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Journalism Online:Book review

This is definitely a book for students and beginners.

It tells the story of online journalism from the very beginning – in terms of the reader’s experience and based on little or no previous knowledge.

Pointing out and explaining the difference between print journalism and the online variety, it takes the student of this new artform by the hand through the seemingly dense forest of what might end up being their trade and their living.

This book is a very good place to start. It uses language that is by no means frightening – and offers encouragement and self-belief by reminding the readers that everything is possible.

The light and easy style disguises even the heaviest content to make sure no one will be turned off.

Mike explains what online journalism is, and the ins and out of creating online content. He tells readers why the medium is so important, how the world of communication has changed – and what may lie around the corner in future.

For some students, who love the Net and their online world, the first few pages of nuts-and-bolts information (such as what does “digital”, “online”, “Internet” and even “journalism” mean) might seem like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs. But it’s vital because we all need somewhere to start – and we all need to be starting from the same knowledge base if we’re to get anything from a work like this.

So when Mike says that journalism is about what might interest your readers, he’s merely laying the foundations for examining the traits, peculiarities and definitions of the online variety.

Then he goes more deeply into who your readers might be, what your relationship with them could turn into and what you should do to develop and cultivate each. Research, interview technique and use of pictures are all discussed for different forms of media.

From then on the book becomes a friendly journalism guide more akin to what trainees might learn on their block release, to ensure what they do end up putting on their website is actually worth anyone logging on to.

He also tackles the minefield of HTML coding – and how to design something us journalists used to have very little idea about.

And of course, the online part of online journalism refers to more than your own product – Mike also tells you some good ways to research on the Net – though there’s no vouching for what you might find or even how true the information might be. Finding experts, winning quotes, trawling newsgroups – it’s all there.

Remember: Prelim; story; picture; reaction; development; follow-up; anniversary. So much for “news”. Know your audience. And don’t forget your pyramid story structure!

But is it all the same when you’re working on the Net? With readers free to go off elsewhere you’ve got to keep them on YOUR pages – so whether it’s through scintillating pages or short, sharp bursts of bite-size information, Mike will explains the pros and cons of all approaches.

Great book for beginners – and I think a few no-so-beginners might learn a trick or two as well. Students would do well to add it to their reading list.

Journalism Online, by Mike Ward. Published by Focal Press, £19.99.

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