Jblog School Course 2

Wow, it was a pleasure to see such positive reaction to our introductory course for Jblog School here last week. Glad you made it back to class, especially those of you who have been impacted by weather-related power outages, beer bongs, Halo3 or MLB Network all-nighters. We are back with more help for today’s MLBlogger who never went to Journalism school.

jBlog_logo2 (2).gif
Seek out William Strunk’s legendary book Elements of Style. It has been a standard little fact of life in Journalism classes for decades. I am pleased to see its contents on Bartleby.com.

Get to know Bartleby.com — seek out literature in all ways, including that one. It is a fine reference for those on deadline.

Have you tried more than one writing structure since our last class? Please tell us about it in the comments, with your link. Again: Standard news inverted pyramid style, list (ie top 10), categories (ie best players by position), Q&A, Jane Heller-esque with descending photo/caption/photo/caption, essay, 3-dot notes, standard columnist, vignettes, Shakespearean tragedy by acts, famous quotes each topical to your subject and each followed with your pithy comment, long-format feature, movie review, news item/reaction/news item/reaction, or a Faulkner monster-graf post. Ah, there are too many to list. Invent one. It need not even be writing. We are starting to see more vloggers, such as the Miserable Cubs Fan, who follows in the wake of legendary October Gonzo. If you are in our Official MLBlogs Twitter crowd already, then you might have met Kerel Cooper, who I am trying to recruit to our community after enjoying his excellent vlog (help).

The author of A Misplaced Astros Fan just introduced a blog in a unique way: Everything you want to know about the MLB Draft. That falls under the writing structure of Facing Forward.

Find the glaring mistake in this paragraph:
     When informed that the $80,000 dollar salary he received in 1930 was $5,000 more that that of President Hoover, Ruth was reported to have said, “I had a better year than he did.”

(See below for error.)

Because MLBlogs is “Official Affiliate/Unofficial Opinions” with MLB.com, there is an umbrella here that pretty well covers us for photography. But please be careful in some cases, and in some cases it would be good form to add a credit somehow within your text. You do not need to credit AP for an action shot of Ryan Howard, for example, but there was a case this month where former Major Leaguer Bill Werber passed away at age 100, and I saw an MLBlog with the same black-and-white picture of Werber that had accompanied my 2003 MLB.com article on Bill after I interviewed him (and a 2007 MLB.com article that referenced him). In both cases, we explicitly included the words “Courtesy Baseball Hall of Fame” in the caption under that black and white photo. There was a reason for that. It meant: We thank the Hall of Fame for providing that and will be sure that they are credited. No such credit was used when this image was Googled for use after Bill’s passing, even though it was obvious in the caption the person found after Googling. Please be careful and look at captions/credits if it is from MLB.com. As a general rule, please just be mindful of how you would feel if you were the photographer of an image out on the Internet and someone posted it freely onto their personal MLBlog. There are a lot of photogs who went to Journalism school, too.

Similarly, I just found an MLBlog that was basically one of our MLB.com correspondent’s articles strung together, one after another. It was hard to find a case where the blogger actually linked to our site. Just to be clear, you do not have the right to do that here. That is bad form at best, really looked down upon among journalists, and at worst it is a copyright  violation. Again, there is more leeway having an MLBlog. No one is shouting and whining. Just understand why the courtesy exists. If a news outlet goes to the trouble and expense and effort to report and publish a story, you can site it but extend them the courtesy of sending someone there for the full article. It is not hard to link. I would never repost an entire article, either; just excerpt part of one and link the reader to that origin site for the full body.

The Golden Rule is the best rule to follow in those cases.

(Error above: “$80,000 dollar” is redundant. You do not need the word “dollar” there.)

Also note that the period goes inside and not outside the parenthesis in the previous paragraph. That is the case whenever there is at least one full sentence within the paragraph. If it were a parenthetical clause within a sentence, the period would not go inside the closing parenthesis. Worth noting also that “parentheses” is the plural of “parenthesis.”

