A weblog is an easy and cheap thing to begin. It is a difficult and expensive thing to maintain.
But weblogs are the way that many young journalists – particularly those who cannot find steady work on the shrinking staffs of today’s news organizations – are breaking into the business.
As a young journalist, you need to understand how to do a weblog and why they are important. All of the modules in this section on advanced reporting assume that you have a weblog or that you are close to starting one.
Easy and cheap
Starting a weblog is easy and cheap.
A number of services offer their blogging software (called a content management system or CMS) to users free of charge. They have constructed this software so that after a few simple steps and a minute or two of time, anyone can have a blog.
One such service is Google’s Blogger.com. Once you select a name for your blog (that no one else on Blogger has taken) and a template for its design, you can be posting your first blog entry in just a few seconds. Another popular blogging site is WordPress.com, which has a few options that are different from Blogger.com. It, too, is free.
With these and several other systems, it takes a very small amount of time and no money to get started.
Difficult and expensive
Maintaining a weblog is difficult and expensive.
No, there aren’t any hidden charges with any of the software described above. But the cost and difficulty are in time and effort. Once you start a blog and announce to the world (or your close friends) that you have it, you will need to contribute to it on a regular basis. Otherwise, it will quickly go stale, and few people will read it.
Serious blogging requires a commitment that few people are willing to maintain. They find it to difficult or two unrewarding to write something every day or every other day.
All this is why there are lots and lots of blogs but relatively few that are well maintained, interesting and offer fresh material on a regular basis.
So, as a beginning journalist, starting and maintaining a good weblog gives you an excellent opportunity to rise above everyone else and get yourself noticed. And maybe even make some money along the way.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to start a blog:
A weblog should be about something but not about you. Weblogs began as personal, online diaries, and many of them still are that. Those with the most readership, however, deemphasize the personal stuff and concentrate on a topic, issue or subject area.
As yourself: What am I interested in enough to write about it a lot? What is your passion? Chance are, whatever it is, other people have that same passion. If you can give them good, interesting information that is well written, you are on your way to building an audience.
Act like a reporter; write like a journalist. If a weblog simply presents your opinion about something, well, so what? But if you give people information – that is, if you act like a reporter and do your own research – you are going to have something that no one else has.
And the writing needs to be good – clear, straightforward, precise. You can develop a style that you are comfortable with as long as that style doesn’t waste the time of your reader. Readers are not going to stick with you if you are self-indulgent or inefficient in your writing.
Include lots of links. Take a look at Instapundit.com, one of the most popular blogs on the web. Glenn Reynolds, the guy who created Instapundit, writes in short snippets and usually links to something else he has seen or read. He shows his thousands of readers what’s interesting. They may then go to another web site, but they will be back.
Get to be an expert on your topic. Yes, you can do that even if you’re just a high school student. Do lots and reading and research. Interview people who know a lot about your topic and then write about them and what they are doing and what they know. You, too, will begin to accumulate a lot of knowledge.
Learn to go beyond your blog. There are lots of web sites that would like to consider posting what you have written. Sometimes you can get your stuff posted simply by signing up to become a member of the site. Pursue those opportunities. The more that you spread yourself out, the more like you are to build a good audience.
Once you have an audience, you have a world of possibilities. But you have to start, and there is no time like the present.
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