Blogs are often suspect, when it comes to evaluations of credibility, simply because they are blogs. This, of course, is unfair. The reason activists so often turn to blogging, is because of the total lack of fair and unbiased reporting in the mainstream media. However, the way the masses tend to think, biased corporate media is intrinsically credible, and blogs are not. This means, as bloggers, that we must work harder at establishing credibility than the dishonest mainstream media does.
Rigorous fact checking is essential. Repeating false statistics, misattributed or misquoted statements, or totally biased and potentially falsified news and historical accounts will ruin our credibility before we have written our second blog post. If we want to be believed we must make sure we are believable.
With the Internet at our fingertips, we can fact check almost anything. (And that means that our readers can as well, and they probably will.) We can look up the meaning of words, the dates of certain events, statistics of every type, news stories, firsthand accounts, and more. Quotes can be copied and plugged into search engines, YouTube can be searched for videos posted by citizen journalists. There is absolutely no reason to include any information that would destroy credibility in our blog posts.
Proving our credibility is also an easy matter. We can hyperlink words in our blog post to our sources and our documentation. Or we can use asterisks or numbers to refer readers to a list of sources and documentation at the end of the essay. There are many different styles and formats for citing sources. Any that you have been trained to use are certainly acceptable for use on a blog. However, if you haven’t been trained in a particular style, don’t worry. Blog writing is a fairly informal art. Just make sure you include enough information for people to find your sources and do some fact checking of their own.
In all cases, it is a good idea to evaluate how credible your source material is. When it comes to Internet sources, look over some of their citations as well. Fair or not, your credibility will be judged, in part, by the quality of your sources and your documentation. This will have a direct bearing on how effective your writing is towards educating people about your cause, so be careful!
Using a variety of source materials can be a good strategy, depending on the focus of the blog post. Information from books, news sources, and citizen journalists can all be effectively combined, when appropriate. In addition, using news stories from a variety of outlets is a good idea. If all the news outlets and other sources you cite have a similar and consistent bias on the issues, your writing will likely be judged as biased as well. Source from a good mix of outlets whenever possible.
Our steps are getting a little more complicated:
1. Imagine your audience.
2. Ask yourself what they need to know first.
3. Draft your post, putting first things first, and checking facts and collecting sources as you go.
4. Make certain that you have adequately introduced the people you are quoting, paraphrasing, or discussing, and that you are prepared to make necessary hyperlinks.
5. Seek constructive criticism, from someone who either is a member of your audience, or who understands them.
6. Rewrite as necessary.
7. Repeat steps five and six until you have it dialed in.
8. Gather any additional documentation in anticipation of setting up your blog post.
9. Stay tuned. More tips are forthcoming.
Questions and constructive criticism welcome!
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