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This post is intended primarily for new bloggers. I want to stress the importance of commenting on other blogs. If some of you veteran bloggers out there have other useful suggestions, please feel free to share them. 

One of the first lessons a newbie blogger should learn is to check out the “competition.” By that I mean, find out who the top bloggers are in the topic area you are writing about. I’m sure you’ll find dozens if not hundreds or even thousands of people who are already blogging about the same or similar topic as you. But don’t get discouraged if you find others already blogging about the same thing as you. That’s one of the wonderful things about the Internet, there’s always room for one more blog! So, if you have something you want to say, on any topic, by all means, blog away.

After selecting your blog topic, focus on three or four blogs that you like the most. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with what the bloggers write, jump into the conversations and don’t be afraid to post comments expressing your own opinions on those blogs.

Be aware many blog comments are moderated before they actually show up live on the blog, but unless you are taking trash about the bloggers momma, most reader comments end up being posted.

Posting a comment on someone’s blog can help build your online credibility and raise the stature of your own blog. Most blog comment sections allow you leave a link back to your own blog. You should always leave a link! (Also include a trackback to a blog site, if you are writing something original on your site) If your comments are piffy enough, it’s almost guaranteed that other readers will click the link to your blog and start checking out what you have to say.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of commenting suggestions, I think you can break down blog comments into three distinct categories.: “Setting The Record Straight,” “Pat On The Back” and “Raising The Ante.” As an example of what I’m talking about I’ve included my own recent comments to a few blogs and news sites I’ve visited recently.

Setting The Record Straight:

Recently Hartford Courant Columnist Susan Campbell wrote about the current dire state the newspaper industry finds itself in. She took a swipe at bloggers and online news sites, so I left a comment “setting the record straight.” Here it is:

You said:

“Without us, bloggers and online news sites would dry up for lack of original reporting.”Is this a statement of fact or opinion? If this is a factual statement, would you be so kind and share the original source(s) you used to make this claim. 

My research is leading me to different conclusions than the one you’ve apparently come to. Here is what I know to be true. Many newspaper people cling to the notion that they, and

Susan Campbell, Hartford Courant

Susan Campbell, Hartford Courant

only they, are allowed to credibly report news or offer critical opinions about news.

The list of reliable online news and information sources grows each day. The website Connecticut Weblogs keeps a half-hourly tab on the musings of CT bloggers. I can tell you most of the people blogging in Connecticut aren’t commenting on what the Courant or any other paper is reporting on a daily basis. Occasionally some blogs do point to the Courant, but they woud certainly continue to survive if the Courant went out of business. The political news website CT News Junkie has proven it doesn’t need the Courant to provide excellent State House reporting for its online only readers. There are plenty of orginaly reported news stories at CT News Junkie that can’t be found in the Courant. Down in the Elm City, the online only New Haven Independant regularly runs circles around the sluggish New Haven Register newspaper. In fact, the Independent is viewed as a national model for online news ventures. Just last week the Knight Foundation voiced its financial support for online journalism by awarding nearly $400,000 in grant money to help existing online news ventures in Minneapolis, San Diego, Chicago and St Louis hire more reporters. Finally, I would tell you to tell your friends who got laid off at the Courant, that they can still “tear this town up,” that’s because the online news and blog world is waiting for them with arms wide open. 

News matters, newspapers not so much.

Pat On The Back

orientA “Pat On The Back” post is when you are mostly agreement with the opinions expressed by the blogger. I recently left a “Pat On The Back” comment on the Orient Lodge blog. Blogger Aldon Hynes wrote “What Now for News in Connecticut.” Hynes laid out several good strategies on fixing the ailing newspaper industry in Connecticut. Here is my “Pat On The Back” comment:

You make several good points on a number of the issues we’re dealing with in the journalism world.  What’s most refreshing is that you’re offering open-minded ideas on how to tackle the complex questions of “What’s Now for News in Connecticut.” It’s very frustrating when old media types declare that they and they alone in determining what is news and who should be allowed to produce and distribute it.

 As to Steve Collins’ point about what happens to people that are not online, especially the elderly. This may come across as harsh to some but it’s time for it to be said: Being old is no excuse for not being connected. In fact, during a quick Google search I found solid data that suggests seniors make up one of the fastest growing groups now online. More than 50 percent of people 65 and older use the Internet. I’m sure we all know of some seniors who will never jump online, but to make the argument that saving newspapers for a dwindling number of older readers doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Fortunately for me, both of my 70 plus year old parents are web savvy, so I don’t have to worry about them accusing me of throwing them under the bus and advocating that they get rid of their newspapers. As a matter of fact they cancelled their subscription to Newsday years ago. Without a doubt there are now far more online resources available for seniors then they can find in print.  However, your idea of expanding community access cable channels is an excellent idea.

Finally, I’m not sure what Central Connecticut State University or Southern Connecticut State University have on the drawing board, but I can tell you at the University of Connecticut – where I’m a full time journalism faculty member focused on teaching online journalism — we’ve already begun discussing ways we might be able to provide multimedia training to working journalists in Connecticut. It might be worth adding into our discussions figuring out a way to provide similar instruction for citizen journalists. 

Raising The Ante

“Raising the Ante” is when you are commenting not on what the blogger wrote per se, but what another reader to that blog wrote as a comment. A lot of times “Raising The Ante” comments can quickly turn into nasty online cat

Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine

Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine

fights. I left a Raising the Ante comment on the very popular Buzz Machine blog written by Jeff Jarvis. Jarvis was blogging about a scenario that could possibly lead to the LA Times to turn off its printing presses and go all online. However, my main comment was directed at another commenter who, just as Campbell at the Hartford Courant wrote, suggested the world of journalism can’t survive without print journalists holding our hands. Here is my “Raising The Ante” comment:

 

As a Tribune employee (I work on the broadcast side of the operation as a part-time Internet/Technology reporter) I’m interested to see if, how or when this idea might take hold across the company.

However, it was a comment made earlier in this thread by “jgogek” that really caught my attention. He said something that a lot of print people like to parrot and I’m curious to know if in fact if it’s a true statement.

“Blogs and so-called citizen journalism can’t do it by themselves. Everybody — TV, radio and blogs — still get most of their information from newspaper reporters.”

Has anyone ever studied the validity of that claim? It may in fact be true, but what context are we talking about? Are we talking about true enterprise or investigative stories? All newsrooms — print, TV, radio, online get blasted with press releases everyday. If a newspaper runs an article based on a story that was pitched to them via a press release or a “beat call” to the cop shop and they happen to publish it before it hits the airwaves or the Internet, does that count as other media “stealing” from the papers when everyone had access to the same information.

Are we talking primarily major markets where this “print theft” is occurring? There are plenty of small market towns in this country where there are television affiliates located but no “local” daily newspaper of record. Where are these folks stealing their news from?  

Hey, don’t get me wrong, I think newspaper reporters do an excellent job. I’ve just grown tired of hearing how everyone is “stealing their stuff.” Back it up with facts.

In addition to the TV job, I’m also a blogger and full time Professor of Journalism at the University of Connecticut. I’m interested in doing further research on the claim made by “jgogek” and many others. If anyone has any hard data about this, I would love to check it out. Thanks.

So, there you have it. Any comments?

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