Enhance Your Blog with Six Journalistic Disciplines

By Robert Israel

Nielsen, a leading global information and measurement company, labeled the content explosion a “global phenomenon” when it estimated that there were 156 million independent blog websites worldwide in 2011. That number has since increased. New blogs sprout daily and are finding homes on mainstream sites. I counted 44 blogs — 10 devoted to sports alone — on boston.com, a popular website owned by The Boston Globe.

Given advancements made to open source software that enable anyone, even the technologically challenged, to post original content online, many blogs seem haphazardly cobbled together. While the spirit of free expression is commendable, the results are often less than stellar. That’s OK if the audience is limited to an individual blogger’s friends and family only. But for those with loftier ambitions, there is a need to raise the bar by enhancing content with time-honored journalistic disciplines.

Writers will benefit by infusing editorial excellence in their work before pressing the publish button. Whether created for individual sites or targeted for established publishing enterprises, here are a few journalistic disciplines worth adopting.

1. You are not as interesting as the people that read you

Many blogs still pander to navel-gazing. Avoid using your site as a personal confessional. We learn more about writers’ wives, daughters, sons, houses, dogs, domestic squabbles, hopes, and aspirations than we do about the people we are hoping to attract to our work. Draw on your own experiences, but do so in a way that embraces the universal. Engage readers to learn more about themselves, their neighbors, and their world.

2. Cultivate and retain a log of contacts

In our age of transparency, it is imperative to practice journalistic ethics. Be ready to prove the veracity of your sources. Failure to do so may prove harmful to your health. In 1998, The Boston Globe fired metro columnists Mike Barnicle and Patricia Smith for fabricating their sources; in 2000, editorial columnist Jeff Jacoby was suspended for four months for neglecting to publicly attribute material he used in his work.

3. Alter your tone

In one post, integrate facts, statistics and source quotes into your work. In the next piece, weave back-stories and descriptions into your pieces. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper. Work at being provocative. Don’t take the easy way out. Entice readers to return to your blog each time you refresh it by daring yourself to be unpredictable. Chances are that if you are excited by what you are writing about, readers will find this enthusiasm attractive, too.

4. Connect the dots

Whether writing a piece for your own delectation or at the behest of an organization, tell the story with a beginning, middle, and end. Unite your readers to a larger vision. Introduce, summarize, and add hyperlinks. Compile and publish an addendum for further reading. Upload images, or suggest to your editor images that might best illustrate your piece.

5. Divide and conquer

If you’ve done your work successfully, you will find that you will have enough material to parse out to social media. Yes, it’s a form of self-promotion. But it’s also how the information world ticks. It expands horizons and increases readership. News-bursts or tweets posted on Twitter, for example, are like fireflies: they catch the eye of readers globally.

6. Think like an editor. Act like a publisher

Package your work. Create sidebars and summarize key points. Upload images from your iPhone. Work on longer pieces. Some readers prefer more substantive pieces for downloading and printing out at another time.

The best bloggers and columnists work tirelessly at their craft, engage and enlighten their readers without force-feeding them, and invite readers to engage in forums, webinars, or by submitting comments. Web blogging has changed the face of publishing. Yet some things remain constant: quality content has the potential to shine light on new ideas, and to ignite imaginative sparks in others.

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Robert Israel can be reached at risrael_97@yahoo.com. A version of this piece appeared in The Content Standard, an online publication of Skyword, Inc., at this link: http://www.skyword.com/contentstandard/for-writers/enhance-your-blog-strategy-with-six-journalist-disciplines/

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