If you were an editor looking for a new hire these days, what would your first move be after checking your candidate’s resume and clips?
To check their blog, of course. And what self-respecting Bob Woodward wannabe doesn’t have a blog now? (As our hypothetical editor, would you even consider hiring a candidate who didn’t?) In the Good Old Days, an editor would have to rely on a few clips that the candidates chose themselves, and maybe if they were lucky would be able to get their hands on additional pieces from the college rag their young supplicant learned their craft. Now, the blogosphere provides a ready-made proving ground for any aspiring writer to show that they have the talent and the craft necessary to string words together in forms vaguely pleasing to a reader’s eye — and the imagination and stamina to keep those same readers coming back for more.
Andrew Marr’s suggestion to try answering “no” to any headline ending with a question mark might be well-advised here.
At least I hope so, because blogs are a very different medium from professional journalism. But if editors are looking at journalists’ blogs, I hope they understand in what limited way they can demonstrate particular skills. Blogs demonstrate their authors’ ability to keep their ear to the ground in their area of expertise and to do some elementary internet-based research. They demonstrate the awareness to pick up stories from other media to develop them; they indicate an ability to turn quick nuggets of interesting information into readable NIBs.
Most blogs are glorified public notepads. Because only the biggest blogs are carefully crafted and marketed to attract large followings, I’m not sure blogs are good indications of “the imagination and stamina to keep those same readers coming back”. I also doubt that blogs say anything about the ability to develop sources or write polished, in-depth pieces, because few bloggers seem to do much of this.
Blogs are also not good indications of an awareness of journalistic style conventions, particularly the ability to write to length or to prioritise vital information. Blogs write to a cozy insider audience, often prioritising narratives that have caught their community’s interest. Often,the lack of space limitations in the online medium leads them to ramble.
Finally, the lack of a blog is not an indication of insufficient committment. I know plenty of highly-skilled “Bob Woodward wannabes” who don’t blog for want of time or technical experience. Don’t hold it against them.