How important is it for new journalism graduates to have their own blog?

This isn’t my question, it’s Rian Merrill’s – he posted it on LinkedIn, but the thread is now closed. I’d like to re-open it.

Here’s his question:

I recently had a discussion with a few people who had just graduated from journalism school about the importance of blogging. Most of them acknowledged being told to blog by professors, however, none of them actually blogged. This is contrary to my personal view of things, and was wondering what other professionals in the industry thought.

It’s an experience I share: students blog while they’re told to, but the majority stop once the teaching ends. It’s like someone saying they want to be a musician, but refusing to play any gigs until they sign a record deal.
Thanks to Kerim Satirli for the link 

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47 thoughts on “How important is it for new journalism graduates to have their own blog?

  1. Carlos

    I think the metaphor is greatly accurate. From what I heard and seen in blogs of journalism students in Spain, that’s what usually happens here: some will stick to their blog, updating and upgrading, while most of them will stop as soon as the teaching ends. It’s kinda sad to see all those blogs abandoned and forgotten… Almost like unfulfilled opportunities.

    Reply
  2. JohnofScribbleSheet

    I currently have a number of friends who are doing journalism degrees but they know very little about the online space at all. Sure they can mix audio and deal with press releases but blogging seems foreign to them. I think Online Journalism could become a degree in itself rather than a tiny module on the side.

    Reply
  3. Neil McIntosh

    I tell all the journalism students I meet this: blogs are the minimum. There’s no excuse for a student journalist who wants to work online not to have one. The only exception (and even then…) might be if they were heavily involved in student media, or were working for a publication part-time, or were doing some kind of other digital work which trumped having a mere blog. And no, MySpace/Bebo/Facebook pages don’t count 🙂

    Moreover, the quality of the blog really matters, because it lets me see how good someone is unedited and entirely self-motivated. If I were to see a decent pitch with a blog address on it, I’d look, and the quality and frequency could count heavily in the author’s favour. And if a brilliant graduate didn’t have a blog, but still made interview, I’d be asking, politely, why not…

    Reply
  4. Alexandre Gamela

    From a post @ http://writemindset.com/freelancing/70/what-it-takes-to-be-a-freelance.html :

    “If you have no writing experience on your CV, get a blog. Or contribute to other blogs, If you have your own, treat it as a professional exercise. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a potential client to see. Treat it as a portfolio. A showcase.

    Send articles to magazines. Write articles for your local newspaper and offer these for free if necessary. At least it will start to give something in your portfolio.”

    If you have no journalism experience, create one with your blog. That’s what i’m trying to do with mine. And the music metaphor is perfect.

    Reply
  5. Mindy McAdams

    I agree that journalism students should keep a professional blog. To those who can’t manage to continue blogging after the class ends, I would ask, “If you can’t write every day, how do you expect to be a journalist?”

    Then try this on for size: One of our students has an internship at a prestigious newspaper. The internship supervisor told the student that company policy forbids the student to blog during the internship. Then, under further questioning, the supervisor said the blog itself could continue, but the student is forbidden to write anything about the newspaper, the work, or the internship in the blog.

    Well, the blog is about the student’s journalism work, so the prohibition means there will be nothing the student can blog about for the duration of the internship.

    Reply
  6. Meranda

    Once upon a time (OK, about a year ago) I wanted to be an online journalist when I graduated college. I had all the experience. The Webmaster gigs and the packages I’d produced, plus the right “skills” on my resume. But, I didn’t have an online portfolio. I’d never been in a class that asked me to, and quite honestly, during college, I’d be so busy stacking my resume with student media and internship experience that I didn’t have the time.

    That was, until it came up at a job fair about a month before graduation.

    One of the recruiting editors and I hit it off. We probably spent an hour talking, which is insane at a big job fair. Most of it was about my Web experience and their Web site. Then, she asked me why, given my interest and skills, was I applying on paper. Why was it carbon-based? Good question. The next week, I set up my blog and my portfolio with it. I am confident, beyond a doubt, that it was this site that helped me land interviews and a job. (In fact, the paper I currently work for never got my clips in print.)