After reading rockymountainway‘s statement about editing with red ink in the comments under the previous Jblog School post, I was reminded of something worth sharing. It was back at the IDS (Indiana Daily Student) in the 1981-82 school year. I was writing a column as managing editor. I tried to use every big word I possibly could find. We had an Associate Publisher appointed by the faculty, and this person’s job entailed posting the school paper on a bulletin board and critiquing it with red marker from front to back. It looked like a bloody mess, especially my column. He wrote in the margin: “Newman, put down the Thesaurus!” I thought we were supposed to cultivate our vocabularies then. Turns out we were, but not by trying to impress others with big words. Write conversationally. Write like you talk.

Nevertheless, here is the Thesaurus.

Spell out contractions. I know, I have told you to write conversationally. Just try this the next time you have an “it’s” or an “I’ve” in your text.

Protect the language. It is under siege. It is great to show you are current and put a buzzword such as “pwn” in a headline, as I just saw on MSNBC.com. Balance that, though. Expand your lexicon by reading words that already exist, not merely by intake of cool words we invent each day through Halo3.

“Such as” is preferable to “like” when comparing. See previous paragraph.

Let’s talk about “me” for a while. Me, myself and I. This has been perhaps one of the greatest distinctions between what we have perceived as a gulf between blogs and traditional media. A typical newspaper always had very clear rules on this matter. You write in narrative if it is a news story. You write in first-person if you are a columnist with your own face on a column sig graphic, or in the extremely rare case that it helps the voice of a powerful story to include first-person. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to put on chain-mail to try to include myself within an article, only to be crushed underfoot by one of Hannibal’s elephants or jabbed through the heart with the mighty pen. “No, you cannot say that here! How could you even think to ask such an offensive thing!” It would be wise as a blogger for you to at least be aware of that Law of the Land in past centuries of journalism. You have the freedom to write pretty much whatever you want in whatever style and voice you wish. You are your own publisher, editor, writer, copy-desk clerk, fact-checker, distributer and marketer. Alas, the day may come, when you dare to mount a rebel charge and include the word “me” or “I” within an article that reaches into this foreign and sovereign soil, and you should know what you are getting yourself into. I am just warning you. Sometimes war is hell.
Sometimes you may write a complete article and try so hard to insert your own pitiful identity into it and be rebuffed and sent back to your homeland, wimpering and defeated, blood all over your chain-mail, a mere narrative writer by law.

From my Digital Media Daily Wire: “Social news aggregation site Digg announced on its blog on Thursday that it will effect a round of layoffs…” I am more concerned about the job of the person who wrote that with “effect” as a verb. I have seen “effect change” from time to time, but as a general rule in the English language, it is “affect” if you are talking about a verb and “effect” if you are talking about a noun.

“Going to” is preferable to “gonna” every time, but I generally leave “gonna” in if it is within a quote. Sometimes it is worthwhile to “clean up” quotes, as you can show good form by not making someone look bad in print, but more often than not, you do not want to go there after you transcribe.

BLOGGING TRAFFIC TIPS

Journalists who blog also are self-promoters. If you are not, then you will have a teeny-tiny audience not really deserving of the word “audience,” but more like “Mom.” Here are four easy ways to get MLBlogs traffic: (a) comment cheerfully on other blogs here and elsewhere, always leaving your full URL as a breadcrumb; (b) post a profile pic of yourself and thus you will be considered for the Featured Blog spot on http://www.mlblogs.com; (c) feel free to comment on the community blog anytime you post to summarize what you’ve blogged, again leaving your URL, so we might consider you for the bottom of the MLB.com homepage; and (d) join us on http://www.twitter.com/mlblogs and leave a short tweet there whenever you post with your URL so people can find you that way.

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

Read the late John Updike’s seminal 1960 essay from The New Yorker about Ted Williams’ final appearance as a Major Leaguer. Play against the best and you will be a better baseball player. Read the best and you will be a better writer.

