Here are some guidelines for staff blogging.
What are blogs? A blog is a way for editors and reporters to engage readers in a less formal, more interactive way than they do with traditional news and feature reporting. They are short posts that are topical.
Why is blogging important? Blogs offer newspapers different formats to provide readers content and can help staffs give readers more behind-the-scenes information from their beats. Content that fills a reporter’s notebook — like a funny moment at a council meeting or an exchange between a player and his coach after the game — that doesn’t seem to have an appropriate place in print is a great example of how blogs can offer additional and useful content for newspapers. Blogs also provide newspapers an avenue to pose questions to readers in an effort to find sources or find answers to questions. They also play an important role in getting information to readers that your newspaper didn’t produce, such as links to state or national news stories that carry a local impact.
What makes a good blog? A reporter’s interest in a topic is not a good reason to write a blog. A blog is merited if the reporter understands the beat or topic better than anyone else. Blogs should be daily destinations for readers who are hungry to find information on a specific topic they know they cannot find anywhere else and from a source they recognize can provide insight that is accurate. Good blogs are written in a way that creates a relationship between the writer and the audience. The posts can be casual – a quick snapshot of a quirky scene you came across while covering a story or a recommendation on a good lunch spot. Blogs are as much about conversing as relaying information.
What kind of content should go into a blog? Blogs shouldn’t mirror exact content that’s already on your site, but they should be new content or a different format for content that’s currently posted. Blogs should reveal the personality of the writer and help put the reader in the same location that the writer was at when the blogger reported. To do this effectively, it is important to share specific details and emotion.
Is linking in a blog post important? Extremely. While the amount of linking really depends on the kind of content in the post, opportunities abound to link to businesses, organizations, Web sites and other relevant destinations. A heavy dose of linking helps your blog post get recognized by online search engines.
What should we name our blog? The topic of the blog should be clear to the reader through its name. This means that clever names for blogs sometimes don’t work if the reader has to scan through postings to understand what the blog topic is about.
Page 2 of 4 - How should we promote our blogs? It is recommended that every newspaper have a consistent position in their paper daily (like the front-page rail or on page 2) where the Web site is being teased. Blogs could be teased in this area. They also should be promoted within individual stories, such as teasing to an opinion writer’s blog in their weekly column.
What kind of headlines should we write? Since many blogs are — or will be — teased on the homepage of your Web site, it is important to write specific headlines on your topic. The headline writer should assume that the reader doesn’t know the topic that the blogger writes about on a regular basis. For example, if you write a political blog, do not write a headline that says “Trouble around the corner.” While inviting, the reader doesn’t understand the context of the headline if it is teased on the homepage under a blogs section.
Can a reporter with a blog engage in opinion and commentary? No. But that’s not to say that blogs cannot be written with more creative license than a regular news story. For example, you could report in a news story about a testy exchange between two city councilors, and in a blog post note that after the meeting you observed that one councilor packed up his papers and brushed by his sparring partner without saying a word. You could use language in this post that might capture more of the exchange than you would be able to in a standard news story.
What are some possible topics for blogs? As stated earlier, blog topics should not be driven by a hobby but because an individual is an expert in a particular area. That does not mean that a hobby topic cannot be a blog, but the writer should be the go-to source on the topic in your community, and it should be locally relevant. This means you should not do a blog on fishing if you’re not discussing the local scene. Here are topics to consider: news, crime, politics, sports, entertainment, photography and specific niches. Experts in a niche of any of these areas, such as a reporter who covers youth sports or local courts, would make for potential bloggers. A small newsroom (a staff of 10 or fewer) could create a city blog where a variety of staff members contribute to the blog with insights from their specific beats.
How many blogs should your newsroom produce?
• 20 staff members and larger: 10 staff blogs
• Six to 19 staff members: Two to five staff blogs
• One to five staff members: at minimum, one blog
How often should a blogger post content? Every blog, no matter newspaper size, should be updated with a new post every day. A post does not always have to be a 300-word, well-thought-out piece. A link to an article that is locally relevant from other sources is fine on some days.
Page 3 of 4 - How do we go about getting a blog launched on our site? If you currently have a blog platform on your site, add to your current lineup. However, if you do not have a blog and are ready to launch one or numerous blogs, submit a support ticket (gatehouse.zendesk.com) and the following information below in our new blog request form. If you do not submit the information, it will be requested when your ticket is received.
What will our blogs look like? We do not yet have a blog platform within Zope, so all blogs are published in Drupal. See this Web page for an example of how your blogs would look: blogs.mpnnow.com. This will change when we have a blog platform within Zope.
New blog request:
• Name of blog:
• Focus of blog:
• Why is the blog good for your community?
• Staff Blogs: How a reporter can be a blogger, too
Blogging for reporters doesn’t mean hours of extra work each week. From a single event, a reporter should decide what best fits specific platforms to make the work of producing consistent blogs a doable — and time-efficient — endeavor.
The story | A reporter covers the opening of a new cancer center wing at a local hospital. The reporter gets the general information she normally would during her reporting: She talks to city officials, hospital workers and patients who normally attend this kind of function. She gets costs for the wing, how it was funded and what services it will provide, along with general timeline information about the project. During the reporting, the mayor shares a personal story about how cancer has impacted nearly every member of his immediate family.
When the reporter gets back to the newsroom:
1. Write and post a News Now brief on the nuts and bolts of the story, perhaps with a photo gallery from the event.
2. Write and post a blog entry titled “Cancer wing touches mayor’s life.” The blog entry notes the best of what the mayor said at the event, a quote-of-notes package from him with links to previous coverage.
3. Writes for the next day’s paper an alternative story format called “5 things you didn’t know about the cancer center.” This format works well because, in print, this is a traditional process and record story on the opening, and the facts in the five things provide the reader information such as services, hours and other operational details. One of the things you didn’t know is a quote or two from the mayor on how cancer impacted his life.
Page 4 of 4 - Recommendations | It’s important through planning tools to consider blogging topics before a reporter attends the event, but being flexible is key as well. The reporter may find a gem, like the mayor’s personal story, which made for a nice blog. The five or seven quotes of note that are featured in the reporter’s blog wouldn’t have all fit into the print story, making it valuable and unique online content.