Weekly Writing Tips: Sourcing Blog Content

The Weekly Writing Tips are a collection of best practices for writing and reporting at Global Voices. September's tips are brought to you by Rezwan, regional editor for South Asia.

Before the proliferation of Twitter and Facebook, we used to source our citizen media commentary for a GV post mainly from blogs. They are still powerful sources of in-depth opinions and analysis on a topic in comparison to an instant 140-character reaction.

A well-written blog is a digital archive of people’s thoughts with unique urls. Blogs can be easily found inputting keywords into search engines, and they draw significant traffic, whereas Facebook is a closed group and not fully accessible by search engines.

Here are some good handy tools to keep a tab on what’s being said and discussed on blogs in your region:

  1. Your own blogroll: There may be a list of bloggers you follow and you should keep them organized in a list (blogroll on a blog or a bookmark list in your browser of choice).
  2. RSS readers: I was a big fan of Google Reader for the few thousand blogs that I follow from the South Asia region. Now I use feedly. Its pro version allows for searching keywords from the feeds, which was a feature of Google RSS Reader.
  3. Use blog aggregators: I have for a long time used blog aggregators (such as http://kottu.org/ and http://indibloggers.in ) to follow news and events in specific countries. There are many blog aggregators out there, especially in local languages, if you take the time to search. For example, I never knew there are so many Hindi language aggregators, if only I could speak Hindi. There are also mobile aggregator apps.
  4. Google Blog Search: Google merged blogsearch.google.com into its main search so just google your keyword to find blog posts on a specific topic. However, there are other blog searches you can try out.
  5. Live blogs: Often media organizations put up live blogs in the event of breaking news. Please look out for them as they can be source of many opinions.

When you plan your post, it helps to find relevant quotes that match the angle of your story, although the quotes you find may influence you to go with another angle. As I remember Taisa wrote in her tips, “Keep your friends close, your enemies closer”. That means don’t only browse and highlight the quotes that match your own personal worldview or support the premise of your post- – but also look for and highlight the other side(s) of the issue.

It’s also important not to quote hundreds and hundreds of words worth of a blog post all in one big blockquote. Select one or two lines that are most important or most creative and summarize the other points. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a blogger to ask for some clarification if you don’t fully understand what they’re saying — if you don’t understand, chances are that readers won’t either.

That’s it for today. I will come back next week on how to source opinions from Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

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