The blog is a growing media additive that is becoming more resourceful and useful all the time.
Blogs are being used as vehicles for both professional and aspiring journalists to report on, develop and sometimes even break stories they feel deserve attention.
Joshua Marshall, an American journalist pegged by The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times as the best blogging has to offer, recently won Long Island University’s prestigious George Polk Award for Legal Reporting. Marshall is the first to receive the award for a blog, while his fans think his website, www.talkingpointsmemo.com, is run more like a news site than a weblog.
“If there was no Toronto Star, there would be no Torontoist.” In turn, it becomes a cycle because daily newspapers get ideas from blogs, he adds.
Canadian conservative columnist and author Kathy Shaidle, whose work has appeared in The Catholic New Times, Our Sunday Visitor and the Toronto Star, uses her politically charged blog as the main platform for her writing. A faithful blogger since 2000 when many didn’t even know what the term meant, Shaidle admits to taking some flak over controversial posts, but says it’s ultimately helped her become better at what she does.
“Blogging has made me a very fast, well informed, reliable writer. Turning in a last- minute column about some breaking news story is pretty easy for me now,” explains Shaidle, who blogs predominately about news regarding Canadian politics and Roman Catholicism. She says it’s just a matter of hitting word counts and deadlines.
With people all over the world visiting her website, www.fivefeetoffury.com, buying her books, and offering her freelance work, Shaidle has turned her blog into her job. She posts regularly and documents stories that “defy the left-wing bias in the mainstream media.”
“Unlike most journalists these days who have degrees in nothing but journalism, bloggers are scientists, engineers, soldiers, cops, doctors, professors, lawyers, you name it,” Shaidle says. “The blogosphere is a welcome antidote from the self-selected, mono-cultural echo chamber of the average newsroom.”
Toronto Star’s Living section columnist, Antonia Zerbisias, says she pushed for years to blog for The Star. Her wish was granted in 2005, when she launched the now defunct media blog, Azerbic. In the fall of 2007, she proposed her humorous female perspective, Broadsides. Zerbisias says she enjoys the versatility that blogging has to offer.
“I have more flexibility in blog writing in that I don’t have to conform to a 600 word column format with a beginning, middle and end. I am freer to ramble, diverge and digress.”
In her blog, Zerbisias tackles topics from the political to the personal. One day, she may take on the media’s portrayal of women, while the next she is discussing her battle to lose 45 pounds.
“Blog worthy is impossible to define. Often times it’s what’s not column worthy but noteworthy nonetheless. Column worthy is usually a single idea, usually predicated on some event in the news, that can interest a wide range of readers.”
As blogs gain attention, freelance writers are also jumping on the bandwagon. Toronto-based freelancer and author Paul Lima has operated his blog, www.paullima.com, for almost a year and a half now, but insists freelancing is a business and blogging is just one of many ways to market oneself to the world.
“I tend not to blog during working hours so that I’m, you know, working on my work,” Lima admits. “Blogging I do once a week, on weekends or evenings.”
Many of Lima’s posts deal with the business of writing, subject matter that relates to topics covered in his published work.
“My blog is up there to reinforce the fact that Paul Lima is a trainer, Paul Lima knows the business of freelancing, and Paul Lima has some books that, if you like his blog, you might find interesting and even more useful,” he explains. “The blog is a catalyst for book sales. There’s no denying it. The blog is an important part of my business.”
But Lima warns that the content in a blog is as big a factor as the quality of writing. He recommends separating blogs that are for fun from those for professional purposes, and styling the blog specifically for the writing skills that need to be demonstrated.
“If your blog is full of typos and grammatical errors, if your blog is nothing but rants or poor attempts at humour, you will not generate business because editors will read that and say ‘Huh?’” Lima advises.
“Making the money comes first,” Harvey says. “The blog is just there to vent.”
“I’m an 80 per cent technology writer and 20 per cent general interest,” he says. “So blogging . . . I can’t be bothered. I’m too busy earning a living.”
Harvey says with pro-bono blogs, writers are giving away their skills for little or nothing. “So you’re caught in this trap, do you write for free or do you write for money?”