7 – Writing for the Web

This chapter takes the students beyond some of the basic concepts of writing for the Web to try to view the Web in a broader contest. As we emphasized in the previous chapter, the Web is a word medium with special characteristics that make it a completely different medium from print or broadcasting (capacity, immediacy, flexibility, permanence and interactivity), and it would probably be helpful if instructors reviewed these characteristics with students as they entered this chapter.

The concept and practice of linking is also one that students must understand and be able to practice as they begin this chapter.

This chapter takes into account the accelerated world of journalism that the Web has wrought. It’s not just that journalism can be accomplished and distributed in a speedier fashion. And it’s not just that audiences are demanding more information at a faster rate.

With the Web, journalists have the tools to produce and present their information on multiple platforms and in a variety of ways. Consequently, they must begin to understand this broader mandate for their skills and services and think about their practice in ways that previous generations of journalists could not conceive of.

Writing is still an important part of the skill set of web journalists —probably the most important part. But web journalists, in addition to being extremely facile with the language will have to operate a variety of gadgets and understand the technicalities of information transfer as never before.

The need for people with this array of skills will not diminish. It will only grow.

Key terms and concepts

The following are key terms or concepts that the student should understand.

Backpack journalism — This term generally refers to the fact that journalists today have to be able to use a variety such as a digital camera, voice recorder and video recorder. They may also have to upload their information with a laptop from a remote location. All of this equipment could be carried in a backpack.

Lateral reporting — The concept of lateral reporting begins with a story that is reported or written in a traditional way; that is, with a traditional print or broadcast story structure. The reporter then considers the tools at hand and the skills he or she may possess — as well as the time and resources for the story — to see how the story may be expanded.

Web packages — A Web package is a general term for the way in which the parts of a story are presented. Web journalists must learn to think in terms of the “parts” of a story — those produced by good lateral reporting — and how to present those part as a unified who to the audience.


Links and resources

Flash journalism, professional examples. The online world is the future of journalism, and this site links to several examples of how news organizations are using the Web to tell stories in a layered, meaningful and creative way.



Teaching online journalism. Links to the best newspaper websites are provided. Visitors also have commented and provided links of their own.



Chapter notes

Communities of interest. The idea sounds great: a group of people who share an interest in a topic are able to exchange information and ideas about it over the Internet. Time and geography are overcome. Such communities of interest would be informative, respectful and self-regulating. That was what I described in Web Journalism: Practice and Promise of a New Medium several years ago. But Michael Kinsley’s experience (described in his weekly column “Cybercreeps run amok”) has had a very different experience.



Journalists and bloggers. Some bloggers are journalists. Some journalists are bloggers. By and large, however, the groups don’t overlap that much. Yet each group is doing much the same thing – disseminating information, ideas, opinions, etc. Steve Outing, a columnist for Editor and Publisher and former editor of E-Media Tidbits for Poynter.org, has written a pair of articles on the Poynter web site on what each group can learn from each other. They are titled just that:

• What Journalists Can Learn from Bloggers


• What Bloggers Can Learn from Journalists


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