General Journalism / NCTJ

Why blogging isn’t a demonstration of incapable journalists.

A couple of months ago, I saw someone write on Twitter that ‘blogging shows no journalistic qualities whatsoever and if you blog, it doesn’t mean you are any more likely to be a journalist.’ or something along those lines. It annoyed me.

I started up a blog in my third year of uni when the daunting reality was soon hitting me that I was no longer going to be a uni student. Everyone was looking for jobs and applying for graduate schemes but seeing as that isn’t the route you go down for journalism, I had to do something else. Knowing that I was applying for the NCTJ, it was still necessary to boost my CV with work experience so I carried on my endless trawl for a placement, emails and letters. I did my first work experience placement when I was 15 at Dance Today and I realized that since then, I had learnt a lot of do’s and don’t’s of the industry in the six years of trying to gain experience in it. I also had become aware that so many people have different routes into journalism – an MA in it, a degree, a load of work experience placements, a friend, a promotion… etc. By setting up a blog I wanted to document both the things I was learning from the industry through placements, etc and my hopeful journey into the industry itself. I, by no means, set up the blog to demonstrate my capability of writing features or to show off my journalistic skill. I did however use it as a platform to give outward links to my experiences in journalism and to say more about me as a person and my qualifications.

But many bloggers can do that. And why isn’t blogging a good way to document it? It is a great way to show your interests and increase your online presence. A lot of people set up blogs that form into a sort of online magazine or website. They write news stories, opinion pieces, feature writing and it begins to resemble the sort of writing that you may read in a newspaper or a printed publication. Why can’t people do this? No, it isn’t a national publication and they are writing, editing and subbing themselves, but it is the closest you are going to get to doing it on your own. Why not make the effort?

Since starting at the NCTJ, our lecturers have constantly told us that if we don’t have a blog, we should. A lot of people in the class do blog, and out of those that don’t, a lot of them have set  it up. Blogs have such a wide scope and can be so different from one another, but a lot stem from an informal nature and an interest that the person has.

At the end of every email I sent, that is journalism-related, I always put my Twitter account and blog links at the bottom. Everything is going online and your ‘online influence’ is becoming more important. I have had great feedback from journalists who have seen my blog and it just inspires me that it isn’t a waste of time and there is a purpose in it. I have recently been in contact with the editor of a new Brighton Magazine that is being set up, who has asked me to do some paid freelance articles for the magazine. He found me through my blog and contacted me through Twitter. So if I didn’t have this blog, or Twitter as a means of communication – I wouldn’t have been presented with this opportunity.

Blogging is important and it’s not a waste of time. Here’s why:

Technology

To put it simply, it shows you are techno-capable, have some skills of content management systems and probably know a bit about SEO. This is likely to be vital in all jobs – not just journalism. Websites/blogs and social media are all crucial aspects of every day tasks in jobs these days, so if you already know a bit about it then it can only be positive. But, with journalism it can be very helpful, especially as online journalism is on the increase and the majority of publications are either partly or solely online now. Firstly, being a blogger you are likely to know how to publicize your posts on social media – to Twitter or Facebook which is a great skill that all publications do to increase the viewers on their articles. A probably more important point, is that you are getting used to a content management system (CMS). I chose wordpress simply because it was the one I had heard most about, but it has given me great advantages. I managed to get to grips with it myself, and learnt how to change themes and formatting etc. However, wordpress is used by many publications that I have contributed to: my university newspaper, the online magazine Yuppee  and GolfPunk, the magazine I worked for this summer. Without the knowledge of wordpress, and teaching myself through blogging, I wouldn’t have been as aware of how to use these sites when contributing to the publications. I learn more about how to write online, what ‘online headlines’ should be like, how to optimize SEO of my blog and how to make the posts more interactive simply by writing this blog. And I really think those skills will be useful for me in a future journalism career. 

Online presence

This has been touched on above, but I still think it is important. After such a massive rush of social media in the past year, online presence has become really important. Sites such as Klout measure someones online influence and demonstrate how well you express yourself online as let’s be honest, everything is going digital. Blogging is a great way to do this, if you are doing something interesting or something that people should know about, why not blog about it? It shows you’re up to date and modern in this new frenzy of social media. A great way to expand your online influence is to make sure you say a bit about yourself on your blog. On mine, I have a section which says ‘Amy Packham’ – it lists my portfolio of work, journalism experience, education, CV and references. Why hide these things away? If you’ve got experience in the field that you are blogging in then use it. We don’t work for free and pay for transport on a work placement simply to keep it behind closed doors. Everyone searches on Google, for pretty much everything. If they come across your blog then by having all the relevant information on there, it could get you somewhere. Don’t underestimate the power of the internet.

   

Passion and effort

This is a simple reason why I set up my blog. People choose to do this in their own time, without getting paid, as well as work or school or university, and the majority of them keep it up. If you love fashion and you write a blog about it, then it just accentuates that passion even more. I started this blog because I am one hundred percent committed to pursuing a career in journalism and I want to show that. It does take time to make it look professional, and keep posts updated, and search for people to interview, and tweet about it, publicize it, etc. Although I’m busy, I still make time to fit it in. That’s because I think it can only be viewed positively in situations when I am applying for work experience, or even job applications. To show this, I always make sure I put it on the end of an email I am sending, as I said. There’s no harm in doing that, and I work hard to keep it up so why shouldn’t I show that?

Creative 

There are more reasons that I can ramble on about, but seeing as this post is getting a bit long I think I will settle for ‘Creative’ being the last one. With a job in journalism, you have to be creative, and imaginative, especially with a lot of competition between publications who have the same target audience. You need to be creative in design, layout, ideas, headlines and sometimes having to make a story out of nothing. On a much much small scale, this is what I do on my blog. I started it with a very plain, diary form layout. It was a long scroll of posts, which wasn’t easily accessible if you wanted to read different topics. The theme was very plain and I went through a lot of different themes before I found my current one which I think is easier to navigate around. Over the summer (when I had a lot more time to write frequent posts), I wanted to write more blog posts whilst I was able to, but sometimes didn’t know what to write. One example was when I wrote a post about what an old man said to me at work about wanting to be a journalist (here), I was sitting at my laptop with the ‘new post’ tab up and having no idea what to write. I always want to relate my posts to journalism but don’t want them to be too narrow in topic, although that can be hard. I wrote about one conversation that I had with a man at the pub I work at and ended up getting loads of views on that one post.

In a nutshell – I can only see the positive effects of blogging in relation to the career I want to pursue. If  blogs are given time and enthusiasm, then I think they can be great. I enjoy reading other people’s blogs and I hope to think people would say the same about mine.

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