Why every journalism student should have a blog

OK, I’ve been in this blogging game for a while, since 2003 (which is a while in Internet time). Even before I started to pursue a journalism degree I saw that this stuff was going to be big (though not this big). I even regret having taken so long to get more professional with my blogging.

Once I started to pursue journalism scholastically and professionally, I noticed a scary trend amongst many of my colleagues. The thing is, despite the prevalence of the Internet, despite the fact that they check their Facebook account religiously and despite the fact that it is mentioned at every journalism seminar we’ve had at my school, it seems that many of these young journalists-to-be turn their nose up at blogs and many aspects of online journalism in general.

A friend and fellow journalism student and I contributed to the Orlando Sentinel’s UCF Community Blog, part of their hyperlocal community project, since last year. We’ve done video, photos, covered stories that others are missing and basically created another resource for students to find out what is going on at UCF and the surrounding area.

Even still, many students turn their nose up at blogs.

I recently went to our one online-related class, called Converged Journalism, in order to recruit some students to contribute to the blog. Not only to get them online writing experience but to have a chance for them to get their name associated with the largest daily publication in the Central Florida market.

This was met with less than stellar amounts of interest and enthusiasm.

This, I think, is a bit of a tragedy. Students need to break out of the template they may have been taught and understand that, regardless of what capacity you are going into journalism, you need to have online skills. Whether you are on the breaking news team or filing stories of local flair and color from regional bureaus, knowing how those stories may or can be packaged online is an essential piece of knowledge.

Having a blog, and keeping it updated, is one way to show potential employers that you have that knowledge. So here, in brief, are a five quick reasons why I think that all journalism students should maintain a blog and include it on their resume.

  1. If you constantly update a blog, whether it be about movies, fashion or journalism, it allows an employer to know that you have something to say. It shows that you think about, read about and want to know what is going on around you. It shows that you are hungry. Having something to say every single day, wanting to tell a story, is at the heart of what being a journalist is about.
  2. It gets you used to writing every day. Typically, in journalism schools, your deadlines are nowhere near as tight as they are in the professional world. Granted, a blog doesn’t necessarily simulate this either, but if you are posting on a current event you have to post quickly. If someone is looking at your blog (an employer) and sees that you posted an insightful, well-written post about an event, and it is time-stamped within just a few hours and/or minutes of that event, they can see that you might be able to handle those tight deadlines. It tells them that you can act and think quickly, something every journalist should be able to do.
  3. It shows that you are not afraid of technology and of learning new things. Sure, learning a rudimentary amount of HTML may seem like a waste of time, but in doing so it shows that you are willing and able to learn secondary skills. Journalism is an evolving, ongoing field. It never stops changing and there are always new things to learn. At the Orlando Sentinel, they recently started issuing Sanyo Xactis to their reporters so that they can shoot video with their stories for online. They also teach video classes to facilitate this. Showing an employer that you can and will learn new skills to improve your journalism is something that is hard to convey on a resume or with college newspaper clips. An ongoing blog is one way to show that. You can include Flickr photos, embed video and do all of the things you may be required to do one day in the news room. And, you can do it all for free from the comfort of your home computer.
  4. Blogs are becoming a part of journalism, there is no denying it. Every news organization worth their salt has blogs on their site. Sure, not all of them are using them effectively and some are just jumping on the bandwagon, but they are all using them. From the big dogs like WaPo to the NY Times to smaller papers like The Lakeland Ledger and the Asheville Citzen-Times, they all have blogs. Being blog-aware can only help you as a future journalist.
  5. The fifth reason is simple, why the hell not? Limiting your skillset to being a simple beat reporter is a zero-sum game. Even if you only plan on doing hard news, you need to know and understand what is happening online. It is essential, it is important and it is where our business is heading. Anyone who tells you different is a fool and a Luddite.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here are some people far more qualified than I who have similar thoughts.

I think you get my point. Get a blog kids, it only helps you.

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