Journalists' Guide To Blogging

Why Blog?
There are two big reasons to blog: it will make you a better journalist and it will help you get a job. A blog is as valuable to the writer as the reader. Writing a blog will make you better at everything related to being a good journalist. You will become a better writer, researcher, investigator, skeptic, listener, communicator — and editor. You will also become better at everything concerning the Web, if you really apply yourself to blogging. I speak from personal experience on this. Moreover, if you want to get a job in journalism after college, you need o be able to write for the Web.  According to a June poll by Zogby International, 56 percent of Americans view the Web as the best source of information. Journalists need to keep up with the times and be able to report news online.
What is a Blog?
There’s really no set definition for a blog. Blogs are whatever people want them to be.
Generally, though, most blogs feature posts in reverse chronological order, hyperlinks, a section for readers to comment and a writing style that is a bit more casual than writing seen in newspapers and academic papers.
There are many different types of blogs. Many people use blogs as personal diaries. Others use them as a form of journalism, and write to inform the public about news. Some blogs feature only pictures of cats. Perez Hilton has a very popular blog about celebrity gossip. Whatever topic you can think of, there’s probably a blog – and, perhaps, even thousands of blogs – about it.
But remember, blogs don’t always equal online journalism. So, while you will be writing for a blog, remember, you’re also a journalist. As such, your blog posts shouldn’t be mere rants or photos of your cat.
Blogs are certainly less formal than standard newspaper articles, but this doesn't mean that anything goes in a blog. Basic journalism values still apply. (If you have not taken a newswriting course, see my Journalism 101 crash course at .)
Even though this is “new media” and some things are different, don’t forget the basics: tight, succinct writing, you still have to have a strong lead, sources, facts, newsworthy info (does it pass the, “why should I care test?”). The basics of journalism are still very much part of online journalism. As LA Observed editor Kevin Roderick, formerly a journalist for LA Times, said of his blog, his goal is to be "informative and useful"
At the same time don’t just think of a blog post as a newspaper-type story that you’re posting online. There’s a reason the Internet has become the #1 source of news – ahead of traditional media, like newspapers, TV and radio. Because it allows journalists to tell stories in ways they can’t in other mediums. So, your posts should combine text with multimedia elements, such as photos, video, audio and hyperlinks.

How to Create a Blog
Many websites offer free blogging software. This website uses For step-by-step instructions for creating and using the blog platform, view the PowerPoint presentation below:

