This Saturday, I spent pretty much the whole day with fellow journalist students at Webster University for the Society of Professional Journalists' yearly boot camp, which was basically a series of lectures by professionals in the field as well as a writing competition. For disclosure's sake? I did not win the writing competition. But it was a valuable learning experience about reporting breaking news as well as using information from a news conference to blah blah blah what does this have to do with anime?
Because, surprising enough (or not), I picked up a few points from the many seminars I sat through that are rather valuable for anime bloggers. After all, bloggers are a kind of journalist. We investigate stories and write posts about them, doing our best to keep to a set of standards. Many anime bloggers livetweet industry panels at anime conventions, do 'breaking news' posts on events in anime and manga, even interviews with fellow otaku-related public figures (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses is very good on this front). We even get press badges at anime conventions! Okay, sometimes.
Hopefully, one of these tips are helpful to y'all! You can start reading them after the jump.
5. Be ready to get lucky. The world is full of lucky breaks - the anime world included - and you gotta be open to taking advantage of these opportunities. If you get a chance to cover a big anime convention, jump at it. If you find yourself talking to someone who could hook you up to corresponding with some big name manga-ka or anime director, go for it. Even if you are uncertain about how things will end, if you make the effort you won't regret doing so.
4. Take notes. Lots of notes. During that mock press conference for the writing competition, everyone was scribbling on our news pads like mad men because we were afraid we would miss something, a bit of crucial information that would make our article a winner. It's the details that will deviate a blog piece from all the others on the same subject. Sure, everyone else is reporting that [X] Studio will be adapting [Y] manga for an anime - but you're the only one who wrote down the name of the animation director and producer already connected with the project. Ergo, you got the advantage from the start.
Also, no one's memory is perfect - and even if you have a recording device, the possibility of a mechanical malfunction should be enough to keep your pad and pencil (or at least an ultrabook or tablet) in your bag for a good while yet. I also have found it good to take notes while watching anime which I blog about weekly, although I usually reserve that for the second viewing.
3. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you are at a Bandai panel at AX and you have a question burning in your back pocket, get the mic and ask it. If you feel bold enough (and if time allows), do a quick follow-up question. As part of a media consuming audience, you have the right to ask questions about the products you consume, especially when you get the opportunity to talk to those directly involved. Yes, even if you are one of those bloggers eager to line up at Tokyopop panels in order to give Stu Levy a sound verbal thrashing (and to those folks, I salute thee for your works).
2. An editor is your best friend. You may think your blog post is comparable to a Pulitzer Prize winning article, but guess what? It probably is not, at least when it comes to grammar and punctuation and other such errors. Even Thomas Friedman needs a fresh pair of eyes to look over his award winning pieces for the New York Times; no one is perfect on the first try. In the case of anime/manga bloggers, it's not only structural details but facts that need checking; you don't want to be that blogger who, in a rather large piece on TYPE-MOON's works, wrote that their most popular title has been "Fae Stay Moon" starring the "Servile Saver".
If you can, find someone to look over your more major blog pieces. If they are educated on the subject at hand and can spot logical fallacies/incoherent data whoopsies, even better. If you can't, Spellcheck is your friend - but for goodness' sake, don't rely on it. When in doubt, visit Purdue University's online writing lab, an invaluable tool for anyone who writes anything. If you are friends with one of your English professors (and you are cool with them looking at the material you blog about), hit them up for a critique. Personally, I've found that professors love seeing how you apply their lessons to out-of-class applications - even if you're not currently their student.
1. Don't be typical, be extraordinary. Anyone can write an episode review of the latest anime season. It takes a crafty mind to take that typical season post and turn it into something truly unique. If pretty much everyone is covering Show A of the fall season, be the one blog that is covering Show Z on a regular basis. See: the fact that I'm one of very few anime blogs regularly covering Naka Imo/Who Is Imouto, while everyone else is focusing their energies on shows like Sword Art Online and Humanity Has Declined. See also: Organization Anti-Social Geniuses, the only animanga blog doing regular coverage of the Shonen Jump Alpha manga series Barrage. If you can get your blog noticed from the hundreds of animanga blogs out there on the Intertubes, you are doing it right.
But most important of all, blog about what you want to blog about. Being an independent anime/manga blogger is fundamentally different from working in a formal journalist environment because you don't have stories assigned to you and any deadlines are pretty much self-assigned. Sure, some stories just beg to be covered even if you may not think they are so interesting (Tokyopop's return, the fall of Geneon, Media Blasters' laying off of 60% of its workers, etc.) but for the most part, you make your own topic schedule. If you want to cover exclusively something like visual novels or eroges or josei manga or anime OVAs or Macross, you do that. As long as you are enjoying yourself, everything else will follow.
For more information on the Society of Professional Journalists, you can visit their website. Feel free to comment with some of the things you've learned that apply to anime blogging; the more non-conventional the source, the better!