If you’re serious about practising online journalism, this is a must-have book. It covers the following topics:
History and future of journalism, in terms of the business and technology sides;
Finding leads online;
Writing for websites;
Writing for social media;
Media law (in the UK);
Interactivity and code; and
The book is well-structured, with suggested activities, further reading and lists of resources. Furthermore, it is very practically useful. For example, it provides details of such things as how to search the web for particular types of file, and how to find out which Twitter lists someone is a member of. (I found this last instruction quite useful to rediscover the lists I am on!)
Although the book is eminently readable, it’s more of a reference book. For example, when I’ve reached an impasse in terms of obtaining information online, I can usually find a useful website or search engine or form of syntax in this book.
Here’s a case in point. If you need to find out some statistics, a good bet is to use a search engine called Zanran. I’d never heard of it until I read about it in this book. There are several other obscure websites listed as well.
The book makes the very valid point that the days when you could be just a text-based journalist are over. These days, you need to be able to record interviews, shoot useful video, and publish it in a way that maximises the chances of its being discovered, and being pleasant to read in terms of formatting.
The Handbook goes into such topics, and again provides very useful hints and tips. For example, if you need to publish a table online, there’s a website that makes it easy to format and embed the table in your blog post. Need an interactive quiz? That area is covered too.
The chapter on finding leads and sources online contains so many useful suggestions that it’s worth reading even if you (think) you are already an expert. I certainly learnt one or two things from it.
For the more technically-inclined, there is guidance on useful spreadsheet formulae, and even advice about creating a bot, that is (in this case) an automated code which will do some research for you.
The only thing I found frustrating about the book is that some of the websites listed are no longer in operation. This is to be expected, of course, but in at least one case the website was inoperative before this edition of the book was published.
Nevertheless, the book is definitely worth having and keeping within easy reach.