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Guide to Web Research and Writing

Introduction

To blatantly steal a phrase, the brave new world of the Web is still evolving. That means the "rules" are still being written, the guideposts are still being painted, and anyone who attends a seminar or three can become an expert fish in their pond of choice. Such is my case, though I humbly submit there is much I do not know and even more out there I don't know that I don't know. Given the obtuseness of the point, stick with me just a little longer.

And yet … well, and yet I wanted to write this manual to help my colleagues find better and more varied sources quicker and easier on deadline since deadlines are our metier. I also wanted to write this guide to help others understand Web writing theory and nuance and thus make our daily offerings sing. I'm not talking Mormon Tabernacle Choir here, just a small and sweet streetcorner a cappella effort will do.

Decades or centuries from now when the history of Web writing is written, I don't know if there will be a divide between East Coast and West Coast Web, a la hip-hop music. But I do acknowledge there is a bias in this guide. Most of what I learned I learned at seminars at the Poynter Institute and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. My mentors helped an old dog like me learn new media tricks.

So I'd like to thank Sree Sreenivasan, an associate professor at Columbia; Brian Kennedy, an adjunct at Columbia and new media practitioner; Jon Dube, technology editor at MSNBC.com; Jeremy Caplan, senior associate editor at Yahoo! Internet Life; and Al Tompkins, Poynter scholar. All are good guys nonpareil. Every good idea and tip that works in this manual I stole from them. Hosannas and thanks for their time and patience with me. Anything that doesn't work is my fault.

Thanks should also go to all of you, the staff at Business First and the Buffalo Law Journal, for your help, suggestions and efforts to keep me fed and happy while I was writing this during the winter of 2001-02. I need to especially thank Jack Connors, publisher; Jeff Wright and Donna Collins, editors; and Gary Burns, editor and Renaissance man about the newsroom for giving me the time and means to write this.

I've saved the best for last. The person I really need to thank is my wife, Penny. She puts up with me and my projects through thick and then, hell and high water, old and new media. As I've said so often before, she smiles on the life I love. That makes it all worthwhile. I'd like to dedicate this manual to her.

--Joe Marren