    So do journalism graduates need a blog? I say yes. If not a blog, then at least something that shows off their work in a professional, organized and easily updated way. I saw a j-school student’s tumblelog just the other day that serves this purpose without being a traditional blog.

    These things are so easy to create there is just no excuse not to take a weekend and get it together. If you’re not willing to, somewhere another j-school graduate who obviously wants that job more than you is willing to take the time. And he or she is going to get that job.

    Reply
  7. Richard Brennan

    I’m a Westminster University PGDip Journalism student, and it’s been made clear that we should be blogging every day.

    I would reckon that most of our class will carry on blogging (including me) as we’ve chosen subjects we enjoy, for example sport or Web 2.0 news.

    I’m keen to get involved in online journalism after I complete my degree, and feel that my time blogging has helped me understand how to write for the web and multimedia newsrooms.

    Reply
  8. Nigel Barlow

    Totally agree,

    Unfortunately few students to my knowledge do,prefering the mediums of facebook,bebo etc

    Blogging is a must for any journalism student,a cheap way to get yourself published,noticed and a chance to experiment with styles,topics etc.

    Strangely though,I don’t recall anyone (as a student journalist year 2) telling me to blog

    Reply
  9. Gabriela

    True. I was told to start a blog almost at the end of my journalism course. If I waited for someone to tell me when to start, I would have missed the fun of blogging. But, sadly, most of the students don’t keep posting after the course is over. The reality shows that they prefer using social networks (in our case, Orkut) rather than blogging.

    Reply
  10. amysampleward

    I was fortunate to study with a journalist (professor) that was at the forefront of the media world (including bringing Britannica online) so the value of online journalism, specifically the community building aspects of quality reporting, were more than just a side note. I think that blogging is a terrific way for journalism graduates to maintain their writing, create and feel comfortable in an online community or niche and develop their personal credibility outside a specific news organization. Letters to the editor in response to an article you wrote can be touching, exhilarating, and even provoking. But the instant gratification of online journalism with comments, emails, trackbacks, etc. can be, and is, much more engaging and challenging. Get blogging!

    Reply
  11. Ed Walker

    It was made clear to me in the final year of my degree that blogging was important. I don’t have my own blog, yet, instead I blog on our student newspaper’s editor’s blog – as I’m the editor I need to lead the way. But I’d say that most journalism students and graduates aren’t bothered about blogging or don’t realise its potential because they haven’t experienced it – other than in a classroom environment where they are ordered to blog.

    There’s a world of difference between doing something because you want to do it, and doing it as part of an assignment. How many of us remember what was in our GCSE exams?

    Reply
  12. Alfred Hermida

    As part of the multiplatform journalism course at UBC, the students have a blogging assignment. But it is true that most stop once the assignment is over and graded. Only a handful keep the blogs going, even though they are asked if they have any blogging experience when they go for job interviews.

    One journalism student got a summer internship at CBC based on his blogging skills – to run a programme blog. I believe that blogging should form part of the journalism curriculum and I strongly encourage all aspiring journalists to blog.

    Reply
  13. Pingback:   links for 2008-01-11 by andydickinson.net

  14. Brian Cubbison

    This raises a curious question, one I wouldn’t take too far yet, but … what if in this texting, streaming, Facebook world, the whole blogging thing will soon turn out to be as outdated as broadsheet newsprint? That is, if college students would rather text and Facebook than blog, will they read blogs, and if not, where will the audience come from?

    Reply
  15. Craig McGinty

    I wonder if an hour or two on how to effectively implement Google Adsense, Amazon affiliates and other advertising would focus a few minds?

    Instead of just “blogging” seeing it as a publishing venture would most probably add something vital and different to anyone’s CV, and help towards paying off student loans!

    Reply
  16. wendylbolm

    I’m happy that other students don’t blog or quit blogging when their class ends. I write regularly for four blogs: a professional blog on WordPress, a sponsored content blog on Blogspot, a blog that is part of 451 Press, and I contribute to a local blog for my city. I also like that people in my generation ignore grammar, spelling, and style. And, the fact most students (at least at my Jschool) have no web skills like Flash and video editing makes me downright giddy. When they’re struggling to find their first job (or, more likely, internship) I’ll have an advantage.

