Surviving riots, revolution, gunfire and guerrillas, my career has produced moments of true fear. But rarely has journalism presented such a daunting prospect as when I sat down in the
NUJ’s training room to tackle the new frontier of cyberspace.
Perversely, years of conflict reporting had been my comfort zone. I knew what I was doing and hopefully showed skills and experience to cope.
But confronting a blank computer screen and challenged to create my own web page brought back rising panic I had not felt since my raw early days in a newsroom.
Of course, anyone recent to our profession knows how multi-talented journalists are now required to be. Pitching back onto the jobs market at the age of 59 meant I had to acquire knowledge of the web and how to exploit it to sell myself in today’s highly competitive environment.
So I had enrolled for a pair of related two-day courses; “Building Your Own Web Site” and “Writing For The Web”. Both were ably hosted by Chris Wheale, freelance trainer, publisher, editor and web guru. He demonstrated not only a wealth of experience but patience to help digital dunces like me through the learning process.
We learned that online is the ficklest audience. They click away promiscuously. Stories need to be told in the first sentence. Few readers persist beyond four pars and only one in five ever scrolls down.
The result was an online presence that I have actually created from scratch and feel reasonably proud of. Judge for yourself at www.themeade-ia.co.uk.
It also introduced me to a new way of writing to attract traffic that will determine any site’s visibility, viability – and elusive profitability
Search engines home in on popular subjects. So any intro that includes Michael Jackson, Madeleine McCann, Manchester United and Money Off in one sentence can’t fail. I’m still working on it.