28 Comments

Hi, Mark …

Thanks for presenting another excellent class in your “JBLOG SCHOOL” !!! … You have offered some great information and thoughts to ponder about writing, that will help all of here at mlblogs become better writers … Your “JBLOG SCHOOL” is truly a great service to all in the MLBlogosphere !!! … Also, special thanks for including in your class John Updike’s classic 1960 essay about Ted Williams …. This great piece of writing by Mr. Updike is a pleasure to read over and over again !!! … Like you said, Mark, “Read the best and you will be a better writer.” .. Another lesson learned, Mark. Thank You !!! I look forward to your next class !!! ….. Jimmy [27NYY], “BY&L” ….. http://baseballtheyankeesandlife.mlblogs.com/

Keep it up Mark, it really looks like your making a difference. Good Work!
http://cobf.mlblogs.com

Mark, that blog I wrote yesterday is causing a buzz in the Rays press community. Two of the better known blogs have either both agreed with or racked me over the coals.

That is what a true blog is to me, something that makes you think or gives you knowledge beyond the normal sources. I got the courage to write this from the Jblog school lectures. Just had to let you know that your work is respected by this community, and you have inspired me to fight to gain some level of credibility for our site, and for bloggers everywhere.

It is a first step for me to try and help usher in this realm with responsible writing and establishing dialogue with well regarded media member to gain further advancements for all of us. What is that great quote, ” A wave starts with a simple ripple before it crashes on the shoreline.” Kowabunga dude!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Mark, you can definitely use it! Thanks!
http://kaybee.mlblogs.com

Mark-
Thanks for the new nickname. I love it!
I can see my profile pic now. I don’t know why I couldn’t see it for like two days but now I can. Thanks for all of your help though.
One more question: What is a truck day? I am sorry if that is stupid question but I really have no idea what you mean!🙂
Melissa
http://clemsongirlbaseball.mlblogs.com

Soo Sorry I was late for class Mark.

It is another wild week in Tampa Bay. I got to attend the Media Day for the Superbowl by pulling some strings, but could not take my camera. I loved the second installment, it also gave me some motivation for my current blog on ” Why are Bloggers’ the Rodney Dangerfields of Journalism?”

If I need to do extra credit, that is fine. Also might have some great news in the next two weeks on the Rays front ( crossing my fingers and toes ).

Rays Renegade.mlblogs.com

For me this baseball offseason has been going really slowly so I have been stuck on what to do for my posts but I think I finally figured something out. I posted a lot of really random videos that I like and that I think others would like. It adds something to my blog but I don’t have to spend hours trying to figure what to write.
-Ellie
http://mrmetbro.blogspot.com

p.s.
BOB- I know what it’s like being a 13 year old blogger. I started my blog when I was 13 (now I’m 15) and it seemed like everything I was doing was still not enough to overcome the “adult” blogging population. But I kept blogging and now I feel like I have finally reached that level. So, just keep on doing what you do and everything else will come with it.

Mark, I’ve never seen anyone wear so many hats. You run this whole operation, write articles, come up with your own book projects, enter marathons AND find time to give a “JBlog” course – and a good one at that. I appreciate your mention of my blog. (I love that it’s “Jane Heller-esque!”) I try to combine information with humor, along with a personal “voice.” Others have their own style, which is what makes this stew so tasty.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Mark,
I now consider this my tenth period class. I actually did catch that redundancy of “dollar”, I wouldn’t have caught it if I hadn’t bought an AP Stylebook. After reading your last post and taking into consideration some of Tommy’s advice, I went on a crusade to fine one.
Contractions are a big problem for me, I think my English teacher is getting frustrated with me neglecting to edit them out of my essay for the final draft.
Thank you for the homework assignment (I wish I could say this to some of my teachers). I’m writing a research paper about the emergence of baseball in the Gilded Age. Seeing that I’m taking American History, it’s not much of a stretch when I try and manipulate everything to talk about baseball.
PS: I’ll submit a quote later…
-Elizabeth
http://redsoxgirl46.mlblogs.com

