Debate: blogging – is it actually worthwhile?
October 8, 2010 12 Comments
Paul Bradshaw, who runs the Online Journalism Blog, has suggested that not writing a regular blog could have an adverse affect on your chances of securing a job in the media. With that in mind, The Student and The Chancer go head-to-head about whether blogging is as worthwhile as everybody makes out.
FOR: The Student
When it comes to keeping a regularly-updated blog, it’s more a case of ‘why wouldn’t you?’.
Let’s start with the financial implications (or indeed the lack of). Blogging is free through popular Content Manager Systems (CMS) WordPress and Blogger, which allow web users to produce a blog without having to shell out. It’s possible to buy hosting and custom-made themes to expand but this is by no means essential – the content is the key.
Next up is the misconception that having a blog is a time-consuming process. In fact, the beauty of blogging is that it’s a wholly flexible medium, which you can dip into whenever you want. You can do a post every day if you have time but equally there’s no problem with leaving it a week or two between posts if you’re busy with work or studies. And a post doesn’t have to take hours to write either – it can be a ten minute ‘this is what I discovered/found interesting today’ or even a video clip that made you laugh.
Then there is the bamboozling technological side of blogging. Some people are put off blogging because they don’t understand CSS code and think they can’t use plug-ins or widgets. This is simply not the case. WordPress, for example, is designed to allow you to alter as little or as much to the design of your site as you want. There are also tons of websites (wordpressadvice.com, theblogcoach.co.uk amongst others) and plenty of video tutorials to help you as you go – you have nothing to fear.
In short, blogging is a lot simpler than people realise and doesn’t take half as much time, knowledge or know how as many think. People may say ‘it’s narcissistic’ or ‘what can it tell people that they don’t already know’. But much of journalism is about writing your OWN take on an event, often about a subject that you will not know much about. That isn’t narcissistic and neither is blogging.
Another excuse is that ‘no-one will read what I write’. A valid point but the web is a big place and it takes time for people to find you. If you write regularly and honestly about a niche topic (one which may not get coverage in national or local media – for example, a lower league football team, a remote part of China or an unknown artist or designer) people will find you. And they will keep coming back.
I personally think that there is no excuse for not having a blog, whether it’s a professional one about your journalism work experience or your thoughts on the retro Super Mario games series, Beanie Babies or British ice hockey. If nothing else, you will be able to show your blog to an editor when you go for an interview and prove your commitment to writing and journalism. For something that doesn’t cost you a penny, that’s not half bad.
AGAINST: The Chancer
Now I am known amongst my friends for certain levels of hypocrisy but it would be impressive for even me to write a blog post arguing wholeheartedly against blogging. No, I believe in blogging, I think it is brilliant. What I do not believe however is that everyone and anyone who wants to be a journalist should be blogging. Whilst a blog can provide a substantial amount of your online presence I feel that it can, depending on the type of person you are, have a detrimental effect on your attempts to make it as a hack.
Did your Mum ever say that phrase to you when you’re giving some cheek: ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything’? Well, this phrase springs to mind when I think about blogging.
If, as the Student suggests, everyone should have a blog then that is a hell of a lot of people bleating on about anything and everything. This makes it more difficult for originality to be a shining light amongst an increasingly murky and foggy back drop of thousands of people talking about the same thing. Take the subject of football. Many of us can talk about football for hours and hours, lines and lines but what is the point if you are just saying the same thing as everyone else?
Indeed myself and the Student have a sports blog and we try our best to be as original as possible, but even we are forced to debate the same topics as everyone else and as such have never achieved the readership which this site has had so far. So I present scenario A) I walk into Mr Guardian‘s office and sit down for a chat and tell him about my sports blog. ‘Sports blog’ he exclaims, ‘bore off, is that as original as you get?’
My point is that having a blog is one thing. Making it a real selling point on your CV, as the Student suggests, is quite different. Any old topic won’t do it anymore and it could soon be the case that ‘if you don’t have anything different to say, don’t say anything.’
My other argument against blogging comes down to our personalities. Now, I have declared my love for blogging already but in terms of my work ethic I shouldn’t be blogging if I want to be a journalist.
And so I don’t, not on my own. I write here and on my other blog but neither of them are solo efforts because I can only work well and productively under pressure. On work experience, in a news room, with the editor barking at me for copy? Brilliant. A dash to get a quote from Joe Bloggs (oh, bloggs, see what I did there?) for a front page article? Lovely stuff. Setting aside a bit of time to update my blog? I’ll do it in a bit. I just can’t do it, I need the pressure and fact that I know other people are relying on me to produce content and provide my opinion.
I need that to make me a productive blogger and I would be useless without it as in scenario B) this time with Mr Mirror , ‘It says here in your CV Mr Clarke that you are a passionate and committed individual yet your blog suggests otherwise… four posts in the past 5 months doesn’t exactly show a commitment to writing or a desire to provide opinion, does it?’ How many of us have started a blog post with the words ‘I know I haven’t posted in while but…’ Not a line that screams hire me is it? Blogging is methodical, it needs commitment and determination and not everyone is wired that way.
I guess my against-the-blog-for-all theory is related to the very pragmatic notion that if everything we do – blogging, Twitter and all this online presence stuff – is geared to getting us a job then let’s make sure it really is a showcase of our talents rather than parade of our flaws.
Some of us may be great investigators, brilliant managers, sublime subs and some of us may indeed end up as well-published writers. But not all of us are made for blogging. As the Student quite rightly says you can show your blog to a prospective employer on interview day. My point is that not all of us can show off blogs which will actually do us any favours when trying to get a job.