    Reply
  17. nmcintosh

    Brian – an interesting point. The reason I said social networking doesn’t count is because it’s not particularly close to what journalism students will be doing professionally should they get a job. Now, if a journalism student produced an interesting Facebook app, or a widget, instead of a blog… well, they’d be in demand. But writing on someone’s wall, poking some folk or uploading a profile pic isn’t really enough. And if a journalism student finds that stuff more fun that writing/recording their own blog, in whatever form, they should probably rethink their career…

    Reply
  18. Steve Welker

    John Robinson, editor of the Greensboro News-Record, has picked up this topic on his blog, http://blog.news-record.com/staff/jrblog/2008/01/should_journali.shtml.

    Anyone looking for a job in the N-R’s newsroom should note JR’s comment: “Actually, it helps winnow down the candidates pretty quickly.”

    Mark Potts of http://www.RecoveringJournalist.com, Don Moore of http://www.GreensboroSports.com and I have added our own comments. We all agree a blog is important, if not essential for a journalist.

    Reply
  19. Conrad Quilty-Harper

    http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/digitalcontent/2007/11/guardian_student_media_confere.html

    http://kevindoran.blogspot.com/2007/11/guardian-student-media-conference-2007.html

    Not the first time I’ve heard how few students care about blogs. Not hard to see why either if professors are telling students *after* they’ve finished their course to start blogging.

    Professors should be telling potential students at University induction courses to start blogging. The first lecture of the first day of the first year, professors should demand students go out and create a blog or some means of publishing.

    If students don’t go out there and publish without being pushed, all they’re doing is giving potential employers a reason not to hire them.

    Reply
  20. Craig McGill

    Yes, let’s all work for nothing why don’t we? Because that’s what we are telling the students to do – and conditioning them into accepting that mantra for the rest of their career.

    There are a number of reasons I can see why someone isn’t allowed blogging after graduation:

    1) Perhaps they don’t have daily access to a PC (unlikely but not impossible).

    2) Perhaps they aren’t in a journalism job and don’t want to advertise the fact that they aren’t in their chosen career.

    3) Perhaps they aren’t allowed to as either their paper isn’t online or they aren’t allowed to talk about work.

    4) They don’t want to be another ‘here’s a link’ blogger with little of their own to say. They are young, so don’t have the confidence in their writing.

    5) Perhaps they feel, that after three or four years of graft and skintness that they should be paid for their writing. After all to be professional is paid, yes?

    It’s a tricky one. I’m still not sure where the line falls between ‘promoting yourself and your writing online’ and ‘giving it all away for free’.

    Reply
  21. Craig McGill

    Also, and here’s a thought. If the next generation of journalism students are doing their stuff via facebook, etc, perhaps it’s us that are being the fuddy duddies here and the kids are at the cutting edge and they can’t believe we’re moaning about them having something as old as a blog…

    Reply
  22. Martin Stabe

    I have to disagree with Craig. Blogging isn’t just about writing, for free or otherwise. Its also about demonstrating that you read like a journalist and that you are able to teach yourself certain other crucial transferable skills.

    Facebook etc don’t count because it doesn’t teach or demonstrate the sort of transferable skills that blogging does.

    When done right (ie not a personal diary or kitten blog), a student journalist’s blog very clearly demonstrates the ability to monitor a patch the way they will have to as a reporter, the ability to identify key sources of information, and to write confidently and in a way that is conscious of an audience that talks back.

    Blogging also demonstrates awareness of and ability to learn some key technical skills that are in short supply among journalists. How many journalists do you know, for example, who have even a vague understanding of how the template structures of a news site’s CMS work? How many understand how to improve the category/tag taxonomy of their site?

    The bloggers among them probably do because they deal with these issues on a smaller scale every day.

