First up, the contests:
uwemp and United Press International are sponsoring a National Student Journalism Contest with a $500 prize:
What matters to you most at this critical time in your life? Submit a 400- to 800-word article on one of the following topics:
- A key racial, gender or sexual issue either on your own campus or at another college across town or across the country
- A controversial national political topic about which you have strongly held beliefs and possible solutions
- An influential role model in a passionate field of interest—anything from sports to music, business to politics and beyond
In a “reality TV” vein, the Washington Post is looking for “America’s Next Great Pundit” with the winner getting to spout their opinions on the Washington Post op-ed page along with the likes of David Broder, Richard Cohen, Charles Krauthammer and other beltway bloviators.
Use the entry form to send us a short opinion essay (400 words or less) pegged to a topic in the news and an additional paragraph (100 words or less) on yourself and why you should win. Entries will be judged on the basis of style, intelligence and freshness of argument, but not on whether Post editors agree or disagree with your point of view. Entry deadline: Oct. 21, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
As if to dovetail with those contests, here are some related items I’ve read recently relating to blogging.
Amy Gahran provides some good advice for potential bloggers: Don’t be boring.
Just don’t be boring, and focus on getting to the “so what” to immediately establish relevance.
Also, show some personality and a sense of humor. Conversation is this core of this medium, and people are more likely to engage with you when you act human and approachable.
This is one of the things that separates blogging from writing for print or other mass media: the personal voice and response. It’s hard for someone brought up on the “authoritative voice” of the traditional media writing style to break out of that style to write for a blog, but not impossible. It’s also a balancing act for a reporter to engage with readers in the comments section of a blog. I hate it when reporters write blog posts and have nothing to do with the commenters. It’s a time suck, but it builds engagement.
And the Atlantic has a story about The Rise of the Professional Blogger.
Benjamin Carlson argues that blogging has undergone a professionalization that limits the democratizing ability of this format of publication.
As the medium has become more popular, money has flowed in. And while no one would deny that blogging has lowered the barriers to self-publication by average citizens, the free-wheeling fraternal spirit of blogging has become increasingly subject to market disciplines. As a result, as Web critic Nicholas Carr told me, blogging has evolved to become “a lot more like a traditional mass medium.”
This is not really surprising, as anyone who knows the history of alternative music knows. Any medium gets co-opted by monied interests in their attempts to increase their credibility with different audiences.