Let me tell you a secret… Tips from a Journalist on blogging

 blogImage source: Pixabay

I recently attended a workshop led by Sue Featherstone (Journalist and Principal Lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University) on the secrets of blogging which was put on for the new student bloggers who are volunteer content managers. These students will capture news stories from across the courses within the Department of Media Arts and Communication and share them via the Department blog Capture | MAC set up by Lecturers Melvyn Ternan and Anne Doncaster.

Capture MAC logo

Sue delivered an excellent session on the techniques of blogging drawing upon her vast experience as a journalist and writer. With her permission I share these below.

Let me tell you a secret… by Sue Featherstone

Blogging is not difficult

…It’s just another way of telling someone something he or she didn’t know before

Either:
Presenting new information

OR:
Offering a new way of seeing or thinking (opinion piece)

Good journalism

  • Must be:
    • New
    • Factual
    • Accurate
    • Concise
    • Fair
  • Backed up with evidence
    • Facts and quotes

The writing…

Got to grab attention
People don’t read…
…they scan

The inverted pyramid

There are three steps to follow in this order:

What has happened >> How did it happen >> Tie it all up
inverted pyramid

Always remember the six Ws

Who? What? Where? When? How and Why?

Who are you writing your blog about?
What has happened to him/her?
Where did it happen?
When did it happen?
How did it happen?
Why did it happen?

Fact heavy…

Prince Charming has announced his engagement to a penniless kitchen maid.

Online journalists or bloggers would write…

Kensington Palace has announced that Prince Charming is to marry Cinderella Hardup, the penniless kitchen maid who became his girlfriend after she gate-crashed the annual masked ball at Leodis Palace in July.

What comes next?

  • Who is he marrying?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • How did they meet?
  • Why a penniless kitchen maid?
  • How did she become penniless?
  • And so on and so on…

Charming, first in line to the throne, will marry in Leodis next spring and live in Middlesham, where he is serving with the Royal Navy.

“We are both very happy,” the prince said.

He proposed last week during a weekend visit to Hardup Towers, Ms Hardup’s family home, giving his fiancé his grandmother’s engagement ring.

The 19-year-old beauty said joining the Royal family was daunting.

“But hopefully I’ll take it in my stride.”

She became the subject of a nationwide search after she fled the summer ball without revealing her identity.

The only clue was a glass slipper, which was found on the palace steps.

Ms Hardup, only daughter of the late Baron Hardup, was eventually found working as a skivvy in the kitchen of Hardup Towers, where she was employed by her step-mother…

Structure

Think of your blog post as a series of related chunks

  • Chunk 1: Your intro: must grab attention
    Answers who? and what?
    Who is the story about? What has happened to them?
  • Chunk 2: Action – move the story on
    What happens next? Who is doing it? Identify authority source and include a quote
    Use indirect and direct quotes
  • Chunk 3: Background
    Fill in any gaps
    Quotes?
  • Chunk 4: Further action?
    Anything else new to add?
    Quotes?
  • Chunk 5: Wrap it all up
    Link the ending (outro) back to the intro
    Indirect and direct quote to finish

Use quotes

  • To add colour, opinion, authority…
  • EVIDENCE
  • Best way to use quotes is a mix of indirect and direct quotes

Indirect quotes:  summarise what someone has said

Direct quotes:  use their EXACT words

Some basic rules

  • Use key words
  • Get to the point
  • Be precise and factual
  • Do not use colour words
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Like this.
  • Aim for two sentences per par
  • Use a quote in third or fourth par
    • And every third or fourth par afterwards
  • Double space between pars (chunks)
  • Use active rather than passive voice

Active: The postman bit the dog
NOT
Passive: The dog was bitten by the postman

  • Check punctuation and spelling
  • High content words

Rain and wind rather than foul weather 
Cars and lorries not vehicle

  • Use sub-headings and bullet points
  • Remember key words AND repeat them regularly
    (helps SEO search engine optimisation)

Headlines

  • Keep headlines direct
    And short: 6-8 words
  • OK to paraphrase intro
    Royal wedding: Prince Charming to marry Cinderella Hardup
  • Remember key words (again SEO)

And finally

Almost every sentence that contains the words ‘I’ or ‘me’ or ‘we’ or ‘you can be re-written

Don’t use personal pronouns

Tips

Thank you to Sue Featherstone for permission to share these valuable tips.

About Sue Beckingham

An Educational Developer and Senior Lecturer in Computing with a research interest in the use of social media in higher education.
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One Response to Let me tell you a secret… Tips from a Journalist on blogging

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