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Even as newspapers shrink and succumb to technology, alongside paperbacks and compact discs, there is a place for quality journalism.
A journalist has the responsibility to withold opinion and expose and convey truth in every story. Fact should be the basis for measuring a quality story.
While a columnist or an editorial writer can opine or suppose, a journalist should work diligently to expose all sides of a story and refrain from telling the reader which one is "right."
What makes a good story? Simple. Comprehensive, accurate reporting, and a solid structure.
I freelance for a local weekly in the South Bay of LA where I cover local government. While some think city council meetings are drab, I find their banter and their give and take and fascinating. To tell the story and convey the mood, I build the skeleton with my words and fill it in with quotes, the real muscle. By the end, if I have done my job, it should read more like an exhilarating tennis match than corporate minutes.
I also write occasionally for an online news source called Technorati. I do not conduct interviews, and very rarely include quotes. (Hey - it's not a paying gig!) It is more of an exercise in aggregating information from press releases and surveys and news sources. I always try to approach it from an angle that other journalists may not have taken, ask myself what would make the story particularly interesting amid 5000 others floating around the internet.
Online journalism is short and to the point, and provides a good challenge to find ways to stand out. Fair warning to those who depend exclusively on online news sources for information: I have found that online stories can spread like wildfire without truth, so I would challenge any online journalist or reader to spend the extra time to verify the source before passing it along.
If you want to try it, be prepared for minimal compensation, at least in the beginning, and try to make yourself stand out by acting as a voice of truth. Online journalists, unlike newspaper journalists, are often encouraged to voice an opinion, because it draws readership and therefore advertising dollars.
For magazines, news is rarely new, so a journalist needs to find various sources to present a brand new angle on a topic, perhaps drawing multiple concepts together. A magazine writer gets more words to play with, and depending on the topic may be able to insert opinion presented as thesis.
Whatever your preferred method of reading or writing the news, journalism is most certainly not dead, and anyone who knows how to write a concise story has the chance to report the news.
writercize: Set aside your creative writing chops, and tackle the nonfiction world. Write a brief news item about a current event.
This may be local news, celebrity news, pop culture, political, international, business, product, whatever interests you. Just be sure to present it in a straight-forward, non-biased way, and link back to your source if applicable.
Leave your news item as a comment and be sure to let me know the link to your blog so I can come visit you too!
Click "read more" to read an online news piece about the Benefits of Blogging Challenges (with a special interview with founder Arlee Bird) that was published on Technorati online news in February.
---Note that I did opine in the article by encouraging people to participate in blogging challenges, which would not be a statement to make as a journalist in a newspaper.---writercizer sample response:
(Originally published on Technorati at: http://technorati.com/social-media/article/benefits-of-blogging-challenges/)
The Benefits of Blogging Challenges
by Alana Garrigues
In the years since its inception, the blogosphere has managed to transition from its unfortunate reputation of amateur, grammatically-challenged, narcissistic diary-keeping to a place where writers, chefs, business owners, agents, illustrators, photographers, videographers and creative minds of every type rush to share their expertise. Blogs are chock full of knowledge, personal insight and the camaraderie of built-in support systems, and there are plenty of published professionals to go around.
There are four key components that lead to blogging success:
- quality content
- frequent updates
- blog exposure
- direct interaction with readers
If any one of these components is missing, the blogger is unlikely to maintain the connections and momentum necessary to garner success. While the onus of quality lies entirely on the blogger, the other three components can easily be satisfied by participation in blog challenges.
What is a blog challenge?
There are three primary types of blog challenges that I see:
One Day Blog Hops - a group of bloggers sign up on a "linky list" and agree to post about a particular topic on a designated day and visit fellow blog hoppers.
- Pro: quick, minimally invasive, topic inspires post
- Con: may not develop long-lasting relationships
Hosted Competitions - the host posts a competition on any topic, such as flash fiction or poetry, and awards winner(s) a blog badge or prize, frequent promotions via Twitter
- Pro: Twitter exposure, potential prize-winning, traffic increase to host's page, good writing practice
- Con: can be time-consuming for host to maintain (and expensive if paid prizes), does not significantly increase traffic to competitors' blogs
- Examples: #5MinuteFiction, #MenageMonday, #WeekendWritercize
Sustained Challenges (generally lasting a month) - challenges that encourage a group of bloggers to post a certain number of times in a month, or write a certain number of words.
- Pro: long-lasting relationships, large pool of participants, increased blog content, may improve quality of writing due to regular practice, themed challenges offer inspiration
- Con: large time commitment, participants may lose support and momentum midway without a theme (i.e. 30 posts in 30 days may not be enough to inspire content)
- Examples: A to Z Challenge, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month every November), NaNoRevMo (National Novel Revision Month)