Journalist Blogger

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tips for effective blogging

What better way to help revive this blog than to begin with my humble tips for how to be an effective blogger?

This is the brainchild of Darren Rowse at ProBlogger, who has asked his blog-writing readers for their best tips for effective blogging.

If you're just stopping by from ProBlogger, check out my main blog, Get on the Bus, at the

Most of the tips Darren has posted so far relate to habits, such as what time of day folks prefer to blog. Mine are a bit different. Here they are:

  • Do research. This is especially true for new bloggers, who sometimes just get out there and start throwing opinions around with little sense of what readers in their niche are interested in. Before I started Get on the Bus, I spent two months looking at other education blogs and E-mailing those bloggers and other blogging big shots for advice. Now I spend some time each week seeking out off-beat information sources so I can blog about stuff my readers haven't already read about everywhere else. This all leads me to my next point.

  • Find allies. One of the great thing about the Internet is the spirit of cooperation and the incredible willingness of those who know stuff to share with those who don't. I mean, I asked some incredibly stupid questions early on to some very accomplished blogging rock stars via E-mail. Sometimes they blew me off or I figured out my questions were dumb ones by the tone of their answers, but for the most part, other bloggers were incredibly patient and helpful, pointing me to information sources and doling out top quality advice for free. And a few of those folks remain supportive to this day, sending me occassional links, posting comments or just trading ideas with me about what works and what doesn't.

  • Get out of the house. I saw a couple of other bloggers mention this. I find many of my best posts come from my own experiences, either on my regular job as a journalist or from my daily activities as a parent, school volunteer or a regular Joe walking around my community. Keep an eye out for moments in your life that connect with your blog topic. A great unique personal experience will almost always draw more eyeballs than the most amazing take on the news of the day.

  • Play devil's advocate. Maybe this comes naturally because I like to argue or because my job as a journalist forces me to consider both sides of issues that I'm working on every day. But there's nothing I enjoy more than taking an issue where the vast majority of my readers, or just conventional wisdom, have a common take on it and arguing for the other side, such as "maybe the law is unfair to child molesters?" Even if you agree with the conventional wisdom, try making the case for the other side on your blog and see if you can get a conversation going.

  • Time for shameless butt-kissing. My last tip is to read blogs like ProBlogger for tips and ideas from other bloggers that you can try out for yourself. It's a great way to keep yourself thinking about how you can break out of your own routines and keep your blog fresh.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Blog Maverick

So when I saw a link to comments by wacky Mark Cuban, the nut who owns the appropriately-named Dallas Mavericks NBA basketball team, expounding on his blog about why the traditional media just doesn't get the Internet, I was pretty skeptical.

But then I read the post. And it was pretty interesting.

In essence, Cuban says the traditional media's problem with the Net is that we journalists view the world through our old media constraints. But out in the blogosphere, they're still making up the rules as they go along. The freedom of experimentation is part of what makes it great. Some of the old rules help us. They give us credibility and inspire confidence in our readers. But the tradeoff is MSM Net ventures, including blogs, can be less dynamic. Sticking always to all of the old methods can have a dulling effect.

I think of this whenever I see MSM organizations launching their first blogs. How often do they say the new blog posts will be "held to the same standards of stories in the newspaper." I just want to scream "but they're not stories in a newspaper! They're different! They should have they're own standards!"

On the other hand, Cuban came back with a second post praising the MSM! In this case, Cuban points out that after a Mavericks game, the one place to get rich, interesting coverage the next day is not on the blogs, but in the MSM — on sites like and especialy on the Dallas Morning News website. He especially praises the Morning News for it's intensely LOCAL angles.

And those are the advantages we in the MSM have. We can go in depth. Our stuff is compelling. And we know our local scene like nobody's business.

The trick is maintaining those advantages of our traditional approach while being flexible enough to experiment with new ideas.

Back to talking about blogging

Well, a few months ago I tried to start something here with this blog, but I got a bit distracted and then had some health problems. But all this time, something's been itching at the back of my mind to get back to blogging about journalism blogging, especially writing about MSM blogs.

Things are changing fast in the MSM world. Since I last posted there have been a couple of blogging controversies and a bunch of new, interesting blogs have come online at major MSM news sites.

It seems like we need a place out here to talk about journalism blogging specifically. So I'm going to get back at it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

More blogs blooming

Here's a story from the Washingtonian about how many new blogs are springing up at the Washington Post. The story inlcudes some good inside info on how the Post manages its bloggers (pretty hands off. That's good.)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Is there money in blogging, part 2

Still wondering if you can make money from blogging? Well listen to this story.

