Official blog of Clark's Blogging for Journalists class, Mass Communication department

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ethics conference schedule


Getting "ahead" in blogging

When I started writing a monthly newspaper trade column almost 20 years ago, the Internet was relatively new, as was email. There were no blogs, no Facebook, no Instagram, no twitter. Digital cameras were high priced.

I remember teaching headline writing in classes and for the Oklahoma Press Association.  At the time, I always said the headline was the most important element on a page, because it accomplished four different chores at once. They grab attention, tell the story, rate the news, and help dress up your pages.

Today, there are still headlines, and all of that is still true.

But while the way we write headlines has changed dramatically with digital type—rather than having to “count” spaces, we just tap a key to reduce or enlarge sizes to fit, they’re more important than ever.

In fact, they accomplish even more. Ever hear of SEO (Search engine optimization)?  Of course you have.

Tell me,  isn’t that what a good headline has always been?

And today, as our attention spans get shorter and shorter thanks to digital media and the explosion of speed delivering news in all media, they’re crucial to attracting impatient, hurried, distracted-by-other-media readers.

I just “read” the New York Times this morning. How? By scanning the headlines on the computer.  Check any other news outlet on line. People scan the headlines and expect to come away with a general sense of what has happened. We’ll go back and read the ones we want more information in later. All the Internet search engines spend lots of money trying to come up with catchy headlines to attract you to their pages, and thus boost ad hits.

Nothing new, is it, except the media and the speed?

 I’ve found I need to teach my blogging students how to write “headlines” on their blog posts. I took it for granted until I found my blog traffic going up depending on the words in the headlines, and that most of my students had no clue.

All those old headline practices and tips that I’ve taught, or written about in the past have changed with the digital world. To me, there are only two rules in headline writing these days: Be accurate. Don’t be boring.
They one important key to attracting readers to your posts.

So, here’s a brief how-to checklist on writing  headlines, and labels, in any media, especially blogs.
  • What’s the key point of the article?
  • What will most appeal to your readers?
  • Make a list of the strongest, most concrete nouns and verbs
  • Have you chosen words that are trending in search engines?
  • Use action verbs when possible
  • Use short words   
  •  Look for anything unusual 
  •   Is there any play on words you can use to heighten interest?
  • Use the shortest words possible 
  • Use the biggest type you can (for print version)
  • Use consistent legible type (no fancy fonts)
  • Get to the point early
  • More label heads are ok—one or two strong words—with or without a verb (Let a subhead add essential details)
  • Edit—ask yourself if you can write it more briefly
Students: check the headlines on your posts and see how they measure up.
Below, comment on one thing you will improve.
(A version of this article appeared in the February, 2014, issue of The Oklahoma Publisher, the statewide newspaper of the Oklahoma Press Association, under "Clark's Critique").

Assignment: Look at the last three headlines on your blog, and the labels. How do they measure up? How can you improve them? Post below today.


  • 5 p.m. today--on blogblog, two questions for Dr. Hochenauer
  • Due Tuesday, Oct. 7, at start of class--Outline for your blog essay, with thesis statement.
  • Oct. 8-9--Attend Ethics conference session of your choice, write news-style story
  • Blogblog comments--Due Oct. 9, by 5 p.m. What you learned from Dr. Hochenauer
  • Due Tuesday, Oct. 14--
  1.  Blog essay, 500 words, at start of class 
  2.  Ethics conference paper, 500 words, at start of class.

Reminder on essay:
  • Organization:
  1. Intro, thesis statement
  2. What your views are, citing weblinks.
  3. Conclusion

  • To be typed in 12 point, Times New Roman font. double-spaced. One side of the paper.
  • This essay is worth 100 points.
  • Warning--A misspelled word costs you 50 points. If I find one, I quit grading, give you a 50 and an F.
  • Grammar, punctuation, other errors cost five points each.
  • No fancy covers. First page, your name, Title of paper, and start writing. Staple pages together. List links and other sources separately at end of essay.
  • You will also submit the paper as an attachment to, so that I can submit it to for plagiarism check, if I think necessary.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Blog speaker Oct. 7

Dr. Kurt Hochenauer, UCO English professor, is author of the blog Okie funk, Notes from the Outback, and Blue Oklahoma.

Dr. Hochenaur will speak to our class Tuesday, Oct. 7. He has been blogging regularly for a long time, and has gained national attention for the blog, which is a "left of center" political blog.

Please click on his blog, scan a couple of articles and its format. By 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, post below two questions you would like to ask him.

When he speaks, I expect you to take notes and be prepared to post about the session.

