This Online Journalism Review column offers some great advice:

Create killer content

Unfortunately, much traditional news content provides little value to anyone. With so much content available, from hundreds of TV channels, thousands of movies and millions of websites, people do not want he-said/she-said stenography that leaves them to have to sort out who’s lying or telling the truth. Nor do they want thoroughly reported straw man stories that try to gin up controversy where, actually, not enough exists to be worth readers’ valuable time.

Two of my favorite models for success online publications are Consumer Reports and Cook’s Illustrated, two firms that have built lucrative websites based on reader subscriptions, not advertising. Yes, even that can be done, but one must to create substantial value for those readers to do it.

Today’s successful reporters need to be experts on their beats, with the ability to help readers by sorting truth from spin, and the important from the trivial. This doesn’t mean an end to objectivity, just a recommitment to following the facts where they lead, instead of stopping short out of fear that someone won’t like that.

Some journalists won’t be comfortable making those calls. Others will blow them, time after time. Don’t be one of them. Read, talk, study; embrace journalism as a continuing education that enables you to become, and remain, the expert that your readers want to guide them through the mass of information they face. And don’t expect an employer to pay you to do that. You must be willing to make that investment in time.

Promote your work

Most established news organizations remain clueless about how to promote their work in the social medium of the Internet. Make it your personal responsibility to do better with your work.
Build a list of readers and sources to message whenever your publish a new piece. Facebook and other social networks provide an easy way to start with this. Just create a page and invite readers and sources to become your “friends.”
Give readers easy-to-use tools to forward and share your work. Link to other sources and politely invite other writers and sites that cover your beat to link to you, from time to time.

Brand yourself

You want to ensure that the value you’ve created with your content and your promotion of it is associated with you.* Yeah, it is selfish, but you’re trying to save a job here. Blogging gives you a stronger brand on a website than tiny bylines do.* (A blog gives you your own URL, much larger font-size byline and usually a head shot.) A strong Facebook or MySpace following amplifies your brand. Sending personal e-mail alerts to fans sustains your relationship with them. In-bound links to your name (or, if you are a solo publisher, your site’s name), creates enduring value by boosting your brand’s search engine value.

And when your name is more valuable, that makes you more valuable to employers, investors and advertisers. Reward yourself for your hard work in creating value for your readers by doing everything you can to make sure that everyone knows just who did that work.

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3 Comments

  1. Damn, I’ve been trying to avoid Facebook and MySpace.

  2. B Smart, thanks for your thoughtful post.

  3. Speaking of good journalists, I felt bad for Russ during the 11:00 newscast Saturday night. It was his last weekend newscast. He will be going to My40 weeknights at 10:00.

    Unfortunately, there were all sorts of technical glitches. Especially noticeable was a problem with the top story, the hand-off from Russ to Karen, toss back from Karen to Russ(Karen’s toss backs are ALWAYS rushed as if she punctuates her last sentence with the tossee’s name) and a couple glitches with the weather screens.

    Also, they TWICE talked about the arrest of a suspect in the murder of Lauren Burk (Univ of GA murder victim), but instead showed photos of Eve Carson (UNC murder victim) – once during the teaser before the commercial and then again during the actual story.

    The entire newscast seemed rushed, but then at the end they had about 30+ seconds to kill. Despite the glitches, Russ, always the professional thanked the production crew for their work during his tenure on the weekends.

    One of the worst parts of the newscast was a comment by Edward McDonald at the very end. Russ (probably to kill some extra time) warned everyone to watch out for black ice on the roads. Edward jokingly said something to the effect, "You’ve always gotta make it a racial issue" as if calling the ice "black ice" was a racially prejudiced comment. I realize Edward was just kidding and probably didn’t realize the mic was still open. Even so, he shouldn’t have made a comment like that; It was VERY unprofessional. The mic is OFTEN open a few seconds longer than what the talent may realize.

    Maybe they have the 3rd string crew during the weekend evenings. Regardless, there seems to be an overall lack of professionalism (excepting Russ) at WLOS, especially lately. I hope management/Sinclair is able to make some changes, but I’m not holding my breath.

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