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Aug 14 / King Kaufman

How to blog like a journalist: Good advice for opinion writing in any format

Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy urges you to Blog Like a Journalist in an excellent post at Medium. Acknowledging that “the revolutionary gleam has worn off” of blogging, Kennedy argues that it “remains at the center of the digital media toolbox.”

So why set up a solo blog?

The reason is that you need an online home that is controlled by you — not by Mark Zuckerberg or Arianna Huffington or some other digital mogul seeking to get rich from your content. Moreover, you need to establish an online identity. If you don’t, others will do it for you. “You can’t allow others to define who you are, or control the way you are perceived. This is especially true today for people in the public eye, but the more we do online the more it’ll be true for the rest of us, too,” writes Dan Gillmor in his book Mediactive. “To the extent that it’s possible to do so, you should control the reference point for people who want to know more about you and your ideas.”

Kennedy spells out what he says are the essential elements of a journalistic blog post:

  • Call your audience’s attention to something it doesn’t know

  • Link to the source of your information
  • Bring in other sources of information
  • Offer your own perspective and analysis so that your readers take away something of value that goes beyond the sources you’re quoting

That’s a pretty good recipe for any analytical journalistic writing, if you ask me, especially combined with something he writes further down: “Don’t try to read people’s minds”:

Another way of putting it is that you shouldn’t ascribe motives unless you’re willing to pick up the phone and do the reporting. For example, it’s fine to observe that the Boston Globe’s coverage of the Red Sox is soft (if you think that’s the case and can offer evidence) and that the Globe’s owner, John Henry, is also the principal owner of the Red Sox. But it’s out of bounds to speculate without interviewing the principals that Globe staff members are afraid of angering Henry, or that Henry must have sent out an edict of some sort.

Kennedy further advises to choose a beat that’s narrow, but not too narrow, compile a wide-ranging reading list and “maintain a conversation with the ‘former audience.’” That’s a reference to the phrase coined by journalist and author Dan Gillmor, “the people formerly known as the audience.” Formerly because the audience could be, and often is, blogging and otherwise creating content too.

The reading list of bloggers to pay attention to that Kennedy finishes with is worth the price of admission all by itself.