What makes good online journalism?

Recently Mark Bahnisch of blogsite Larvatus Prodeo said he "...would be interested in what LP folks think makes an excellent piece of online writing in journalistic form...a set of criteria distinctive to feature writing or reportage produced specifically for the online medium rather than print..”

In responding to that request, I took the view that good journalism, whether in print or online, had many features in common.  So I compiled a list for online journalism, but many of the items are just as applicable to print journalism.  This is my list, enlarged on reflection.

Readers’ additions would be welcome, as well as comments about how well The Political Sword meets the listed criteria. [more]

Good online journalism should:
Be honest and exhibit integrity
Address issues of importance, and avoid the trivial
Use an original approach rather than the stereotypical
Be willing to tackle complex issues, acknowledge the complexity, and avoid simplistic solutions
Be prepared to challenge ‘sacred cows’
Be prepared to confront and disassemble dishonest, disingenuous, biased speech or writing
Be accurate and rich with verifiable facts
Include all the relevant facts, not a biased selection
Include accessible references to support facts and assertions
Be rich with hyperlinks – one of the advantages of online journalism
Clearly separate opinion from facts
Clearly denote quotations, acknowledge and reference sources
Structure the piece understandably – consider the classical introduction, body and conclusions
Use logical, well reasoned arguments
Be intellectually honest
Use fluent, clear, simple prose
Go easy on the adjectives
Avoid verbosity – embrace brevity
Avoid exaggerated language, clichés and mantras
Be modest in making assertions – avoid arrogance
Be respectful of persons, even those with whom one disagrees
Be fair – be careful about impugning the motives of others
Use first and last names of persons when first mentioned, then last names
Avoid heavy sarcasm and personal jibes
Be unafraid though to call it the way it seems to be
Be unintimidated by power, position or influential people
Use a catchy title, one that reflects the substance of the piece
Use a little flair and style, be unique where possible
Use metaphors and idioms freely
Use humour where appropriate
Draw readers in and hold them to the end
Begin and finish with a flourish
Ensure the conclusions match the presented facts and the arguments
Use visuals, still and movie, where they add to clarity
Be as objective as possible, acknowledge any subjectivity
Acknowledge biases and conflicts of interest
Include background information on the writer
Encourage comments
Moderate comments to exclude personal abuse or stereotypical mantras
Respond quickly to comments that warrant a response
Respond reasonably, use sound logic, avoid defensiveness and invective
Be enjoyable for the writer and intellectually rewarding
Be enjoyable, informative, challenging, provocative and intellectually stimulating for readers.

Over to you.

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28/02/2009Any article or story not produced by the Murdock stable. Especially from the RW drop kicks, Shamaham, Milne, Porky and the Bolter. :lol: Ad, your articles are always well thought out and presented. Still it helps that we appear to be of the same political persuasion. Cheers Eb.


28/02/2009I'm really quite taken aback by the standard of both print and television so-called journalism these day. If your standards were applied, and those I'd prefer, Ad Astra, they'd all be off the air or out of print.


1/03/2009I think honesty and integrity are the most important standards that should rule in the Fourth Estate and should never be compromisd. Most other 'sins' can be forgiven. When a journalist who writes an opinion piece deliberately misinterprets and/or twists the facts to suit his/her own personal bias, seeks to destroy the character of another or blatantly presents only selected facts and figures to back up his own lopsided argument, he/she throws honesty out the window. When an opinion piece is published inviting reader comments, then the author is morally bound to respond to any credible challenges his article/views might invoke. If comments are invited then it is reasonable to assume that the writer is willing and able to debate and interact with his/her readers. Sub-editors have the responsibility to match the headline with the content of the article. More often than not we see outrageous headlines that have little or nothing to do with the article, or are blatantly dishonest in the way the headline is used to attract the readers' attention.

Ad astra reply

1/03/2009Thank you Eb, Monica and janice for your comments. You're right janice; I've added [i]'Be honest and exhibit integrity'[/i] at the top of the list.

Ad astra reply

2/03/2009Rules for responding to [i]The Political Sword[/i] have not been defined; so far comments have been reasonable and appropriate. [i]Crikey's[/i] rules for its [i]Pure Poison[/i] site are: [quote]"Play the ball and not the person; low-level snark is fine but derogatory statements about a person’s character are not."[/quote] Crikey references the UK [i]Guardian[/i] which describes its [i]Community standards and participation guidelines[/i] at http://www.guardian.co.uk/talkpolicy/ The condensed version of these community standards is: [quote]"- Show and share the intelligence, wisdom and humour we know you possess. Don't be unpleasant. - Take some responsibility for the quality of the community in which you're participating. Help make it better and it will be."[/quote]


5/03/2009To be fair the government with has access to resources to base prediction on evidence got it right, those that sucked it out of the endd of their thumb got it wrong.


21/07/2009Thanks a lot for this post
T-w-o take away o-n-e equals?