Your blog essay begins

By 5 p.m. Monday Sept. 29, Post below:

This is an essay about (Subject) and it is interesting because ____________________. My thesis (the main point of hte paper that I'm supporting with my sources) is__________________________.

When Blogging Becomes a Slog

Read this article in today's New York Times, on page D1 or on this link: When Blogging Becomes a Slog

Comment below, today

1. What did you learn about blogging from this article?
2. What is the importance of passion and love in blogging?
3. Your suggestions on how could the problem be avoided?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Presentation rules and schedule

Presentation rules—you must be here for all presentations. In addition to absences, you lose 10 points.
Remember, outline to all--no excuse for not having enough.
Paper due day of presentation.
We’ll discuss each presentation and draw one potential final question from it.
Oct. 23--Raven, Samantha  Melissa
Nov. 4
Dec. 4--Josh Wallace

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sources for your paper

List title of paper and sources below

Interview guide

In your email to your blogger,  I suggest some form of the following:

I'm a senior (major) student at the University of Central Oklahoma studying blogging in media.
For my class assignment, want to report on your blog and would appreciate it if you could answer a few questions for me.
I have a few questions I'd like to ask you, and your answers are vital to  my class presentation later this semester. The quesitons I'd like to ask follow. Would it be possible to have your answers by (date)?

Please let me know by (date) if you can do this.

Thank you very much,

list of questions

Blogging Calendar

No class Oct. 9  (Ethics Conference)
Oct. 14--Paper due
No class Oct. 16 (Fall Break)
Oct. 23 Presentations begin
No class Nov. 13 (International Festival)
Nov. 17--Paper due.
No class Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving)

1. You must attend one session of the Mass Comm Ethics Conference either Oct. 8 (recommended) or Oct. 9, and write a 500-word news style report on it to be handed in by Oct. 14, or post about it on your blog, by 5 p.m. Oct. 13.
2. You must attend the UCO International Festival in the University Center, interview one student from another country, and write a 500-word news style report on the festival to be handed in by Nov. 17, or post about it on your blog, by 5 p.m. Nov. 16.

Blog adoption guidelines

Blog adoption guidelines for second half of semester:
“We want a sense of what makes this blog effective, and to learn from the blogger’s experience.”

Presentations will start Oct. 23
  • You must show the blog visually in your presentation, scroll through it and discuss..
  • You must interview the blogger, by email or on the phone. I recommend you contact them now to make sure they know what you're doing. Last minute, "they did not respond" doesn't cut it
  • If you cannot make contact, you will need to choose a different blog.
  • One page outline of main points (example to come) handed to every member of class while discussing it:
  • List the Name and url of the blog.
1.     History of the blog—
a.     How long blogging?
b.     Who is the blogger? (Age, profession, etc.)
c.      Purpose?
d.     Geographic location?
e.     Number of followers?
f.      Does it make money?
g.  Why do they blog?
2.     What makes this blog unique?
3.     What are its strengths?
4.     What are its weaknesses?
5.     What is the advice of the blogger?
6.     What do you like and dislike?, and why
7.     What did you gain that influences you and your blog?
  • You will present a 500-word  maximum paper to me with all the information the day of the presentations.
  • You will post your presentation outline on your blog, with a screenshot of the blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Making money on blogs

Blogging right along

Explore these links. Spend at least 10 minutes on each site. Find something new about blogging that interests you and comment below, by end of class today.
(If you're serious about blogging, join blogoklhoma.

Blog essay sources

Post below your blog essay title, or options, and three links for sources for your blog essay. By 5 pm Wednesday, Sept. 17.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Education equals Income

Here's an article in today's New York Times that might interest you:Equation is Simple: Education= Income

Blogging importance--former students' comments

Blogging and your future

I got this Facebook message last week:

Dr Clark, just wanted to pass along some info I think your students might want to know. If you're still doing the blogging class, I found another reason it is important. 
First though, let them know they can start writing for cash right now. Freelancer, oDesk, eLance and such do pay the inexperienced like me. I started at $5 for 500 words, but was up to $15 for 500 in under 6 months. Through my Freelancer job, I got an offer to write for Mojo Motors, $30 an article. Not a bad rate for something that I enjoy and takes a little over an hour. Then, based on my work at that job, last week I got an email from Jalopnik (Gawker Media). They've asked me to work with Volvo on a series of articles promoting new cars. $250 each. I can deal with that. 
I almost didn't get the assignment, because I don't have a blog up of my work, and she couldn't find me online. Please stress to them the importance of getting their presence out there now. And they can write for cash now, if they're willing to work for peanuts at first.
--Andy Jensen
 I got this email earlier this year:

Dr. Clark,

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the comment you posted on my NewOK story and for tweeting out my success. Being published on the largest local forum meant a great deal to me, and I give much credit to you for helping me achieve it (You don't know how my inner dialogue screams 'Verbs! Verbs!' at me whenever I write!).

