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.
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.
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.