Mark,
I now consider this my tenth period class. I actually did catch that redundancy of “dollar”, I wouldn’t have caught it if I hadn’t bought an AP Stylebook. After reading your last post and taking into consideration some of Tommy’s advice, I went on a crusade to fine one.
Contractions are a big problem for me, I think my English teacher is getting frustrated with me neglecting to edit them out of my essay for the final draft.
Thank you for the homework assignment (I wish I could say this to some of my teachers). I’m writing a research paper about the emergence of baseball in the Gilded Age. Seeing that I’m taking American History, it’s not much of a stretch when I try and manipulate everything to talk about baseball.
PS: I’ll submit a quote later…
-Elizabeth
http://redsoxgirl46.mlblogs.com

Hey Mark!
I’m not sure that I can change it. I tried to hit remove userpic but it won’t go away so then I hit select userpic and it will put the new picture on but then I hit save changes and it just goes back to the old one. I don’t know if maybe I’m the only one who can’t see the new picture or something?
Thanks!
Melissa
http://clemsongirlbaseball.mlblogs.com

This is WEIRD. Literally less than one hour ago at school, my English teacher called me over to her desk, and recommended the Updike article for me. I’m about to read it right now…

Aaron
http://districtboy.mlblogs.com/

It was actually the product of a photoshop contest, which I afterward spiffed up.. the original pic here: http://www.worth1000.com/emailthis.asp?entry=280101
– V [ http://flairforthedramatic.mlblogs.com ]

Vanessa: DONE! Thanks for suggesting. Everyone, if you want a 10-20-word blurb from your MLBlog to be included on the bottom of http://www.mlb.com please comment here in the future with the PERMALINK as that will help the folks who maintain that space on our MLB homepage. Thanks!

Rick: Why do you want it and you did not leave a full URL so can’t follow you up on your blog. More detail please. BTW, Vanessa (just mentioned in previous paragraph) is the one who so kindly created that community profile pic for us, would prefer it stay just in that spot above as intended purpose. But Rick, you also can feel free to ask her since it is her property.

where can I get that Awesome baseball in the profile pic ???

I’m way too cool for school so any mistakes I make will have to be pointed out to me or else I’ll keep on making them lol..
..I would like to submit a quote though, from my recent entry, for consideration to be put on the mlb.com homepage [as I remember sometime ago you asked us to do that] so here it is:
“I think the whole controversy part wasn’t actually what was said, but the fact that Joe Torre was the one who said it.”
– V [ http://flairforthedramatic.mlblogs.com ]

Jeff: Great question. Can a blog ever have the same lasting impact as a New Yorker essay by Updike on Ted had a half-century ago? Not sure. There was so little to consume then as a reader. Our attention spans are lightning-fast. I would say no based on that. Watch the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” — click “mlbmark” below and it will take you there — and you will see the camera stay on Omar Sharif as he walks closer, then a little closer, then a little closer, then closer, until he has walked all the way across the desert without a single camera change. Today there is a camera change once every .75 seconds or something like that in motion pictures. That is our attention span, an offshoot of the MTV generation, and today we have dozens of cameras in ballparks compared to that one behind home plate we saw the night MLB Network launched. There is no way anyone is going to read all the way through an Updike essay like that if it’s a blog today, because you have to keep clicking somewhere. Who will remember this? You already have clicked away by now.

Kaybee, I might lift your quote about emotion in a subsequent Jblog class. You really nailed it there. Nicely commented!

Jenn: Watermarks are your option, and it requires you taking the time to place them over an image, simply using a PSD file and overlaying text and then flattening image. The whole purpose is to make the other person not want to use something that has a gaudy watermark or “PROOF” on it, but it also means you would have to use that on yours. I would consider something that is not too overbearing to you, in the lower corner of your pics, something identifiable, your own logo, maybe it’s “PP” interlaced or something. Worth trying. Watermarks tend to discourage reproduction; not assured. I would always comment on the page of those who reproduce and say whatever is on your mind. And if anyone runs into ongoing problems here that really trouble you, let me know. I don’t see any problems so far but be open.

