We bloggers may have plenty to learn from journalists — fact-checking, for starters — but I contend we can also teach traditional reporters a few things when it comes to creating compelling community-inspired content.
Here a short road map for journalists to follow:
Become a valuable online resource by linking out — often
It’s as if some reporters — and/or their editors — really believe that adding links to external sites will somehow send readers away from their pages forever.
Bloggers traditionally aren’t as insecure; they link enthusiastically to most or all of the websites and stories they write about. Bloggers understand what a portion of mainstream media still hasn’t grasped: that regularly linking to timely and relevant information across the web makes readers want to come back to the original news source.
Don’t abandon a story once it’s published
An employee of the UK’s Guardian newspaper told me recently that far too many journalists treat their craft like a pregnancy — doing all the diligent research and preparation that leads up to the “product” (poor choice of words for a newborn, but stay with me here) — but then skip out on all the hard work that comes afterward.
In the bygone glory days of print journalism, that approach made sense. In the evolving digital age, it no longer does.
Good bloggers know that writing and publishing news or an opinion is only part of the content process. Fielding and replying to comments that follow and jumping into related conversations on other blogs play an important role in keeping the story going — and in triggering subsequent assignments. Chris Brogan says that comment threads are often more thought-provoking than the original work they stem from, and he makes sure to stay involved with his readers throughout the feedback loop. Journalists whose articles appear online — and that would be most of them today — should own the follow-up responsibilities for their articles, too.
Embrace the community spirit
Know what happens when you take the time to get to know other members of your community? They give back to you willingly — and many times over.
Bloggers are adept at connecting to their subscribers and other potential readers in their verticals of interest, not only on their own sites but across the blogosphere and on social networks such as Twitter. What they receive in return are instant feedback, new story ideas, and most importantly, ongoing support and goodwill from the community.
If the number of newspaper accounts on Twitter is any indication — more than 1,000 of them as of December 5 — journalists are starting to catch on to this concept and are reaching out to the community through social media channels more than ever before.
Offline community-building events should be considered as well. Publications like the Chicago Tribune and my hometown Austin Statesman have started hosting Tweetups, and the Statesman is also planning a Texas Social Media Awards night for early next year.
This post isn’t meant as an indictment of mainstream media. Far from it. Instead, it’s a call on journalists to combine their own admirable strengths with the conversational and community qualities bloggers consistently champion.
After all, do traditional journalists who want to keep their jobs for much longer really have any other choice?