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Do what you do, and do it well

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Jeff Jarvis’ old phrase, Do what you do best and link to the rest, is misunderstood sometimes for Dump everything onto your site. Running a news website is hard and the hardest part may be keeping focused.

My biggest gripe with news sites is that they produce things that I know took way too much time out of journalists’ already strained schedules. For instance, why is any site doing movie reviews in the age of Rotten Tomatoes or even Twitter? (Note: Guys like Roger Ebert have earned their place and will never be replaced. Your weekend sports guy does not double as a Roger Ebert.)

Think of the things you’re spending too much time on. Maybe you’re rewriting press releases (why?) or “writing your own versions” of stories your competition already did (if there’s no fundamental difference between the two, again, why?). Now think of how much better you could be doing the things you’re actually good at if you cut out all the crap.

Streamline. Focus. Stick to what you do best.

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  • [ Maybe you’re rewriting press releases (why?) ]

    Generally agree, but this jumped out at me as needing an answer.

    We rewrite press releases because they’re, more often than not, a little shy of ‘balance’. If you’re going to use the press release in the first place, it must be about an issue / event your audience is interested in, so it’s good content.

    Sometimes background information is left out, things that should be more prominent are hidden away in the body of the text. Often there are extra facts omitted that you can find out relatively quickly and add to strengthen the story.

    Just because it’s been written once, doesn’t mean it’s been written in the best and most digestible way for your readers. Rewriting PR is a daily task, but I’d argue it’s a necessary one when there’s always something you can add.

  • @David- I’ll agree with that for print, but online, you can just spend two sentences pointing out the things you think are most important and then paste (or link to) the full press release.

    People are smart—if you write a good headline that says what’s in the “story” and state the press release’s value succinctly, people will click through to get the full information.

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