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My college degree is more or less in journalism. Technically, it’s in English, but considering I spent an average of 40-60 hours per week (if not more) at the University of Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily, I learned far more about journalism than I ever did about English literature. Because of my own history, I tend to view bloggers as solo journalists who become experts in whatever fields they write about.
Of course, traditional journalists typically have to follow some pretty heavy guidelines with all of their reporting, while bloggers and social media influencers often have the freedom to make the rules up as they go. Former anchorman Dan Rather has recently made the jump from traditional journalist to social media influencer, which is a trajectory that I wouldn’t be surprised to see more journalists following over the coming years.
I recently learned about the Facebook page launched by Dan Rather, and it has become one of my favorite things to read online. The almost 85-year-old has reported most of the world’s biggest news stories during his time, and while he has remained active in the media since stepping down from CBS News in 2005, he started his Facebook page because he wanted a more direct line of communication to share his thoughts and observations. Personally, I find that his posts are almost always long, well-written, very well thought-out and worth the time to read. (Also, I have a chuckle every time he mentions wanting to snack on Frito’s because those just so happen to be my dad’s favorite snack as well but they’re not a snack food you see mentioned very often anymore.)
Dan Rather gave an interview to The Daily Beast about his new-found social media success and I thought the article included more than a few tidbits that bloggers can use as they navigate their own paths. The entire article is obviously worth a read, but here are some highlights and what I took away from them:
Blogging Inspiration from Dan Rather
• “If I’m to have any voice at all in this, I’m gonna have to find a new way to do it.”
Always find a way to stand out. What can you do that other bloggers/influencers aren’t doing?
• “The second thing is how much of a conversation this turns out to be. Among the things we like about it is that it’s a conversation—people talk to you—and it’s not always complimentary. What’s been built here is a community of people who indicated that they have some trust that I will try to talk at least sanely about what’s going on.”
What can you do to further build a sense of community on your blog our via your social media outlets?
• “I was advised by people with a whole lot more experience than me in this area. They said, “Dan, you’ve gotta write short. If you write more than two paragraphs, you’re gonna lose.” The kinds of things I want to do can’t be said in under two paragraphs. I just said, What the hell. I want to be myself. I want to do the kind of journalism I was trained to do in the tradition I grew up—the Murrow tradition, the CBS tradition.”
You don’t have to fit into anyone else’s box. Redefine best practices.
• “It did go through my mind that I spent a good deal of my life chasing ratings. I understand very well the pressure that that brings. I’m just not going to go there. It’s not going to be a matter of how many views you get. I’m not gonna play that game. I played it as well as I could. I’m just not gonna do that.”
Page views aren’t all that manner. Work on creating quality content that you can be proud of and that perhaps people will want to share.
• “People like politics. But they also like uplifting stories that don’t just make them feel good, but encourage them to do something decent themselves—uplifting stories about how good-hearted and generous Americans are.”
Focus on the positive! There’s a reason that those link bait sites that share nothing but happy stories do so well on social media. People want to be happy and they want to be inspired. You can use blogging and social media platforms to truly change the course of someone’s day.
Do Tell: Do you follow Dan Rather on Facebook? Are there other media figures that you find inspirational?
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