    Reply
  23. Robert Andrews

    (Reproduced from http://reportr.net/2008/01/13/go-blog-journalism-student/)…

    Eighty percent of the production for the online journalism degree course I taught last year was to keep what I called a “newsblog”.

    As part of a group discussion, each student picked a beat to cover as their own – one they were passionate about and which could stand on its own but one which would hang together with the rest of the newsblogs as a single entity, covering a good range of subject matter. It was WPMU installation.

    By this point, they’d already been introduced to formalised news writing and production conventions. And they weren’t discouraged from using these in the newsblog, which we treated both as a “blog” in the usual sense and also merely as a CMS…

    Over the course of maintaining their newsblog, they could write as much as they want on the niche topic of their own interest, but had to come up with at least four original news stories with original research, at least 10 news posts essentially aggregated from sources in their field (they were encouraged to seek them out and subscribe to them by RSS at the outset), at least seven analysis/insight posts/articles giving their own expert opinion or interpretation of a development taking place in the niche, and some evidence they had been able to customise the default CMS furniture.

    The students felt a real sense of ownership over their beat, but I felt it important to retain a sense of professionalism despite the more usual proclivities of the medium. A blog doesn’t negate the inverted pyramid where necessary.



    Reply
  24. Dave Lee

    I started my blog in my first year of university, and I can safely say it has made my career. Any student who wants to be a journalist — and you’d be surprised just how many journalism students DON’T — should spend half their time blogging, in my opinion.

    Reply
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  28. Richard Kendall

    It seems there are decent arguments for and against, but before I align myself on the fence, i personally would say blogging is a great way in and a perfect showcase for journalism and journalists respectively.

    If they are serious about journalism, then they will aim to blog to a high standard in order to be noticed as a citizen journalist or writer.

    Modern journalism will require writing copy for multi-platform news publishers at any time day or night, which should be easier after a period running a professional standard blog?

    Being part of the blogging world should help develop a budding journalist as there is so much great writing and blogging online to engage and learn from.

    When I learnt my multimedia web studies (6+ years ago now), blogging was still in its infancy as far as British educational institutions were concerned, but i wouldn’t hesitate now to set up some sort of creative outlet, be it a well-chosen link list with a decent commentary on a chosen subject or photo/video blog.

    Reply
  29. Pingback: Completetosh.com, by Neil McIntosh » Blog Archive » Teaching journalism new tricks (and keeping a few old ones too)

  30. shawn smith

    I’d say above all other web skills, good blogging fundamentals and experience is what will catch my eye. Don’t get me wrong. Multimedia is great, but someone who can show they understand blogs, shows they have an understanding of the web. Knowing how to create a good video doesn’t mean they can succeed on the web.

    Reply
  31. Pingback: investigativeblog.net » Blog Archive » links for 2008-01-16

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  33. Martin Hirst

    I am a journalism professor in New Zealand.
    I have no problem with students being ecnouraged to blog, but I do have some quetions and I’d be grateful in there are answers lurking in this thread, or if someone wants to email me direct martin.hirst AT aut.ac.nz

    1. do we give students course credit for blogging?

    2. do students expect course credit for blogging?

    3. how do students fit blogging into an already busy day of course-work and in many cases part-time work in journalism or at Wendy’s flipping burgers?

    4. what’s more important – the craft of newsgathering (which is not blogging), or writing (which blogging is)

    5. blogging is not (yet) journalism, so why encourage students to blog.

    6. Should we also do as we say? if we’re going to insist that students blog, then surely academics/scholars should blog.

    I blog, but there’s no way I can afford the time to do it every day.
    For a start, I get no research credit for having a blog – but I do for journal articles and books;
    Second, I’m teaching and managing a team (I am curriculum leader, which means plenty of admin and other responsibilities too)

    I am a firm believer in convergence in the curriculum because I think that within a decade there will be no silo newsrooms;
    I also think that blogging and social networking sites are a boon for lazy journalists;
    Just look at how much copy is now generated by a simple and privacy invading search on facebook or bebo.
    No need to talk to people, just cut and paste from their pages.

