Friday, December 28, 2007

Good Astrology Bloggery (+Benazir Bhutto).

Tom Coates, an early blogger, in 2001 re-discovered an old newspaper column by Keith Waterhouse, in which he had listed his own rules for good column writing. The article can be accessed via the link above. Tom Coates considered that some of Keith's 25 points are as helpful in blogging as in column writing.

Keith Waterhouse was a favourite newspaper columnist of mine, back in the UK. He's seen below (left) with Peter O'Toole, doing what journalists love to do.

I chose 9 points from Keith's list of 25, and added minor modifications and comments, in red. Not only is astrology blogging different from newspaper column writing, it's also different from straightforward blogging - but these points still gave me some useful insights.

The body of this post was drafted a few days ago. Yesterday's dreadful news, of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, highlights some of Keith's points, as well as the sterling work of our astrologers and bloggers who commented on the tragedy, using a variety of astrological references.

(i) It's not so much what you say as the way that you say it. Your column(blog) must have a distinctive voice, to the extent that if your byline(blog name) were accidentally dropped, your readers would still know who was writing. If your style isn't instantly recognisable, what you have there is not a column(blog) but a signed article. (I think he meant "un-signed"?)

(ii) The fact that your column (blog) contains no facts does not mean that you need not have checked them like any other journalist. In other words, you must be sure of your case. You are allowed to generalise - "Our children are the worst educated in Europe" only if your wild generalisations, when tamed, can be substantiated.We should make sure it's possible to "tame" generalised remarks, such as...erm..
"there are more geniuses born with Sun in Aquarius than any other sign". (I do remember seeing that in print, more than once, over the years!)

(iii)Avoid kneejerk reactions. You don't necessarily have to produce a paragraph every time Fergie(or Bush) does something stupid or a politician's wife announces that she's standing by him. If the readers can predict what you're going to say, there's little point in saying it - and even less in their reading it.This one could apply to astrology bloggers, except that sometimes, what happened to a well-known individual might serve to illustrate an astrological point.

(iv) Let the bandwagon roll by. Even if every columnist(blogger) in the land is commenting on the mother unjustly sent to prison or the teacher who handcuffed the child to a radiator,(or a comet, or eclipse, or a celestial peculiarity), you don't have to jump aboard unless you have something to say that the others haven't already said.Same applies here as in (iii).

(iv)On the other hand, although it's not always necessary to write about the main news event of the day, there are times when the occasion demands it. Given a Hillsborough (for those in the US, this could read "New Orleans") disaster, for example, there is no point in writing about anything else since nobody will be talking about anything else.New ideas or a different astrological perspective would ensure readers do actually read, not just glance, at your hard work though. It may still be best to desist, after a brief mention of the topic, unless fresh inspiration presents itself..

(vi)Don't ever try to fake it. Nothing is so transparent as insincerity - pile on the adjectives though you may, false indignation has the ring of a counterfeit coin.This applies to all writing, I guess. If we don't have confidence in a particular astrological method or process, it's best not to try to write about it sounding as though we do..

(vii)Do not expose your spouse to the glare of the public - especially not by the whimsical name of Him Indoors or She Who Must Be Obeyed. The same goes for the misadventures or quirky comments of your family and the daffy behaviour of your family's dog.Ooops! Here's one I'm guilty of. ("HeWhoKnows" = my husband). The internet is somewhat different from newspapers, and bloggers are in a different situation from newspaper columnists. Anonymity is commonplace in internet communication of all kinds, for a variety of reasons.

(viii)There is no real need to mention that you have been on radio or television again. Your readers no longer regard it as any big deal.Any astrologer or blogger who manages to get themself in front of a radio mic or TV camera - heck - shout it from the rooftops! Astrology needs all the exposure it can get.

(ix) Should you wear a hat, do not ever offer to eat it. Predictions are for astrologers. If you do make a prediction and you are wrong, as you are almost certain to be, don't start your subsequent column(Blog) with the words "All right, so I have egg on my face". Forget it. Your readers already have.This one speaks for itself to astrology bloggers, and especially to me in view of yesterday's tragic news about Benazir Bhutto.

Although I didn't actually try to predict anything in my blog post about her last summer HERE, my comment that "nothing but good can come of her return to Pakistan" was most unwise. I finished the posting with one of her quotations: "You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea." I hope her ideas will not die with her.

R.I.P. Benazir Bhutto - the world could ill afford to lose you, especially at this point in history.

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