Lissi: Looks like you figured out your profile pic issue. That process is kind of clunky with our existing Movable Type software, wish it were easier like Facebook.

Tom: Glad you are in the community and looking forward to seeing your great photography.

I actually saw someone at a Phillies game with a poster they made by printing out several of MY photos from my MLBlog. I took a photo of the poster (I was on the 3rd base side, they were across from me on the 1st base side) and posted it later. I didn’t say anything about it except I liked the poster. I really would not mind, but they could have asked permission and at least put my URL on the poster, ya know? I have been putting copyright stamps on my photos for years now, but it does not seem to deter anyone. I hate to make the stamp bigger and more noticable as I think it detracts from the picture, so what else could I do? I do occassionaly sell photos so anytime someone uses one without permission, it is a tad annoying. I was even contacted by a Phillies agent last month about buying some player photos he saw on my web site :O) So, I am glad people seem to like them, but wish I could figure out a better way to protect my interests and still display my work. Any ideas? Thanks!

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

Mark, thanks for the note about using someone else’s photography online. I sometimes find my photos used without permission somewhere on the Web. However, I have just started my own blog with my own MiLB photos, and I’d love to have just a tad more traffic than I do right now . . . which, um . . . is about zero. Please stop by. I guarantee the photos are my own.
–Tom
http://snapshots.mlblogs.com

“War is hell.” That affected me. I am “going to” avoid war. Haha. That sums it up, I think. That Updike essay is pretty stellar. It was required reading in my American literature class in high school (oh so many, many years ago). Glad to see great pieces thriving forty years later. Will the blogosphere ever have the same effect?
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

As an aspiring journalist, I have kind of struggled with the separation between blogging and professional journalism. If you look at a newpaper, you just don’t see the emotional stuff that you can put on a blog. Maybe that’s why I love blogging so much, is because I can really put that emotional side of a win or a loss into it. My “professional” stuff just seems a lot more dry. But I’ll be working on it! Thanks, Mark, SO much for doing this!! It is really helping me, so thank you! It is very much appreciated!!
http://kaybee.mlblogs.com

Hey Mark!
Thanks for having the Jblog School stuff!
I actually have another question though. I can’t seem to change my profile picture. Could you walk me through exactly how to do it? I don’t know if I’m missing something.
Melissa
http://clemsongirlbaseball.mlblogs.com

I’m glad that helped with the photos and always feel free to ask with any questions about MLBlogs.

I really appreciate the explanation about using photos. You have answered a lot of my questions on that subject!
http://thisfanslife.mlblogs.com

Thanks for the help Mark! Self-editing is the hardest part, especially when your last English class was in the last century. It is difficult to keep all the rules in mind and be creative at the same time. I appreciate the reminders!
-Kathy
http://redbirdchatter.mlblogs.com

Thanks for your tips Mark, I always sit in the back of the class (that’s where the cool kids are), but I’m paying attention…This class is great because you can attend based on your own schedule…D
http://baseballsnatcher.mlblogs.com/

Mark thanks this is helpful. I think I’m a great writer for a sixth grader but now I will get even better.

Bob, http://bostonsports.mlblogs.com/

Mark – I really appreciate the time you are taking to educate all of us in the art of writing – and let’s face it – it is an art. How do I approach writing when I work on my blog? I think my intent – in order of priority – is to entertain, inform, educate. Though I know on some days I am so much more like a teacher. I think it is important to work with your strengths. Many bloggers here do an awesome job of “running” the numbers and quoting stats. I enjoy reading them, but it isn’t me. I do not believe that I would be successful if I did that. I like the human aspects of the stories – hence the human interest story I include in each of my Saturday roundups under the “I just thought you’d want to know” section. It is “so me” to tell people those sorts of stories. And that is what works – for me to be “me”when I write “Julia’s Rants”. Oh – I read Mr. Updike’s essay yesterday – even blogged about it – so do I get extra credit?? Again Mark – you help is greatly appreciated by this lowly blogger!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

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