    This is going to sound old-fashioned, but perhaps journalism professors should be encouraging their students to get out from behind the silverscreen and into the streets, that’s where the stories actually are; they don’t (or shouldn’t) just trickle into the newsroom via a modem and wireless connection to the world wide web of deceit.
    Harsh? Maybe, but real journalism means talking to people; seeing things for yourself; working it out; thinking; asking questions and getting in people’s faces.

    Reply
  34. Neil McIntosh

    Martin – course credit might help, but they should be clear that the credit a good blog creates among potential employers, as well as the experience of doing it, matters more when they’re looking to get a job.

    On time: it’s rare anyone is so genuinely busy they can’t fit in time to do something they think matters. They simply have to understand it matters.

    On points 4 & 5 – it’s simply bobbins to suggest blogging isn’t, or can’t be, journalism. Blogs are just a method of publishing (albeit one that has spawned the web’s first native form of journalism). What those blogs contain can be journalism, just as much as anything printed, broadcast, or placed on any other kind of web content management system. I’d taken this to be pretty much accepted wisdom these days… I’m concerned if it’s not.

    I agree journalism students should get out and find stories. Blogs can be a repository for what they find. Anyone painting this as blogging vs journalism, or newsgathering vs blogging, is doing their students an enormous disservice.

    Reply
  35. paulbradshaw Post author

    @Martin
    1: Yes, I give students credit for their blogs
    2: Yes, they expect credit for anything they do on the course!
    3: They fit blogging in because we allow time for it. Students are expected to work for 120 hours for a 12-credit module. 30 hours are in class, leaving them 90 for working on assignments and directed study, which the blog is part of.
    4&5: See https://onlinejournalismblog.com/2007/04/30/stop-asking-me-is-blogging-journalism/ – I’ve already answered it. Indeed, see my students’ blogs. Newsgathering is very much part of it.
    6: I think it’s important that we experiment with blogs if we teach it, yes. That’s how this whole thing started – I refused to blog previously because I hate bandwagons!

    Reply
  36. Rian Merrill

    Thanks for opening this question up to a larger audience. As communications media change both conceptually and in practice, I think it’s important to explore every tool possible. I strongly believe, along with most in my industry (and most of your readers, apparently), that online mediums can no longer be ignored by professional journalists and should be taught as part of the new journalists curriculum.

    Thanks, again! The responses are very interesting!

    Reply
  37. Pingback: Why every journalism student should have a blog | stevemullis[dot]net

  38. jhen

    Journalism educators debate about what students need to know today. I have some ideas about that.

    We insist, of course, on reporting fundamentals — news judgment, interviewing skills, fact checking, ethics, law. The need to master these remains strong.All students should have basic familiarity with (basic) XHTML and CSS. That’s about 10 tags in XHTML. For CSS, that’s fonts, color, and divs. They may not need this every day on the job, but these are the foundation bricks of everything they will ever do — because everything they will do is going to be online.

    Reply
  39. Pingback: Why (and how) blogging matters for journalism students « JournalismCity

  40. Pingback: Read this if youy want to get a job | Journalism and Public Relations at the University of Sunderland

  41. Alice

    I think it’s a matter of people holding other’s feet to the fire.
    I’ll admit, as an aspiring journalist, the thought of regularly keeping up with a blog never crossed my mind. Alas, I suppose it’s a good way to showcase your work.
    As for why people may not keep up with their blogs, I think it’s a matter of the lack of someone holding their feet to the fire. There’s no longer that possibility that the professor is going to check in to see your progress and grade you. That feeling subconsicously motivates.

    Reply
  42. Christina

    So I want to become a journalist when I grow up and Iwant know everything I need to know before I get there.I wonder if journalism is something I going to be good if ever if that’s my dream I have no experience.

    Even though I wouldn’t mind this being my life the pay is also important to me.Will be a journalist include me having to move around alot.There are still a few things I need to know before I get older.

    Reply
    1. Paul Bradshaw Post author

      It depends on the job – an international correspondent job for example will obviously require lots of travel, but a sub editing role will not. And if you work in the magazine industry chances are you will change jobs every few years (although not necessarily location or employer)

      Reply

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