2/15/2006

Education Writers Who Blog

There are precious few education writers with full time newspaper jobs who have the time, interest, and ability to maintain a blog. Patti Ghezzi at the Atlanta Journal Constitution is one of them.

She writes (below) that her blog is edited, was her idea, and generally helps her writing rather than hurting it -- even when the blog causes consternation inside the newsroom or out among her readers. Read below to learn about her experience and what she's learned from it.

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Q & A with the AJC's Patti Ghezzi

Q What's the best and worst part of having that blog responsibility along with the rest?

A The best part of blogging is that it's fun. I love communicating with readers in this way. The anonymity allows people to loosen up and tell me what they really think.

Q The worst part is that some idiots take over the conversation. They drive me nuts and run off others with quality ideas to contribute.

Q Was it your idea or the editors'?

A My idea. I have had a personal blog for years (http://redvelvetcake.typepad.com) and I thought it would be fun to blog about school issues.

Q What sort of editing approval process do you go through?

A Editors read the blog and let me know if they think I've crossed the objectivity line. That happens on occasion.

Q Does it help or hurt your 'regular' writing?

A It helps in that I better understand the underlying issues crippling public education, such as the belief many have that education shouldn't be a right, it should be available only to those who want it. I don't think it hurts my writing for the print product.

Q Is your site supposed to be objective like the rest of the news section or bloggy, and is that hard or easy?

A It's supposed to be objective, but with a wee bit of attitude. It's kinda hard, but I don't stress out about it. If a blog item is inappropriate, I can always take it down or change it. It's not engraved in stone.

Q Are there things you can't post about or posts you've had to take down?

A Hmmmmm...I once made a snarky comment about a state DOE plan to offer Georgia students free online SAT practice tests. I pointed out there are already free online SAT practice tests offered by all the prep companies. Editor wanted me to take it down. I can't remember if I did or if I convinced him I didn't need to.

At the request of the editor of our At Issue section, I posted about profanity in the schools and whether teachers call students out for it. That led to some inappropriate posts that had to be deleted. The blog editor thought I showed bad judgment in posting about profanity. She thought it invited profane feedback. (We have filtering software of course, but people know how to get around it) Anyway, a big package on profanity in schools is running in At Issue sometime in the next couple of weeks, with excerpts from the blog...

Seems like there were some other posts that sparked mild controversy inside the newsroom. Nothing too big.

Q How much time does it take?

A Somedays I just post a link to a story in our paper and that takes five minutes. Other days I spend thirty minutes to an hour composing a post. I have to check the comments four or five times a day and delete anything outrageously inappropriate. That only happens about once a month, but when it does it pisses me off. Sometimes when a topic gets too heated, I shut down the comments feature.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Bruce Buchanan said...

Here at the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record, we've had an education blog since October, 2004.

Here's what I've learned: you have to be willing to give up control. You can start a topic, but if the readers want to take it in a different direction, there's nothing you can do about it.

I've never been asked to change or remove a post. And it's okay to let a little of your personality come through.

For example, the local school system recently released some redistricting maps that, quite frankly, were unreadable. I blogged about the maps and made it clear that I agreed with readers who had complained about them. You have to be tactful and you can't stake out strong opinions, but it's okay to be a little edgy. Otherwise, what's the point of having a blog?

2:15 PM  

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