Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Research involves more than Google -- Doesn't it?

This morning I banged out a quick assignment for someone looking for content-mill type stories. The topic wasn't thrilling -- it was on electronic readers, things like the Kindle 2 or Sony Reader -- but the assignment was simple.

I noticed something, though. I wrote the entire story using only Google as a research tool.

That got me thinking. If I'm not writing for a magazine, I generally rely solely on Google to research my stories. No wonder you see the same stories over and over again when you scan sites like eHow, Suite 101, Associated Content and Examiner.com.

It's a bit depressing, isn't it? I mean, when I write for magazines, I interview people -- either in person or over the phone. I read research reports or business prospectuses. I sometimes scan through police reports or court documents. It's really work. It's really time-consuming.

But it's so much more satisfying.

It's not that I couldn't do extra research for my online stories. But with what online sites pay writers, and for what they expect from them, doing that extra research would be foolish. It's better to turn in the junk online sites want and take the peanut money they throw at us.

I still remember the days before Google and the Internet. The first newspaper I worked at still cut and pasted stories onto its pages.

I'm glad Google is around. It's an indispensable tool. I just wish I was writing more stories that required something more than a quick Google search.

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