News Leadership 3.0

May 19, 2008

Editors blogging: ‘Doing is learning’

Online editor at The Star-Ledger
builds a network link by link
Do you blog? How do you connect online?

Today I’m happy to feature a guest post from John Hassell, Deputy Managing Editor of The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. John, who attended KDMC’s Leadership Conference last year, blogs at the exploding newsroom, often posting interesting updates on his newsroom’s journey to digital. I asked John to write about why he blogs, and why other editors might want to try it. Here’s John:

“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”
—G.K. Chesterton

First, a confession: I’m a lousy blogger. I don’t write often enough, and what I do write is rarely developed as fully as I would like. Caught up in the pull and tug of the newsroom, I too often neglect my blog.

I have great admiration for people like Howard Owens and John Robinson, who make time in their busy schedules to cast a wider net, to think aloud, to leave comments and trackbacks on other blogs. They’re the real deal, and they’re constantly teaching me things.

For me, though, this is one of those times when G.K. Chesterton had it right. Because blogging is worth doing—even if you do it badly, even if it means having to find the odd pre-dawn hour to post something once or twice a week.


Before I started blogging…

...I thought I understood the nature of the link. But until people linked to something I wrote, until I saw the way these links raised my blog’s profile in Google and Technorati searches (okay, not very much in my case, but…), I didn’t really get it. I quickly began to appreciate and return links, and to make unexpected friends. A link can be a nod, a handshake, a pat on the back, an insult. Whatever it is, it’s personal. It’s the glue that builds community online.

...I agreed with the goal of transparency in the news business. But until I began to see first-hand how closely openness and trust are associated on the web, I didn’t grasp how crucial this is. You build credibility online by reporting the news as it happens, sharing your work and engaging readers along the way. You build it one link at a time. The web is not just a place to publish “finished” stories, if there even is such a thing.

...I talked about news as a conversation. But until I started reading more blogs and getting involved in social media, I didn’t understand how quickly news gets shared, expanded, commented on, filtered and repurposed across the web. This is not a trivial thing. People once relied on the news to inform conversation. Now they are relying on the conversation to inform them about the news. If something’s important, they figure they’ll hear about it.

...I considered myself an early adopter. But until I saw how the best bloggers used social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Seesmic and FriendFeed as reporting resources and channels for distributing content (the beauty of community, after all, is that it allows you to gather and share information more efficiently), I didn’t realize how far behind we really were in harnessing the power of these new tools.

To expand on that last point a bit, when I started work on this piece I posted a short question on Twitter:

“Hey, journobloggers: I’m writing a post for the Knight Center about why newspaper editors should blog. I’ve got my reasons; what are yours?”

Like a tiny stone tossed into a pond, it started producing ripples.

First came the responses from people I’ve befriended on Twitter, each of which helped me think about this piece. Here are three of them:

Damon Kiesow of the Nashua (NH) Telegraph: “My #1 reason - they need to understand their audience. Doing is learning.”

Laura Oliver of “For transparency of editorial operations like @marcreeves’ blog lets users see behind-the-scenes and air their views on editorial operations.”

Zach Echola of Forum Communications Company: “Regular interaction with real people forces you to think less about media + audience and more about conversation + community.”

Next, because replies on Twitter are public, a few friends of Damon, Laura and Zach discovered and began following me—which means my network of sources will be even greater next time I’m looking for help.

This goes both ways. With any luck, some of you reading this will click through the links to Damon, Laura and Zach and begin following their work.

Each of those links, in turn, increases the chances that Laura, Damon, Zach or others might read this and share it with others. They might share it through their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, social bookmarking sites or ... well, you get the idea.

This is the social, distributed web.

It’s powerful stuff, and it rewards those who get engaged.

Even if you do it badly.





As a reader of Hassell’s blog, he’s not a bad blogger. His comments here—which are exactly right, in my experience—demonstrate that.

See what I mean about Robinson? smile

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

Get in touch with Michele at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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