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.