So, again, thank you.

I also wanted to share something interesting with you, that maybe you can pass on to to future blogging classes.

Like I'm sure many people wonder while taking a class based around blogging, one of the biggest questions I had was 'How can this skill actually help me make money?'  I got my answer by accident, actually, when I was looking to get my foot in the door at The Oklahoman and stumbled upon the job I now have.

"Content Marketing," the ad read.  I thought I'd give it a shot, hoping to meet the right people that could get me into news.

When I interviewed for the position, I was a little freaked by how much of my online history had been analyzed (a good lesson in how important Facebook and Twitter etiquette can be).  Old blog posts, website contributions and a bunch of other online traces of me were brought up.  The good thing, though, was that because I'd done so much of that (in a clean manner), the interview was more like a recruiting session -- they felt they had to have me more than I needed them.

Now, my job mainly consists of blogging -- blogging for clients, blogging to build lesser-known websites, blogging for myself even. And I'm nowhere near alone in this. The department I work in employs about 10 people like myself, as well as four or five specialty bloggers. To put it lightly: blogging is huge.

So, I wanted to share this with you in case that cliched "When am I going to use this in the real world?" question ever came up. You can tell them 'em that, odds are, they'll use it a lot.

Thanks again -- for everything.

George Darkow

Who's who, and what's what?

Who's who and what's what, bloggers

Assignment for Tuesday. Post below, by 5 pm Monday Sept. 15.
1. Two blog names, and the urls of two bloggers you want to interview and report on.
2. Two possible blog essay topics, about blogging in today's world.

Blog essay grading--500 word essay

Blog essay due Tuesday, Oct. 14
  1. Introduction--10
  2. Thesis statement--10
  3. Support-20
  4. Conclusion-10
  5. Original thoughts--10
  6. Paragraphing--10
  7. Links/sources--10
  8. Spelling--50 percent off if misspelled
  9. Grammar--10
  10. Followed submission guidelines--10

10 Ways to Make Your Blog Shine

Read this article on blogging. How does yours measure up? Comment below today.

Blogging is 20 years old

Read this article from The Guardian:

Blogging at 20

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Writing for blogging

Your attention span is about this

So writing for a blog should be too.
Otherwise your readers' eyes will go
So how do you write well for a blog?
Nothing new, just more emphasis.

  • Short words, 
  • short sentences, 
  • short paragraphs.
  • Grab readers' attention with a strong first sentence
  • Get to the point
  • Break up longer blogs of copy with things like bullets, or caps, or bold face type
  • Be specific with details
  • Have fun (did you ever see that point in previous instructions on writing?)
Read these 12 tips from Writers' Digest
Read this in depth analysis from ProBlogger
Read tips from author of Blogging for Dummies about
Today--Post something on your blog, about how you're going to write for your subject, addressing your readers.
Comment below the most important thing you learned from these articles/links:

Why journalism skills are more important than ever

Read and follow this blog:

Inverted pyramid? Why?
Media chart on skills? Where do you fit?

Comment below by 5 pm Wednesday Sept. 10.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Type wars

Typewars 1
Font Fight
Font Fight 2

Are you my type?

Are you my type?

Doesn't matter what you post if people can't read it, or if it's hard to read. Your job is to make it easy.

1. Read:

Also check

2. How does the type measure up on your blog? One good thing, one weakness? Post in comments below, by Monday, Sept. 8.


Clark’s Guide to

Readable Typography for Blogs

(Or anything, for that matter)

1.         Serif—Easiest to read
2.         Sans Serif—harder to read the smaller it is or the more of it there is
3.           Most body type should be about 12 point in size

4.           Script is hard to read--invitations only

5.           Italic is hard to read

6.         Only center type
          On Invitations,
            Or Titles, not
            On most  material


8.                  REVERSE TYPE 
should be at a
And bold
And small san serif 
is hard to read
As is colored type
on reverse  
10.             Screens can make type hard to read

Especially over sans serif

Or heavy and colored screens

11.               Weak colors disappear

12.               Colored type isn’t as effective
As black type, or dark type on a light background

13.      Don’t  Mix Lots of Type Faces

14.            Stick with a few
                  that are compatible

Passion anyone?

What is your passion in blogging? Read this article, Don't blog without passion
Comment by 5 pm Monday Sept. 8.