Just because you’re new media doesn’t mean you can’t learn a few lessons from old media. As we’re so fond of saying, new media is all about changing delivery channels of old media, hence I think it’s implied that the old school journalism rules have a place in our lives going forward.
First off, we need to think about what type of journalism we’re doing. In almost all cases for bloggers we’ll fall into one of the following three categories:
- News Reporting – this is the straight forward stuff you find in your newspaper. “An early morning fire on Maple Street left 6 people and a small poodle homeless.”
- Criticism – think of Siskel and Ebert, thumbs up, thumbs down, how’d you like the movie? It’s opinion, but generally the writer must have experience and credibility and must stick to the matter at hand. What flavor topping you put on your popcorn isn’t pertinent to the article.
- Opinion/Columnist – this is what most of us are doing on our blogs. We deal in opinions using a generally conversational tone. The word “I” would get you a trip to the editorial woodshed in news, but is encouraged in columnists. In fact, the dilemma of what kind of topping you had on your popcorn at the movie is as valid as perhaps any other topic.
- News – It should start with a lead that grabs you and lays out the information you have in your story. All facts should be verifiable from two sources. All quotes should be precise, and properly attributed. This is type of journalism isn’t normally seen in blogs.
- Criticism – Stick to the facts and generally avoid bringing the subject of you’re critique’s family/mother into your criticism, unless you’ve already got a remote car starter and don’t mind ducking out the occassional back door.
- Opinion – Think about the career devastating catastropies that have hit columnists like Mike Barnacle. You get a lot of leeway as a columinst/opinion writer but that doesn’t extend to making up quotes, fabricating events and interviews that never took place *(except where it’s clear that they’re made up)* and outright plagiariasm.
- if you have a vested interest in an issue, disclose it. I’ll often add a little note in italics to make it clear if I’ve worked for someone I mention in a post, etc. In the next few days I’m be mentioning a new traffic acquisition service my employer is offering. I’m writing about it because I like it, but I’ll be clearly disclosing what I’m doing.
- Be sure you cite where your quotes are coming from. I like use something like “From Foobar.com: ” then include the quotation. Get it right and no one should have a complaint.