When you sit down to write, you'll be faced with a set of parallel problems: what to say and how to say it. This post looks to explore a useful structure that you can use to put together a newsworthy piece that's longer than a few paragraphs yet is still readable quickly by someone who is looking to skim the whole article for good ideas or to determine whether they should dig into the whole thing.
There are a lot of words on the Internet, and not enough time to read them all. If you plan to catch someone's attention and hold it, you'll need to not only have an argument that's well thought through and interesting, but also a structure for your words that lets someone quickly get to the gist of what you are trying to accomplish.
Formal structure does not need to be elaborate - there are no sonnets to be written here. In most cases, the reader won't really know that you have consciously chosen a way to keep your words together, because the resulting document will flow neatly if it's being read from start to finish, and it will still make sense if you skim it quickly. What structure gives you is a place to work from as you plan out your course of action, and a deliberate pace that allows you to repeat key themes at various points along the way to make a point that's well understood.
The structure of your writing extends to the graphics that you attach to it, the categories and themes that you work into it, and any links that are provided to bring the reader to related materials or to send them off to the far reaches of the network for more information. Each of these elements serve to either draw the reader in for more detail or to invite them to explore further, and it's worthwhile to be deliberate in how your writing is put together to support that.
The format which I love to use for newsy writing starts with a strong lead paragraph, summarizing all of the conclusions that are supported by the words that follow. A reader who only sees the very top of the page or a few words from a Facebook summary needs to have a strong hook to bring them into the story, and if you bury that lead paragraph deep in the text they will never get to it. It's worthwhile to go back to the top of your post when you're done with it and re-edit those first few words until they are descriptive and compelling enough to draw you back in for the whole thing.
If you're blogging about a news event, you should always look for multiple sources to quote from in order to bring the story forward and not simply copy from something already written. The blogger's secret is to obtain the right mix of original work, commentary, and clippings from other sources that help round out the story, gather background materials that the original author of the news story didn't find time to write, or to dig deeper into public records that help explain at a level of technical detail more that's going on than what's typically explained by public relations people to news reporters. As a rule of thumb, when you take from one person it's stealing, but when you incorporate works from enough people it's research.
Finally, it's important to not leave the story without a conclusion. There's nothing more disconcerting than following what looks like a line of reasoning expressed through selective editing of news clips, but no tidy paragraph at the bottom wrapping up any loose ends and giving some direction for the reader to grasp onto. Imagine the reader looking at the very top of the page and the very bottom of the page to see what's in the middle, and use your conclusion to draw together any loose threads and summarize.
One of the problems with blogging as a news structure is that there's a temptation to simply cut and paste from someone's hard work and pass it off as your own under the color of "aggregation". Aggregation is just an aggrivation to anyone who has spent hard work writing something just to find it taken out from under them and reused. By insisting on multiple quotations for any story that you piece together, you make certain that you're moving the story forward and not simply repeating someone else's words.
An advantage to this structure of lead paragraph, quotes with commentary, and conclusion is that it's infinitely extensible to handle the rapid fire demands of breaking news as well as the slow accretion of deep background on a complicated story. To add to the piece, all you need to do is slide in a new paragraph at an appropriate part of the narrative in the middle, and then update the introduction and conclusions as needed.
When news is traveling at breakneck speed, bloggers and news organizations alike switch to a "live blog" format, where the new news is at the top of the page and the quotes from each source are limited to just a few words. This structure still depends on a compelling lead paragraph, explaining why you are going to all this trouble; the conclusions that you bring together out of the mass of rapid fire updates are welcomed for readers just catching up.
Remember that not all of the information that you are collecting needs to be blocks of words. One very effective method of storytelling I like to use is to collect maps of a situation, as in the post I put together for tsunami maps for the March 2011 Honshu earthquake. This is a pretty good example of the style described here, with a brief summary at the top and then a collection from more than a dozen sources to follow. Similarly, this piece on the Peanut Corporation of America plant in an old sausage factory that was associated with peanut recalls in 2009 worked well to explain some of the back story behind that event, weaving together old newspaper clippings to tell a piece of the story that the wire services were not reporting.
The structure of a lead paragraph, followed by a series of brief quotations with commentary and ending with a concluding paragraph, fits a news-telling blog quite well. It allows for rapid updates when news is moving quickly, and it also accomodates the deep digging you need when an interesting story is incomplete. Make sure that your conclusion at the end is snappy, since if the post is long enough to be worth reading you can convey that with a concise summary.