This is the second of six posts for my “Online Magazine” class. The majority of what we’ve been learning so far has been HTML-based. No offence against HTML and the geeks who love it but I don’t know enough about it yet to put together a piece. For the record, I (heart) geeks. I’d also like to stress the word “yet” from two sentences ago.
So instead, let’s do a classic compare and contrast between traditional journalistic writing and blog writing. Just from reading what I’ve written so far, examples abound. For blog writing, the “six” in the first sentence could have been written as “6”, breaking a well-known journalistic rule. But blogs have their own rules. Or better put, blogs have no rules. And a sentence such as “I (heart) geeks” probably wouldn’t fly for a reputable newspaper. It is the product of some new melange of blogging, texting, and Facebooking. And something that, as Will Smith would put it, “parents just don’t understand.”
So here are some things that I appreciate about both formats.
Legitimacy – It is comforting to know that something you are reading is true. For the most part, editors at newspapers are hawkish about making sure their articles are accurate. Facts are checked. Quotes are printed verbatim. Whether it be how many jobs Canadians lost last year or the death toll in Haiti, numbers are corroborated before they are run and can therefore be trusted. Reporters are accountable to their readers and their editors. Newspapers want to create trust between it and its readers. Therefore, accuracy becomes paramount. And when the eventual slip-up happens, corrections are quick to follow.
Heavy on facts – If you as a reader crave the bare bones of a story, then traditional news writing is right up your alley. Aside from features, editorials, and opinion pieces, news stories will be heavy on facts and light on the interpretation of those facts. In the front section, readers are informed about who wins elections and by how much. Or how the economy is doing. Or how relief efforts in Haiti are coming along. In an ideal world, the stories should be objectively written, with quotes from both sides to fill out the pieces. Similarly, the sports section is focused on results. Which teams won and by how much is the crux. In other words, newspapers create news while blogs often only comment on it, with the Huffington Post being the most notable exception.
Style – Blogs are fun and laid-back compared to old-fashioned news media. Because anybody with an internet connection can create one, the possibilities become endless. While this obviously opens up space for many bad blogs, good ones can be found all over the place. Because of their grassroots appeal, the writing often has a more casual and informal tone to it. For many, newspaper copy sounds stuffy and absent of any personality. Bloggers are given carte blanche to let their freak flag fly and the results are often refreshing. But while the content of newspapers can more or less be trusted, blogs should always be taken with a rather large grain of salt. Analysis of events need not be backed up with facts if you’re a blogger. This goes without saying but don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Please.
Community – Blogs are interactive and each one is part of a larger online community. Because there are blogs on every topic under the sun, from dog owners to gamers to field-hockey fans, bloggers can often find other bloggers with similar interests. This is not only good for the bloggers themselves, but for their audience as well. Most blogs will have a “blog-roll” installed, with a list of other blogs tackling the same subject. This allows users to quickly visit and assess different blogs on the same topic, finding the one that most suits their tastes.