Scouring the Media

Writing for online outlets.

Posted on: September 15, 2010

Writing for an online audience may not come naturally to some journalists, especially those who have grown complacent after years of successful stories using the same newspaper story format.

Cyberjournalist.net writer Jonathan Dube published a list of tips for online writing.

Although there are 12 tips, some tips are more important than others. The first tip recommended that journalists remain familiar with their audience.

“Think about your target audience. Because your readers are getting their news online, chances are they are more interested in Internet-related stories than TV viewers or newspaper readers, so it may make sense to put greater emphasis on such stories,” wrote Dube. “Also, your site potentially has a global reach, so consider whether you want to make it understandable to a local, national or international audience, and write and edit with that in mind.”

Tip four? Write lively and tight.

“Writing for the Web should be a cross between broadcast and print; tighter and punchier than print, but more literate and detailed than broadcast writing,” wrote Dube. “Write actively, not passively.”

Dube continued on and explained how “piles” of story developments should not drown any news story’s webpage, no matter how many breaking developments there are.

“A common problem with online writing occurs in breaking news stories. In an effort to seem as current as possible, sites will often put the latest development in a story at the top no matter how incremental the development. Then, they’ll pile the next development on the top, and then the next, creating an ugly mish-mash of a story that makes sense only to someone who has been following the story closely all day,” Dube wrote. “Unfortunately, the only people who are usually doing so are the journalists. Few readers visit a site more than once a day. Remember this when updating stories, and always keep the most important news in the lead.”

Joe Marren from Poynter.org suggested more on how the internet medium could be used effectively in one of his articles.

“Have informative subheads. Use bold type on proper nouns or important points,” Marren wrote. “Use bulleted lists. Keep paragraphs short (one idea). Have pictures or graphics.”

He also suggested interactive photos, surveys and slideshows for to add muscle to any content.

The internet is different from newspapers. When it comes to getting creative, the internet is much more user-friendly. The internet also offers more space for journalists to get creative. Although newspapers are still successful, when people want the whole story–photos, audio, video and text–the internet is the most important tool a journalist could learn to master.

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