later this week.

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