I’ve recently started writing for a local food publication, which is the closest to journalism I’ve come in a few years. A colleague has commented a couple of times on my ability to find stories and to see stories where she just says, “oh, that’s interesting.”
In the biz, they call that having good news sense, and it’s something I’ve heard said of me throughout my career. I seem to know what will make a good story or which story from a collection will be the most important to people.
Bloggers, of course, are not (not all, anyway, or not always) journalists, but knowing a good story when you hear one and having good news judgement can still be valuable. Here are some things that can help.
Listen more than you talk. If you want to know people’s stories or what is important to them, you may have to ask, but then you need to get out of the way. One of the most valuable interviewing techniques I have (which isn’t saying much because I don’t really have any techniques) is to just let the person keep talking. They’ll tell you what’s important a lot of times without you even having to ask.
Think “would people want to know that?” If you think something is interesting, odds are other people will, too. If it’s a story you’d tell a friend, it’s probably something you can write about, too.
Think about your readers. What do they want or need to know? How can you take a piece of news or an event or a book you’ve read and turn it into something they’d be interested in? That can be a harder thing to do, but if you have a firm idea of both what your blog covers and who your audience is it’s easier. Thinking about your readers also allows you to prioritize different things you want to write about based on what they would be most interested in.
The definition of news. When I was in journalism school, I learned that news is timely, unique, affects a lot of people, happens to or affects local people (depending on the publication and your definition of local) and/or happens to someone prominent in the community. These are great things to consider when writing posts for your blog, too. Something that has a deadline or about an event that is happening or just happened should probably be tackled before what we would call evergreen items, which can run any time.
It takes practice to think like a journalist, and there are certainly times when you won’t want to; you’ll just want to write what you want to write that day. But honing your news sense can make your stories more interesting to more people, make your audience happier and present you as more of a professional to others in the blogging world.
I haven’t looked at it but I see that Poytner’s News U has a course on the building blocks of news, which might be helpful if you’re trying to build your news sense. It’s free, self-guided and takes about an hour to go through.
Do you consider “news” when you write your blog? I’d love to hear what you think!