Here's a crash course in journalism that will upgrade your blogging skills.
Having never attended journalism school, I constantly find myself trying to improve my writing skills and emulate the best in the business. In my search for educational resources, I ran across a brief, yet complete guide, The Reuters Handbook of Journalism. Use this guide to upgrade the journalistic integrity of your organization's blog or news releases.
The Handbook is divided into six sections. Here are a few highlights from each section:
This section introduces the foundation on which journalistic integrity, standards, and values are built. You may be tempted to skip this section, but the content here can improve the overall quality of your blog articles.
Print out this list and keep it nearby when you write. The items on this list may seem obvious, but I see them violated all the time in blog posts. The tenth absolute--never offer or accept bribes (such as free products or money for article placements)--is especially relevant to SEO and blogging.
One Seemingly Innocent Word Can Suggest Bias
Even your choice of words can imply bias. Reuters warns against using words like "claimed" and phrases like "according to," which can suggest doubt or taking sides. Use caution with verbs as well, like "rebut" or "refute," which Reuters states can "imply an editorial judgment."
This section is essential for bloggers who didn't attend journalism school or take intensive writing courses in college. You'll find a concentrated guide on story structure, length, headlines, slugs, keywords and many other tricks of the trade.
Growing the Story
This sub-section is a list of valuable bullet points that will help any novice cultivate a coherent and engaging story. There are also great suggestions on how to bulletproof your story and maintain fairness and accuracy.
The 10 Keywords Approach
This is not about SEO; instead, this approach is a process by which you can organize thoughts, concepts, and facts about a story. The guide suggests making a list of 10 key words that are crucial to telling the story effectively and engagingly. Make sure to include most or all of these words in the first few sentences of your article.
Tricks of the Trade
Many of these suggestions are the unspoken rules that give articles a professional feel. Using insider secrets such as signposts, building blocks, crossheads and sequential writing will raise the bar of your blog articles overnight.
To the novice writer or blogger, style guides are great for maintaining consistency and not sounding like an untrained beginner. This section covers word usage, spelling, and context from A to Z. This page is an indispensable bookmark that I keep handy when writing my articles. Since discovering it, I haven't written an article without referring to it at least once.
Don't know the difference between a "field" and a "pitch?" Sports fans will ridicule ignorant or uninformed reporting. Use this alphabetized guide on sports style, along with special sections for cricket, golf, motor racing, soccer, tennis, and winter sports. Common terms, rules, and context are provided for each of these segments. Consult this guide before covering any sporting event.
Most of the information here is primarily relevant to large news organizations; however, I've been able to take away some helpful advice from the section on dealing with complaints. The guide on first responses will help your organization build a process to deal with complaints quickly and ethically. There is also an official Reuters.com response attached at the bottom, which can be modified for your specific organization.
There are links to the Reuters Financial Glossary and a link to the Wikipedia markup cheat sheet. Like the sports guide, the Financial Glossary provides definitions, use, and context information for commonly used terms that may not be familiar to you.
Most novice bloggers will find the Guide of Operations the most helpful in the short term; but the handbook should be read in its entirety for a quick crash course in journalism. With the Reuters Handbook on Journalism, you can publish interesting, informative, and professional content with high journalistic integrity.
AARON ADERS: Aaron is co-founder of DigitalRelevance™, a national leader in earned media and inbound marketing services. Building on more than a decade of Internet marketing experience, Aaron steers the strategic vision behind DigitalRelevance market research and collateral. @drelevance