Journalism and the WebWhen journalists begin writing content for the web, there may be some initial confusion and misconceptions that should be addressed. First and foremost, the same rules for ethics that govern a journalist’s conduct apply to writing web content. Reputable content companies won’t ask their writers to lie or exaggerate—only a disreputable company would ask for dishonest content. Plagiarism of content, including unintentional plagiarism, is still an unacceptable breach of professional ethics. Thus, the first line of defense against intentional or accidental plagiarism is the same one for traditional journalism—the editors working with writers producing content. Other ethics concerns, including proper use of images and copyrighted materials, are also considered by good content developers.

At its heart, what makes the translation of journalism to the web fairly seamless is that the foundational skills a journalist possesses translate easily to producing web content.

Thorough research is a must for writing web content. Whether it’s for a client’s product, or for an information sheet about a medical procedure, writers have to possess research skills to find the most recent, accurate information on the topic they are writing about, as well as being able to convey a clear timeline of any changes to that information to their readers. The approach to writing about a product versus reporting on it really isn’t that dissimilar—readers want you to tell them what it does, how it does it, and just how good it is at the task it was designed for.

Web content is typically short, making brevity and clarity two extremely valuable skills for those writing useful content. In a traditional news setting, compact delivery of useful information is one of the end goals of all articles and multimedia projects. That still applies to web content. Though most journalistic writing is short, outside of feature articles, a great deal of web content may be even shorter than traditional journalists are used to creating.

In regards to how the traditional news cycle translates to web content, “evergreen” topics—those topics always of interest to an audience—are an even bigger field on the web. Readers turn with increasing frequency to the web for research about an incredibly diverse array of topics, from dependable luggage brands to current treatment trends for chronic illnesses. By continually updating existing content on these topics, web content is able to stay relevant to people searching the web.

Much like journalists who have beats, content writers often develop their own niches. That specialty is a benefit to readers; over time, producers of niche content build a robust knowledge base that sharpens their writing, as well as increasing their ability to sift through information related to their niche for relevance and accuracy. In the end, more traditional journalistic skills translate to producing web content than readers or content producers might realize.

by Lillian C.M.