Cue the trombone: "Wah, wah, wah."
I've found that when I tell people about our "professional" student blogging and Twitter network in the CreComm program at Red River College, two things happen:
- They say, "Wow, that's cool."
- They say, "There's no such thing as a professional blog!"
Despite one or two tweets featuring the word "f**k" (a word I admit that I use a lot when vacuuming in a hurry) and the occasional student blog that offends my sensibilities by telling me that some other instructor's class is better than mine - be gone, heretic! - I think that we've avoided most of the bad things oft associated with the art and science of blogging and tweeting.
But, having explained it to my friends, Romans, countrymen, and servers at Earl's numerous times, I'm finally ready to present the things that make a blog professional in a surprisingly short, but sweet, list.
Let's call it...
The bloggunist manifesto!
1. Factual accuracy
In stand-up comedy, the premise has to be true in order for the audience to laugh at the punchline, hence the old saying, "Buy the premise, buy the bit."
So, a good standup comic will say, "When I was a kid, the kids treated me badly." A hack stand-up comic will say, "When I was a kid, I was abducted by aliens in my backyard." No you weren't. Shut up.
To extend that, it's up to the blogger to verify the things that he or she is writing about; it drives me nuts when a blogger says, "I'm not sure if I'm spelling this right." No? Well, you're obviously online, so look it up!
Similarly, the opinion can be zany in order to prove a point, but not at the expense of the facts, or premise.
2. CP style/grammar/spelling
3. Common decency
I'm combining spelling with decency, because the two really go hand in hand.
In a previous post (which I'm not linking to on purpose!), I riled up one or two readers by saying that it's the bad grammar and spelling that makes a blog great. OK, I admit that I was just taking the piss out of newspaper editors.
Bloggers should have the right to express themselves as they see fit. Sometimes, that means that profanity is OK (like "piss" in the above sentence), and - like in advertising copy - you need to express yourself in a grammatically incorrect way to prove your point. Like this sentence does, fellers. OK?
However, the thing that separates the professionals from the monkeys is that they have a code by which to live. That code is CP style, which I generally follow, except ignoring the Canadian spellings of things - sorry, but years of working for American clients have shown me that the word "color" when written "colour" works for them about as well as an entire document in French.
As the saying goes, "You need to know the rules before you decide to break them."
The notion of "decency" is a tough one, but I define it as "anything you're not afraid to show your mother or potential employer."
My mother reads this blog, and that's what keeps it so decent. If she stopped reading it, the number of f-bombs would astound you. If more mothers read more blogs, the world would be a better place in which to live!
4. Personal opinion
I've noticed that some of my anti-blogging friends believe that blogs stink and traditional journalism is awesome because blogs feature personal opinion and professional journalism does not.
In fact, blogging is more like being a newspaper columnist than a reporter. As the NY Times public editor recently said:
"A columnist can be touch, acerbic, playful, joyful, angry, chagrined, outraged or anything else - within the general bounds of decency that are embodied in the values of the Times."
A family member recently gave me some articles from the Winnipeg Free Press, circa 1938.
"Objective" war reporting, as it turns out, featured all kinds of personal opinion, like in this sentence written by Gladys M. Arnold on Oct. 21, 1938 about the evacuation of Paris:
"In spite of the rain, which poured down from dark overcast skies - as though even nature lamented the folly and stupidity of man - gangs of workmen dug into the smooth lawns of the public parks and mutilated the gardens bordering the Champs-Elysees, hastily constructing emergency trenches to shelter pedestrians against air attack."
Factual accuracy plus personal opinion = awesome journalism and blogging!