Producing better content: Blogs

Blog writing is tough. Oh, sure, one can produce a simple blog entry easily enough. But is it meaningful to someone else? And can you sustain it? Having tried it, I have greater respect for columnists who produce material every day or multiple times a week.

How can we produce better online content, especially with blogs, in our student publications? I’ve run across an interesting format in the LA Times that I think could translate well. It is the paper’s Dust Up blog. Each week the Times’ staff comes up with a topic for a multi-day discussion. Two writers, not necessarily Times staff members, develop a new angle to the topic for each day and write pro/con entries that readers can then comment on.

Some semesters I’ve had enough talent on my student staffs that they could certainly adopt this style and produce regular content, but probably at the expense of other responsibilities in the overall operation. But what if we could use the Journalism Association of Community Colleges network to staff such a blog that we could all promote on our sites? The load could be spread among a larger number of talented students; all you’d need is one person to coordinate it all.

A big obstacle to overcome, which probably affects a large chunk of the news industry (ironic considering the reliance on wire service material), is the blinders of “my publication.” We are all trying to fill our publications only with our content. Student publications, in particular, seem to shun the idea of thinking beyond their own publications. But the easy-flow sharing possible with online publications could make it easier for people to share without giving up valuable real estate in their print publications.

In past years I’ve floated the balloon of cross publication collaboration without much success. Maybe this one could fly. Success would assume, of course, that staffs care at least as much about their online publications as they do their print publications …. and I’m not sure we’re there yet.

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