Amy Gahran (The Right Conversation) offers some useful tips for reporters who are asked or required to blog. The first one is the best one: Don’t use your blog to post stories. Instead, use it to post complementary content around your stories.
Other nuggets from Ms. Gahran:
- Blog as notepad. If you’re following an issue (maybe a local Superfund site) and you come across an interesting angle or tidbit that is relevant but doesn’t warrant its own story, instead of just jotting yourself a note about it, blog it. If possible, create a category or tag in your blog so interested community members can easily track that issue through your blog. That also makes it easy for you to find that note when you are ready to do a followup story.
- Distributed reporting. So many meetings, so little time. Let’s say you can’t get to a public meeting about that Superfund site. So you post a blog item to let the community know the meeting’s happening and why you think it might matter. Toss out a couple of questions you’d ask if you were going. Invite your readers to attend the meeting, and maybe pose those questions. Ask them to post their notes — and the answers they received — in the comments. More fodder for you.
- Community outreach. Pose open questions to your blog audience: What are their top concerns about that Superfund site? Agenda-setting works best when it works both ways.
- Buzz builder. You’re working on a big investigative feature about that Superfund site. It’ll take you months to pull it together. You can drop hints about how that project is progressing — without giving away the farm or totally blowing it with your competition or sources.
- Cutting room floor. Did your editor cut a particularly poignant anecdote or pithy observation from your latest story simply for space? Blog it! It’s already written, so why not make it work for you? Make sure you always link to the published story, of course.