A friend of mine who is a MSM blogger had TWO offers this week of work for pay as a result of their blog. The first was an offer to join a new venture by contributing one blog column a week to a new website that will have content in their specialty area. The deal was they were looking for a half-dozen bloggers to join up and offereing to split the site's advertising income 50-50. In other words, the site owners get half and the six bloggers divide the other half by six. They cautioned that this wouldn't pay much at first but they hope the money will flow more freely as the site takes off.

Then the blogger got an email from an established website, also their specialty area, offering $500 for a very short freelance story to appear on the site. The only reason this big time website owner would have ever thought to hire my friend was because the site owner was familiar with, and impressed by, their blog.

So maybe you can make money blogging?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

CNN to advertise Anderson Cooper on blogs

Saw this on Romenesko. CNN is going to promote Anderson Cooper's new show by advertising on selected blogs including news, gossip and politics big guns Gawker, Defamer, Wonkette and Fishbowl.

Just thought I'd mention that apparently you can make money in blogging. Today it's the big guns. Maybe soon, it wil be widespread.

I've mentioned before that my colleague Mark Fisher has great wine blog at the Dayton Daily News. Well, we just learned last week that the local wine shop that bought ads on Mark's blog, Uncorked, in December just reupped for six months.

So even the "little guys" can get into the action.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Scary side of blogging

Over at Poynter's daily blog by Jim Romenesko, the news industry's best source for news and gossip, they have the story of a memo from the editor of the Washington Times warning staffers not to blog anywhere without the paper's permission.

It's interesting that a lot of industry news is about the scary side of blogging -- such as the fear that a staffer might write something embarrassing to the news organization.

But there is little recognition of the potential power of blogging, to provide readers even more useful information than simply the news stories they see or hear. Or that MSM bloggers are finding news ways to connect with readers, or better yet people who aren't usually our readers. Or that perhaps blogging is the best avenue to attract back Internet savvy young news consumers who are so disconnected from our print products.

Just a thought.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Blog shakes up Trader Joes

Here's another example of an overlooked great MSM blog story.

My Dayton Daily News colleague Mark Fisher began writing on his excellent wine blog in early December about inconsistent wines he found on the shelves at Trader Joe's. Well on Dec. 15, Trader Joe's pulled the wine in question off its shelves nationwide as a direct result of Mark's blogging.

I thought that was pretty good example of the impact MSM blogs can have. So the next day I sent it in to Romenesko and ... well, nothing.

But to be fair, the DDN had already made it into the Romenesko blog that day with the ape that ate our front page.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Big industry news?

I'm a huge fan, a daily visitor, to Jim Romenesko's blog at the Poynter Institute, a daily compilation of journalism news and gossip. And not too long ago, I thought I had something for him.

On Nov. 1, I sent a an email suggesting a link to my blog posting about how two mainstream media blogs in one week accomplishing a first by hosting a blog carnival. Now, it's not Deepthroat revealed or anything, but given the growth of MSM blogging I thought it was important enough to earn a mention on profession's unofficial bulletin board.

But no dice, My Romenesko suggestion didn't make the cut.

It's OK. I think a lot of us out in the MSM just don't get blogging. A milestones in MSM blogging, I suppose, doesn't sound like much. Besides, there are a lot of other big industry news going on all the time that overshadows blogs.

I mean, here are some of the headlines that were linked on Romenesko that day:

  • Packers coach hates it when phones ring at press sessions

  • Rooney recalls when newsgathering was a big deal at CBS

  • No one gets far in the British media world by being mousy
  • Wednesday, December 28, 2005

    Blogs as source documents

    The Greensboro News-Record in North Carolina is one of the few papers in the nation that really understands blogging. The paper has more than a dozen staff written blogs, including my pal and fellow eduction writer/blogger Bruce Buchanan.

    I saw on the Romenesko blog that the News-Record was getting some heat for reporting details from personal blogs in the sensational case of a soldier who was killed upon a return from Iraq in a conspiracy involving his wife, her young boyfriend and another man.

    I'm not surprised that a smart paper like the News-Record thought to look for blogs and it was an amazing break for them that nearly everyone involved in this case had one. It's interesting that some readers were uncomfortable with the newspaper using these "private thoughts" as a source for reporting.

    There is no doubt for me that the paper did the right thing. The blogs shed a lot of light on what was going on there. Nobody would complain if one of these people had spilled their guts in an interview to a News-Record reporter. Well in a way, each of them instead gave an intimate interview to the whole world through their blogs.

    Kudos to the News-Record for their good work.