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Round-the-clock celebrity gossip

The ‘sleb sheets have had more than enough to write about in the last few months when it comes to Britney Spears. Break-ups, breakdowns, boyfriends and babies, and one blog managed to keep ahead of the traditional press pack with round the clock coverage. In 24 hours on Friday 4 January, Perez Hilton received over 10 million page views for its coverage of Spears.

Pharming out the expertise

Pharmalot focuses on the pharmaceutical industry. It’s published by Ed Silverman, a prize-winning journalist on The Star Ledger newspaper in New Jersey. Pharmalot is an excellent example of how a newspaper can encourage journalists, with a great deal of expertise on a niche topic, and give them a space to establish themselves as a major point of reference.

Killer idea to document deaths

The Homicide Report was originally started by Jill Leovy, a Los Angeles Times reporter. The aim was simple – to chronicle every murder in the Los Angeles area. Murders are frequent in the American city, so frequent that many murders went unreported until the Homicide Report started documenting them in January 2007. Leovy’s blog gives these crimes a home. The blog is structured like a database and uses a map to plot the murders. Each crime is categorised by gender, weapon, location and so on. Newspaper blogs that map murder are increasingly common, but the Homicide Report is still recognised as one of the most innovative.

Iraqi bloggers put lives on the line

Alive in Baghdad is a weekly news programme produced by a team of Americans and Iraqi correspondents in Iraq. The blog employs Iraqi journalists to produce the video reports from locations well outside the green zone, places most western journalists find it virtually impossible to report from. The blog is funded by donations from readers and viewers. It’s highly dangerous work. In December 2007, Ali Shafeya Al-Moussaw, a correspondent for the blog, was shot 31 times in his home in the Habibiya district of Baghdad.

The tools of the modern trade

Mexico City-based journalist Deborah Bonello publishes the Mexcio Reporter blog. The British freelance employs video, photographs, audio and text to furnish her dispatches. She also uses a plethora of popular web tools, like the Facebook social network, the micro-blogging tool Twitter, and citizen journalism site NowPublic. The blog is an excellent example of how a journalist can use freely available internet tools and become quickly established as a reliable overseas foreign correspondent. Bonello recently started filing video and text reports for the Los Angeles Times.

Reporting the under-reported

Lives in Focus is one of the earliest blogs by a journalist to use multimedia to cover an ongoing story. Blog publisher and journalism professor Sandeep Junnarkar uses the blog to focus on ongoing, under-reported stories that might ordinarily make for one 2,000 or 3,000 word magazine feature.

The blog gives him the space to explore the story in great detail. Previously he focused on access to medicine for HIV patients in India. Now he is working on the story of Family Life Behind Bars, in the jails of America.

The blog is donation-driven and filled with video interviews and photographs. Junnarkar employed one of his journalism students as an intern to work on the blog in the summer of 2007.

The intern was paid by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Working up a site with answers

The Work Clinic is one of five blogs at Personnel Today magazine, part of Reed Business Publishing. It focuses on work problems.

Experts from the magazine are on hand to give advice and engage with readers in the comments.

The blog has a supporting page in the magazine which is itself generated from the blog. The Work Clinic is a good example of how a team of journalists can use the interactive side of a blog to enhance both the magazine website and the print product.

Going local with free software

The Express and Star newspaper in Wolverhampton is ‘the biggest-selling regional evening newspaper in Britain”. It is also a blog. The newspaper is built on the free, open source WordPress software. It is one of a few British newspapers that uses blogging software. Because it’s a blog it’s a doddle to update, manipulate on the fly, categorize via tags, and every story has comments.

Real time news from the ground

Blogs are ideally suited for rapidly updating readers on news events as they happen, and drawing attention to sources of information and voices from the scene via html links. During the so-called ‘saffron revolution’in Burma in September, 2007 The Guardian Newsblog – Burma became a hub of links to events on the ground, almost in real time.

‘The enthusiasm is infectious’

There is a quote from Davos 2007 about the difference between journalists and bloggers, ‘Bloggers suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, journalists suffer from attention deficit disorder.’

Brian Weatherly is a journalist, but if his BigLorryBlog is anything to go by, he’s definitely an obsessive compulsive when it comes to lorries. Weatherly is the editor-in-chief of Commercial Motor and Truck & Driver magazines, he likes lorries and he’s very chatty. The BigLorryBlog shows how enthusiasm for a niche subject makes for an infectious and passionate blog.

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