Web Journalism Best Practices

Separating the hobby-bloggers from the real web journalists.

As online journalism works through its adolescent years, one thing is painfully clear… There is a big difference between having a personal blog and being a web journalist. Many sites out there are run or written for by individuals who “claim” to be journalists, but their material reads more like the back page of a teenage girl’s notebook! Rumors, gossip, speculation and fluff.

Do you want to be a #blogger or a #journalist, and is there a difference? Share on X

While the field itself is still taking form, common sense would cause a person to assume that the same basic principals exist in web journalism as they do in print media. However, in the emerging world of online journalism, it’s those teenage girls who get rewarded. Slanderous and useless dribble attracts attention like a housewife to a soap opera. To quote Roy MacGregor“Why be a storyteller when a ranter will have far more traffic?”

For those interested in being taken seriously in the journalism world (and not tainting the industry for the rest of us) here are a few tips on providing quality press in a web format:

Web Journalism Best Practices:

  • Cite your References/Sources! Unless you made up your news from thin air, you must have gotten it from somewhere, and knowing where that was can either add credibility to your story or take it away. Either way, if you want to build a trust relationship with your readers (who will later become your brand ambassadors, best proponents or biggest deterrents) then you need to establish yourself as a quality writer with reputable sources. If appropriate, link back to your sources. It’s a courtesy and a sign of respect in the field.
  • Do your homework! If you are working off a news tip, then you need to do your due diligence and verify it, especially if the story is potentially harmful! Careers, marriages, even lives can be made or broken through the press. As a journalist it is your responsibility to respect the impact that each story you are publishing could potentially make on the subjects’ life and be sure you are working a base of fact, NOT speculation or rumor!
  • Know your voice and represent it. Every writer has a style, and the most memorable writers have a voice. Allow your natural personality to come through in your writing, and readers will connect with you. For an example, my good friend, Buckshot George,  is a hobby writer and has been for quite some time. His blogs rarely ever have a topic of much consequence, but they are thoroughly enjoyable to read because he writes the way he speaks and thinks. 
  • Know your audience and speak to it. If you are targeting a particular niche of readers, albeit sports, music, regional, etc, it is important that what you write is relevant to that interest group otherwise you will get tuned out.
  • Learn at least the basics of SEO for bloggers! Write your titles the way you would search for it. Anchor your links with relevant text. Optimize your pictures with alt tags. This is a topic that requires a post all it’s own. Luckily the good folks over at Moz.org have already done a great job spelling it out!

At the end of the day you have to decide whether you are a hobby blogger or a career journalist. If you decide on the latter, then you need to put in the work hours towards quality, reliable content otherwise you are doing the entire industry a huge disservice.

To see some of the handy blogging tools I keep close by when I go out in the field, check out this collection on my Kit.com profile!

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