Study, students discuss blogging benefits

Three years ago, Evan Brunell started maintaining a blog about sports. Since then, he has been able to turn it into a much larger sports blogging network.

“The most important aspect of blogging is the content,” said Brunell, a middler journalism major. “It should also be visually appealing, not full of text. It needs pictures to keep the reader’s interest.”

Although it’s not always easy to make time, Brunell said, “I feel obligated to my readers to update my blog. I need to keep it up.”

At this point, Brunell’s blog is beyond sheer enjoyment, it’s a way to get his name out.

There are an increasing number of students who are choosing to blog, said journalism professor Dan Kennedy.

“If you do it right, it’s a good way of marketing yourself,” he said.

Northeastern has also studied the role of professional blogging, with professor Walter Carl recently contributing to a study examining the conditions and factors of blogging at the corporate level.

According to the study, there are five factors that consistently contribute to the success or failure of a blog: culture, transparency, time, dialogue and entertaining writing style and personalization.

Still, the factors that determine whether a corporate blog will thrive also affect the success of personal blogs, which typically are forums for opinion and personal journals.

There are several classes offered at Northeastern in which students are required to maintain a blog, including Kennedy’s course Beat Reporting: The Journalism of the Web and professor Liz Matson’s Online Journalism course.

“Most [of my students] didn’t already have their own blog. There were just a couple who had their own,” Matson said.

The tendency for college students is to be drawn to blogs like Livejournal or a personal page, not so much to professional blogs, she said.

Kennedy said his students’ blogs range from topics like sports teams to music to the coverage of Jewish issues.

Both professors agree that student blogs are an expression of who the students are and what their interests are.

“Blogging gives journalism students a topic to write about [that] they don’t have a chance to write [about] in classes,” Matson said.

For middler journalism major Chelsea Petersen, blogging has gone from a requirement to a passion.

“I started [blogging] because of an assignment, but I took a personal spin on it,” she said. “I write mainly about politics and fashion. It’s uniquely me.”

Time, as mentioned in the study, is a factor that affects the maintenance of a good blog.

“The more you do it, the easier it gets,” Kennedy said. Students who do not blog often “tend to see it as a mountain and another writing assignment.”

Middler journalism major Emma Johnson agreed.

“It takes time,” Johnson said. “It’s not just writing. There’s a lot of commentary and research involved in blogging.”

A blog’s success “is not always indicative of how many viewers it has,” Matson said.

Bloggers are usually not writing for a large number of people, Kennedy said, quoting the adage, “We’ll all be famous to 15 people.”

Johnson said she pays attention to a blog based on what it offers.

“The first thing that attracts me to blogs is the information provided. There must be room for opinion, sense of humor, open-mindedness and a strong sense of self,” she said.

Petersen said the content and the writing style are what attract her the most to a blog.

If the content does not get updated frequently, “it can get stale really quickly,” Matson said. “It’s important to keep it fresh.”

Blogging can also serve as a gateway to future employment, because students can add a well-maintained blog to a r

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