A diploma and a blog

I’ve been quoting Neil McIntosh of the Guardian to my students this week, saying he expects job applicants to have a blog. And conveniently, here’s Neil today leaving a comment with his rationale (responding to a question from Paul Bradshaw):

I tell all the journalism students I meet this: blogs are the minimum. There’s no excuse for a student journalist who wants to work online not to have one. The only exception (and even then…) might be if they were heavily involved in student media, or were working for a publication part-time, or were doing some kind of other digital work which trumped having a mere blog. And no, MySpace/Bebo/Facebook pages don’t count :)

Moreover, the quality of the blog really matters, because it lets me see how good someone is unedited and entirely self-motivated. If I were to see a decent pitch with a blog address on it, I’d look, and the quality and frequency could count heavily in the author’s favour. And if a brilliant graduate didn’t have a blog, but still made interview, I’d be asking, politely, why not…

LATER: John Robinson, cybersmart editor of the News & Record, weighs in.

I ask job applicants if they have a blog. Most of them don’t. Then I ask them if they read my blog. About half of them haven’t.

The two questions tell me a lot about the candidates. First, if they have a blog, it gives me an indication of their passion for writing and communicating. It also allows me to see how their unedited writing reads. I rarely pay attention to submitted clips; I know how good editing can make a mediocre writer appear positively Halberstamian. Finally, in answering the question, they usually let on what they think of blogging and digital. Believe it, some trash blogs.

Second, if they haven’t read my blog, it tells me they haven’t done their homework. That makes the candidate a non-starter.

Actually, it helps winnow down the candidates pretty quickly.

In the comments, there, Mark Potts adds:

It’s not so much that there’s great magic in writing a blog–it’s just another publishing tool, in my book–but it certainly reveals a lot about their comfort and facility with the Web and new media. It also is very revealing about what their raw writing skills are like, as you point out.

On the digital side, especially, we need people who are “native speakers” or as fluent as possible in the new ways of presenting information and interacting with readers. There’s no question they’re more qualified if they’ve walked the walk, talked the talk and blogged the blog.