Sunday, February 8, 2009

Making more effective use of my blogging time

Last semester Mary McGuire gave our print bootcamp class a guest lecture on multimedia journalism. I'm a total dweeb, and I took notes about all the stuff she recommended we do and spent a day over the Christmas break doing it. I made an iGoogle page, which has way too much stuff on it. I subscribed to a lot of blogs and feeds in Google Reader. I started a deli.cio.us account. I still don't Twitter because I don't really get it, but I'll probably crack soon.

I probably only read about 20% of the stuff that shows up in my Google reader, and 15% of that is new posts in my classmates' blogs. But one blog that I find myself actually clicking on and reading consistently is American journalism professor Mindy McAdams' blog Teaching Online Journalism. She's on part 2 of a 15 part series of how to become a superstar multimedia reporter.

I decided I would attempt to follow along. Step 1 was to use feed readers and subscribe to blogs. Check! Totally on the wagon. Multimedia reporting superstardom, here I come.

Step two was to start a blog. Check again! But wait. As I read more carefully, it became apparent that my blog isn't the type of blog she's talking about. While I do attempt to make posts that are relevant to broader issues faced by journalism students, it usually falls under the often sneered at "personal" category. What she recommends is making a blog that also serves as your own personal website with links to make it easy for employers to access your clippings. She was a little vague on exactly what it is I'm supposed to be blogging about, but I'm pretty sure it's not my witch doctor experience at the dentist or the love poems my friends wrote me for my birthday. Also, I fear that I often slip out of the relentlessly "professional" tone I'm supposed to take in all my online endeavors. This blog is meant more for friends, family, and anonymous internet stalkers/fans. I wouldn't put the URL on my business card, although I do make sure I keep the fact that anyone can read it in mind, especially after learning said lesson the hard way.

But I kind of feel like if I'm putting all this energy into it, I should probably be able to benefit from it professionally, too. But what else besides my life do I have enough material to blog about on the regular? 

Mindy recommended this blog by an American journalism undergrad. The topic is, basically, being an American journalism undergrad. He blogs only about his journalistic endeavors. There is no mention of his personal life. He's spent a lot of time and effort cultivating a readership. He totally could, and I'm sure he does, put a link to his blog at the end of every email, comment, and cover letter he ever writes to anyone. As Mindy says, it will probably help him get a job when he graduates.

But... no offence, dude, who will probably read this because I linked his blog... it's also, well, pretty dry and technical. I'm not particularly interested in what kind of camera equipment he's bringing to cover the special olympics, for example. He's a prime example of an undergrad who got 100% sucked in to journalism, and now eats, sleeps and breathes it. That's cool, that's his thing. But if I tried to keep a similar blog, I would abandon it in a week out of boredom and frustration.

The reason I maintain this blog is because I need an outlet for writing in a style that isn't just for school. Cynical, dry, boundary-pushing humour is kind of my thing. And contrary to all the advice I keep getting, it's served me pretty well professionally. I put an article about using fire poi to busk for beer money in my Carleton portfolio. My boss's reaction to reading my blog about my internship adventures was "It was funny. You're a good writer." The head of the CP Ottawa bureau said he liked my travel writing, then offered me another internship.

So I'm thinking this blog could use some re-vamping. Less personal, more commentary. One idea that's been bouncing around in my head for a while is to start a fake news blog. It would showcase my writing without forcing me to take things too seriously. I think I could commit to a weekly fake news post. It's not like there's not enough material out there. Ideas for this week include "90% of outrage at Michael Phelps was over misinterpretation of the term "watersports:" Study;" "Mike Duffy to write series of erotic novels based on Canadian politicians;" "Journalists out of story ideas: Articles have already been published on how the economic downturn has affected everything."

This could obviously land me in hot libel water, too, but I think there are ways to do it carefully.

Maybe I'll do some test runs in the current blog to see how they go over.

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