Hello, world. Welcome to the newest section of the Justice, the online blogs section.
Over the course of the Spring 2015 semester, we will be adding a slew of new writers to this online section to talk about, well, pretty much anything. Columnists in our Forum section will be contributing to blogs, and we’ll also be reaching out to clubs and campus leaders to start their own blogs as well. As always, the Justice is a newspaper made by students for students. We’re most curious about you, the reader, and if you think you might have an idea for an interesting blog. We want you to reach out to us and tell us all about your idea.
You might be wondering why this new section is necessary. What’s the point of a newspaper hosting a blog service, much less a student newspaper at a University? The Justice already has an opinion section, as well as a pop culture columnist in the Arts section. Isn’t the point of journalism to spread facts and inform people, not just to editorialize? And why come to the Justice to start a blog when I can easily make one myself?
The Justice is far from the first newspaper to host a blog section, so to start answering some of your questions, let’s look at an example. The Washington Post was one of the first newspapers to push an online presence. Its biggest success was picking up what is probably the most famous journalistic blog in the country, Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog.
Klein, now 30, started Wonkblog as an undergrad at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was quickly noticed for his talent at using blogging to dig deep into individual pieces of legislation, providing context and rigorous analysis for the often dense policy that he covered in his posts. He understood how blogging worked—posts could be as long or as short as the topic required, without the word constraints of print. He wasn’t on a rigorous publication schedule, allowing him the time to deeply consider the policies that interested him, even when the rest of the media was looking at something else. At the same time, he recognized that frequent posting drew more readers and established a rapport and conversation with his fans that only the Internet could foster.
The blogging medium was still pretty young when the Wonkblog was picked up by the Post, but by now, blog.washingtonpost.com hosts over 100 individual blogs, many of which have multiple writers. By 2012, the Wonkblog was bringing in 4 million readers every month, the same year when the Post’s print distribution slid 8.6 percent to 471,800 daily subscribers. A profile on Klein by the New Republic that year said Wonkblog had become “arguably the Post’s most successful project.” Nowadays, Klein is the editor in chief of vox.com, a news site where, essentially, the writers each run individual blogs.
I think that Ezra Klein’s ventures illustrate why blogs are relevant to and necessary for newspapers today. The world will always need an independent, non-partisan press to gather and distribute information; otherwise, where would Klein have gotten the data he needed to form his opinions? That press needs to publish on a regular and reliable schedule and focus its attention on the most recent events on the world stage. We need up-to-date information to contextualize the world around us.
At the same time, it’s important to have writers who analyze and interpret that information. These writers benefit greatly from being able to focus their efforts on their area of expertise and to determine what they think is worthy of their attention and analysis, especially when that is something the rest of the world might not be thinking about at the moment the writer presses “publish.”
All right, you might be saying, but isn’t that the point of Forum? The Washington Post had an opinion section for decades before blogs came around, and the Justice has one already too.
But a blog offers certain traits that an op-ed does not and vice-versa. An op-ed’s major pros are byproducts of being one part of a larger newspaper: editorials, for instance, provide analysis of the same news stories covered more objectively in the news section. Op-eds also cover the major events of the day the paper is released, and having multiple op-eds on the same page allows a reader to quickly garner multiple, often differing, opinions on different topics. In contrast, a blog is a completely independent product. You only read one writer’s perspective, without the benefit of the more objective data used by another writer nearby. You can’t get a contrasting opinion on the same page or even any context for other notable subjects the writer might not be interested in. The op-ed is one part of a team effort, while the blog post is a solo venture.
At the same time, that independence leads to many of the great advantages of blogs. Bloggers publish as much or as little as they have to say, without having to think about the space limitations and deadlines of the print medium. Blogs allow easy access to other posts by the same writer, letting the reader track how the writer’s opinions have changed or find out a writer’s perspective on multiple issues.
Probably most important, however, is that bloggers get to talk about whatever they want. One of the big reasons we’re starting this new section for our paper is that it provides a space to writing that doesn’t fit in neatly elsewhere. I cannot tell you how many times, as Forum editor, writers have approached me and proposed what sound like fascinating articles and I’ve had to turn them down because they don’t fit the political science focus of the Forum section. Not even half of the blogs on the Washington Post are about politics. There are blogs on art, food, sports, religion, technology, comedy … the list goes on. All of these are notable subjects that people should be informed on, but few of them fit neatly into a newspaper. With a blog section, though, newspapers can open themselves up to a wider range of discourse.
Okay, you might be saying, but if I’m interested in starting a blog, why specifically should I do it through The Justice? What do I get in return for starting a blog through some student newspaper, when I could easily start one all on my own?
For one thing, you get our readership. On an average week, this site gets 5,500 visitors, a number which has only gone up over time. You also get our editorial staff. We will provide a trained set of eyes to fact-check every detail and help polish every sentence, so not only do you not embarrass yourself on easy errors, you will put out a strong post every time. But your blog will still definitely be your own venture—you come to us and we just give you access to high quality web-publishing software, a built-in readership and a wide pool of resources to help you create the strongest possible blog.
The full blog section will be live by February. In the meantime, I’ll be posting to this blog, explaining the section and showing off the format. If you’re interested in starting a justBlog, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We couldn’t be more excited to start up the blogs section of the Justice. We hope you start getting excited, too.