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Laying It On The Line ‘Bout Blogging

Sonya Sorich has been blogging for five years and has been part of the newsroom of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer for the same amount of time. The Ledger is a major West Georgia/East Alabama newspaper that was purchased by the Sacramento-based  McClatchy group in 1988. Sorich is a transplant to the South from California and the Midwest, who brought a fresh, innovative voice to the news staff and immediately got the readers’ attention with her “Walk of Shame” dating advice blog. She got my attention with her American Idol blog – yes ’tis possible to be a fan of William Shakespeare, the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales, and American Idol.

Her initial job was that of a feature writer; now she manages the paper’s social media platforms, which, in addition to blogs, include Facebook and Twitter. “We use Facebook to get feedback from readers and Twitter for breaking news. I also use Twitter like a reporter’s notepad…it’s great for keeping track of what I’m covering.”  Sorich maintains two blogs, monitors the company’s Facebook page, and writes at least three feature stories for publication every week. When I asked veteran reporter Sandra Okamoto who the social media guru in the newsroom is, she said, “Sonya.”

“The purpose of blogging is to have what you have written read,” she said with a voice of experience – albeit a very youthful voice. “To achieve that, a blogger must focus on a topic, write with a clear tone, and have a consistent voice. You also have to come up with stories that are ‘talker stories’ that will get reader response. When we post something on the paper’s Facebook page, at least 50-plus comments are what we like to see.”

Sorich knows what makes a blog work and what kills one, too. “One of the biggest mistakes made by bloggers is lack of frequency in posting…it’s really best to post everyday if possible.” Blogging shouldn’t be just about what the blogger thinks, reads, or does either. Sonya has enough experience to know that “scouring the internet for stories that relate to the blog and including that as a major part of the post is very important. Every piece doesn’t have to be an introspective masterpiece.”

The 45-minute interview flew by, but I continued to think about what she said: voice, tone, topic, focus, engagement and frequency. She said it was best to try to pick a topic, to narrow the field. I struggle with this concept. The focus of the column I wrote for seven years covered everything from moon shining to marital bliss (or the lack thereof). I love political pontificating just as much as I love telling tales like the one about the Fourth of July picnics at Union Baptist Church during the 1920’s – when all the politicians showed up sober but left drunk.

How could I choose one topic? Given the wealth of information and opinion to which we have instant access, how can I pick just one?

I don’t think I can. There are too many stories, too many comical events happening, too many stupid things said and done, and too many wonderful deeds performed to concentrate on a single category.

For this blog, I can pick one tone however: I can promise my readers that whatever the topic, I will try to suggest interesting sources, I will ask for your feedback, and I will always lay it on the line.

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