Here’s Why We Must Teach All Students HOW to Blog

It’s time to offer some solutions to the problems that accompany an academic requirement that journalism students use a web log.

No I’m not frustrated.  No I’m not bad-mouthing my students online (we all know what that can do to a teacher).   I AM using this post to pose some solutions for students encouraging challenges in learning to use the blogging platform.

Earlier, I listed five problems that I’ve encountered when we require students to blog specifically in a journalism class.


Ultimately, we want future full-time journalists to be as comfortable writing a quick post (not nearly as long as this particular one is) that will engage his/her audience.

My colleague, Jim Stovall at University of Tennessee, offers some great tips for Web Writing on his JPROF web site.

Here I want to offer five solutions that I think both the students in my class (and other curious readers) can try to help their students maximize this wonderful platform.

Sidenote:  I am trying very hard to keep my blog posts short.  Most of my posts go on much longer than the recommended 350 words limit.


Greg Screws from Huntsville's WHNT-TV shows students some of the strategies of his TV station. This kind of show-and-tell is a must if we're going to require students to blog.

SOLUTION #1:  Remember you’re writing for an audience outside of the university

Save the write-ups on graduate school readings for the teacher’s eyes only.  They prove that you read and understood an assigned article or chapter.  But, they do little to build an audience for your content online.

The purpose of the blog is not to take a boring academic assignment and dump it out here online for all the world to see.

You’re building a work habit that prospective employers are (hopefully) going to admire.

SOLUTION #2: Pick something that will attract some interest or elicit a response

We have to show our students that the best posts give the reader something to which they can respond.   Take a controversial stand and then challenge your reader to agree or disagree with you.

Stay on point and make it clear, concise.   THEN, engage them as they respond.

SOLUTION #3: Keep a digital camera handy or make your own graphics

Rather than grabbing images off the web, try to use your own photos.  Take pictures EVERYWHERE you go.  Even marginal shots are better than just text.

But, please don’t just post a big block of text and say that’s a blog post.

Yes, I know, there will be some blog topics for which you don’t have art.  But, keep those to a minimum.  My eyes (and your other readers’ eyes) will appreciate that.

SOLUTION #4:  Blog, blog and then blog some more

The only way I got somewhat comfortable in this space is to spend a LOT of time (personal time) here writing.   Doing the minimum requirement for a class is not enough.

Students reading this: I KNOW you have other classes besides mine.  Time is limited, a precious resource.

SOLUTION #5: Worry about social media later

Ultimately, I was hoping that students would integrate their blogging experience with their social media experience.   Sharing links to their posts on Twitter is a goal.

In the case of the graduate class where BUILDING a community for one’s content is a goal, social media integration is a requirement.

While I have learned the consequences of requiring Twitter in a class,  I think it  or using Facebook or LinkedIn or YouTube will come more naturally here.

But, the content has to be there before you can share it.

Yes, this post is too long!

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

11 thoughts on “Here’s Why We Must Teach All Students HOW to Blog”

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