Blogging Tips     
Choose URL carefully > When you start a new blog, you will be asked by to give it a URL (e.g., This cannot be changed later, so what you pick for “myblog” matters a lot. Choose a blog name that relates to your blog topic.
Explain your blog > Only returning visitors will know what your blog is about. Don’t force new visitors to have to figure out for themselves what your blog is about. Chances are they won’t stick around to find out. Instead, make it easy for them by filling out info in the “About Me” section and by creating an introductory post. First, customize your “About” section. Put a little info about yourself and briefly describe what the blog will cover. Consider adding your photo. Next, write your first post. Use it as an opportunity to introduce yourself and your blog.  Include an e-mail address people can reach you at if they have news tips or feedback. Invite reader comments.
Write clear headlines > For each blog post, you will be prompted by to provide a headline or title. Titles are as important as content. Titles should be dead-clear. Think about a person typing search terms into Google. Your choice of keywords in the post title is of paramount importance to the findability of the post itself. Every word counts. The title also needs to be short — five or six words is an ideal length. Firstly, don't use puns, metaphors or wordplay. Use your keywords in the title instead - in may not be as exciting, but it works. Most readers will find your blog using a search engine. Secondly, keep headlines short: evidence suggests that Google pays greatest attention to the first 60 characters of any headline and many RSS feeds cut the headline off after this too.
Use short paragraphs > A 100-word paragraph looks pretty long on a Web page. Long paragraphs send a signal to the reader: This will require effort. The writer expected you to have a lot of spare time. Sit down and read awhile. Short paragraphs send a different message: “I'm easy! This won't take long at all! Read me!” Also, consider using bullets and numbered lists when possible.
Write tightly >  Omit all unnecessary words. Web journalists can’t waste words, even though they don’t really have limits.  It’s hard to read much text on a computer screen. You can’t afford to bury the lead online. Tell readers quickly what the story is about and why they should keep reading – or else they won’t. Also, use active verbs. Passive verbs bore readers. Bored readers leave. Avoid redundancy. One thing to remember is that the absence of space limitations online should not be viewed as an invitation to ramble on about things.
Write in inverted pyramid format > According to research, only 16 percent of online users read a webpage word by word. The vast majority scan read. Most people are not going to reach the end of your article so there is no harm “giving the story away” in the first paragraph. Most content management systems are also set up so that your first paragraph appears as the snippet of text underneath your headline on a Google search result. This can account for 43 per cent of a user's decision on which result to choose – making it even more important than the headline. So, use the “inverted pyramid” writing style. In this format, the most important information comes first. In each successive paragraph, the information is a little less important. For more info, see .
Provide up-to-date info > There are time constraints with traditional media. Many student newspapers, for example, are published weekly, therefore reporters have to write their stories well in advance of when they actually get published. In Web journalism, you don’t face those same time constraints. Publication is immediate. This is a big reason why the Internet is a superior medium for journalism and why carbon copies of things you may write for the newspaper won't work well. So, if you’re covering an event, blog about it ASAP. Don’t wait to publish your blog post until a week later, when it’s old news. If you’re writing about a sports team, include the most recent stats and results.
Cite credible sources > A source provides reliable, truthful information on a topic. Each blog post should contain at least two sources – at least one of which should be a primary source. A primary source offers the best and most reliable information on a topic – information that’s essential to your blog post. Often a primary source is an expert, someone recognized as a leading authority on a topic. Or a primary source may be a person with firsthand information on a topic. A primary source may also be an original document or an official report. Always find at least one primary source for each substantive blog post. But don’t just stop at one. Use as many as you need to tell the story. A secondary source offers reliable second-hand information on a topic. Reference books, newspaper articles and other media are common secondary sources. People with informed opinions on a topic can also serve as secondary sources. For example, you may quote a student’s opinion on a guest speaker. Use secondary sources to expand your information. Note: always avoid using anonymous sources.
Use hyperlinks > Hyperlinks allow the writer to provide a wealth of related information to the reader, opening gateways to source documents, related stories, multimedia enhancements and much more. A link must give the reader a reasonable expectation of what she will get when she clicks. Linked phrases such as "click here" or "Web page" do not provide helpful information, so avoid them. Integrate the text of your blog posts with relevant links. For an example, see the sample blog post later in this packet. Keep links short. A long phrase (more than about five words) can be hard to read, or just ugly, when underlined and/or in a highlight color. Finally, link to useful websites. If your blog relates to your university, you need not link to the university’s webpage every time you mention the school in a post. But, if you’re writing a blog post that mentions a professor, it may be useful to link to that professor’s webpage. Every post should contain at least a couple links, if possible. But don’t over do it with links.
Use non-textual elements > Bring your story to life. Engage with your readers and give them something they can't get in print. With images, charts, graphs, video, etc. Even different font sizes and colors. Newspaper stories limit you. They’re usually one dimensional, with just text. The Web allows you to incorporate all kinds of different ways to tell a story, not just through words. Think about those other visual, non-textual elements before you write your story, not after. Try to include at least one non-textual element in every blog post.
Respect copyright law > U.S. copyright law does apply to ALL IMAGES you see on the Web, on any Web page. So it is absolutely NOT okay to copy an image (photo or otherwise) from somewhere online and use it in your blog. It is still NOT okay if you add a link to the original and/or a photo credit line. Those do NOT constitute permission from the owner of the photo. In fact, the U.S. Copyright Office bluntly says: “Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.” The image does NOT need to have a copyright symbol or a copyright notice to enjoy this protection. All published works are automatically protected by this law — and that includes ALL images online. Some people have chosen to allow limited use of their Web-published work — that is, they have given you permission in advance. They do this by posting a Creative Commons license; on Flickr, for example, you’ll see this link below the tags on the right side of an individual photo page:

If someone has attached a Creative Commons license to an image online, then you are allowed to use it in the manner specified by the license. There are different types of Creative Commons licenses — some allow you to remix the material, for example, and some forbid it.

Key Blog Elements
Ideally, blogs should contain all of the following elements:
1. Content: Headline, lead, organization, AP Style, length, info and quotes, accuracy, frequent posts. 
2. Multimedia: Don’t just fill your posts with text. Readers want to see links and artwork (e.g. photos, charts, graphics, video clips, audio clips, etc.). 
3. Originality: How newsworthy are your posts? Did you break stories or find interesting angles? Did you do your own research, talk to expert sources and get good quotes? Or did you merely rehash press releases or a newspaper story? 
4. Variety: Variety keeps blogs interesting and readers stimulated. Try to have a mix of blog posts, such as: newsy-type posts, photo blogs, podcasts, “quick hits”, special features (e.g. a Q&A), etc. 
5. Aesthetics: Your blog should be visually appealing. Create a custom banner. Use a consistent font type and size. Use font and background colors that are reader friendly. Don’t just have all text in posts – include visuals, such as photos, art/graphics and video. 
6. Ethics and Legality: Avoid errors, especially gross errors, such as a potentially libelous statement, plagiarism, fabrication, etc. In addition, you must respect copyright laws: give credit where it’s due and only use videos and photos you have permission to use.
         Sample Blogs
        Some examples of good student blogs are below.
        1. Blog about Adelphi University women’s sports @
        2. Blog about emerging music bands in the U.S. and U.K. @

         Anatomy of a Good Blog Post
        Below is a blog post a student wrote in 2007 for a blog about college life at her university. It’s an example of a really good, substantive blog post.
        The post is newsworthy because it covers a topic that’s very relevant to the blogger’s audience – college students. The reporting is original. Although the national media had already covered this topic, the blogger found a new angle by localizing the issue to her university. It’s a short post (297 words) but manages to squeeze in a lot of useful info, including a survey the blogger conducted, quotes from an expert source and other info. Notice also: frequent paragraph breaks, the use of links, photos, and use of both primary and secondary sources. I’ve included comments on the side about important aspects of the blog post. Click on the photo to enlarge it.


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