One of the tremendous benefits of blogging, as opposed to more traditional forms of news reporting, is that provides a platform to individuals closest to subjects, environments, and positions. With an ability to document events, offer experiences, and gauge the playing field – often with first-hand knowledge – bloggers have proven equally powerful and at times, more trusting than celebrated news teams. And while fitted with the ability to engage and inform a wider demographic with an expansive reach, bloggers often bare a responsibility even greater than traditional journalists.
“I often find reading the New York Times or Wall Street Journal interesting, but usually only as a gauge of bloggers who reformulate those national or regional stories to include specific details relative to urban areas, Black women, or their local communities,” LaTeesa Somerville told Acumen. “In this way, the blogger has far more power to engage with those the news impacts the most. Often, it is the nuance of the blogger – the ability to tailor the larger story into something intimate – that gives them true credibility.”
That credibility, however, can be crushed when unnecessary shortcuts are taken by bloggers, who in the excitement of getting a new story loaded and posted, neglect to fact-check, authenticate, or thoroughly edit.
“I cannot stress how important it is for bloggers to establish and maintain the same level of journalistic integrity as other news media. In fact, it is often more important for them, because they speak with a singular voice for a larger body of work,” Acumen editor Zora Jimenez says. “There is no one examining or proofreading the work before it posts, at times, with subsequent mistakes being overlooked or dismissed. It’s not a good look, and it makes even the best writers with great insight, look amateurish.”
There are eight tips The Acumen Group / Acumen Magazine offer to bloggers routinely:
Do not cut and paste information – particularly quotes – from any new sources that cannot be verified. Too often a misquote or a quote taken out of context has been used to create entire articles that actually work against both the original meaning and the blogger. If the quote appears in a source that cites a news conference, press release or interview, find that source and view it for yourself. Once it is verified, cite the original source by using phrasing such as, “as reported in a July 3 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.” This points the readers back to the original source, provides additional context, and safeguards you, the blogger, should the information be challenged.
Know your information. As a legitimate source for news, every blogger should be well-informed and knowledgeable about the stories, photos, and information they present. Remember: you may be the first or only news agent a reader views. A great case of this can be found with a story posted nonstop through social media – including Facebook from several blogs. It appeared to be a news story about a mass grave found in Jackson, Mississippi that supposedly contained the remains of hundreds of Black men. The men were reportedly tortured by a white supremacist and their bodies heaped into the grave located in the man’s backyard. On the surface, the story appeared legitimate, though it was short on fact – the man’s name, the evidence, the police data and quotes, and even the exact location. Most telling, however, was the source of the original story – The Jackson Telegraph, a faux-newspaper, claiming a history dating back to 1898, that simply didn’t exist. Despite the story being erroneous, the source being a complete vehicle of fantasy, and the writers, non-existent, the story reached hundreds of thousands of people, and garnered almost as many comments and “shares.” Repeating information is not the same as reporting it.
Invest time to increase quality. There is nothing more troubling for newshounds and avid readers than working through stories that are rife with factual errors, misspellings, and poor grammar. The relaxed nature of blogs, at times, lends itself to using slang, text language, and a more informal voice. To each his own; however, this form of blog is best delivered as video. Honestly, few people enjoy reading symbols, emojis, and lyrics from songs in your effort to make a point. It doesn’t have to read like hard news, but it should be readable. It takes a single story to gain a supporter, and a single error to lose one. For those on a budget, entrust a friend with reading behind your finished copy. Allow them to ask questions about what you’ve written to ensure you have fully exhausted your thoughts. Even the best writers require the eye of an editor. Be prepared to rewrite and make the edits that suggested. If you are without a friend who can proof your work, print a copy of the story and read it aloud, slowly going through it word for word. While it sounds silly, it is the measure we use at Acumen when working with cub reporters who occasionally drop words when typing.
The remaining tips will be shared during the “Truth & Consequences: How to Ensure the Journalistic Integrity of Your Blogs” session at the BloggerWeek UnConference, Saturday, August 12 on the campus of Trinity University.Register today! http://bloggerweek.com/