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News blogs must follow journalistic principles, says Stephen Miller of The New York Times
“Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it’s true.”
Stephen Miller, the assistant to the technology editor at The New York Times emphasized this advice at a presentation on news blogs and how they need to follow the basics of journalism.
At The Times, Miller oversees the training of reporters and editors in the use of new technologies. He is on the Board of Directors of Investigative Reporters and Editors and is past president of the New York Association of Black Journalists.
“The web is such a dynamic, fluid thing,” he said Thursday, March 20 in a presentation called “Blogs That Matter.”
“Blogs are now getting a lot of attention as they affect politics and our every day lives.”
But Miller said news blogs still need to incorporate the fundamentals of journalism, which include accuracy, clarity and fairness.
Before posting a story on a blog, fact-checking is something essential, Miller said.
“If you don’t check your facts, you will be in a lot of trouble,” he said. “If you have any doubts about the story and you can’t verify them, don’t use it.
“It is your responsibility to make sure that there is the correct information.”
An essential characteristic of a good blog is thorough, accurate reporting, the “basis of journalism,” Miller said.
“Ninety percent of your time for writing something should be spent on research,” he said.
The ideal blog should also feature the “cornerstone” of journalism, which is writing.
“Writing is important because it brings clarity to the story, making it understood,” he said.
“Good writing makes your blog bubble up to the surface.”
Miller said that posting links to primary sources on the internet relating to an article, such as documents or video and audio clips from other web-sites, is critical.
“It is like you telling the reader, ‘I didn’t make this up. This is a document,’” he said. “It adds weights and ‘gravitas’ to the article.”
Miller showcased examples of news blogs, such as “Romenesko,” who first started to use links and “Richard Prince’s Journal-isms.”
Because of the “incredible number” of blogs today, it may be hard for a blog to become well-known, Miller said.
But he said if the blog includes the aspects of journalism, then it may have an impact.
Eli Davidow is an editor of the Newtonite at Newton North High School in Newtonville, Mass.
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