web analytics

WordCamp how to blog like an old school journalist

On Saturday I gave a presentation to WordCamp Auckland 2014: How to blog like an old school journalist. Here’s a link to my slides. You can open it full-screen:

How-to-write-bill-bennett

Blogging isn’t the same as old-school journalism. It’s less about recording facts and more about ideas or experiences. Blgging has influenced modern journalism — the lines between the two forms of writing are blurring. Yet there are still lessons worth learning from the old way of doing things.

Much of the material is a shortened form of posts elsewhere on this site. You might like to explore the following:

Paul Bradshaw at the Online Journalism Blog says the BBC gave online journalist three things.

He mentions the editors’ blogging and the way the BBC opened up its back-end to developers. Both matter.

His first item, the BBC’s web writing style, may prove more important in the long-term.

The organisation’s online news writers write crisp, tight news copy. They get right to the point, line up the important facts, then get out-of-the-way.

Bradshaw says the BBC learnt to write tight news stories when it ran Ceefax – a teletext information service which predates the internet. Ceefax allows little in the way of graphics and only 24 lines of 40 characters. Journalists had less than 200 words to tell their story.

Sharpening skills on Ceefax before the internet, gave the BBC a head start over other written news outlets which had become wordy thanks to larger newspapers.

Bradshaw says: “Even now it is difficult to find an online publisher who writes better for the web.”

The online team is even better at writing news headlines. Its editors compress the gist of an entire story into just five or six words. Most headlines fit inside that Ceefax page width of 40 characters.

typewriter
Companies and insecure people often insist their job titles should be spelt with upper case letters. We are talking here of narcissistic capitals. This is incorrect grammar — capitals are used at the start of proper nouns. Bus driver is not a proper noun. Nor is marketing director or chief executive officer. For that matter neither is president. A job title can be a proper noun in some cases, that’s another issue. No matter. People who insist writers spell job titles in capital letters think it makes the person look more important. Or because they think some jobs are more important than others and deserve capitals for that reason. As if ‘head of marketing’ isn’t already impressive enough. Some people insist on using capitals even when they understand it is bad grammar. As my friend Chris Bell points out they worry that using titles correctly may show the world they are unduly modest. So they deliberately show the world they are semi-illiterate instead. Give me literate any day.