HOWTO: do a “roundup” post for Indivisible, the Women’s March, or anything else

Last week, I had some free time so did a few press roundups for Indivisible as it’s been ramping up, getting organized, and preparing for “Resistance Recess”.

Quite a few people told me how much they liked them — and why not? Everybody’s sick of news about the latest horrible nominee being rammed through, made-up terrorist attack that didn’t happen, etc etc etc … seeing the positive things happen as the resistance gets organized is a breath of fresh air!

These kind of “roundup posts” actually fairly easy to do, and a great place to start if you’re just getting into blogging. Like anything else, it gets faster with practice. The basic approach is straightforward:

  1. Find the articles to include
  2. Create the body of the post, with headlines, links, and (optionally) pictures and excerpts from each of the articles
  3. Edit it, including writing a short intro and choosing a title
  4. Proofread it and hit publish! And then, if necessary, revise it — you probably haven’t gotten anything right.

I’ll use my own experiences with Indivisible as an example, but the techniques are pretty general. You could do something similar with the Women’s March or anything else that’s getting enough press coverage

The rest of the post goes into detail about each of these steps, and wraps up with some final thoughts. Please don’t be intimidated by its length — I cover a lot of optional fairly-advanced topics that you don’t have to deal with if you don’t want to. If you’re just starting out, or if you don’t have a lot of time, you can skip all of those and just do the basics.

Finding the articles to include

The easiest way to find the articles to put is just use the News tab of a search engine, like Google, Bing, or Duck Duck Go. You can also look on Twitter, by searching and by looking at specific accounts.

For Indivisible, I just searched for the word “indivisible”. Outside of a few references to the Pledge of Allegiance, most of the matches were relevant. On Twitter, I checked the main IndivisibleTeam account and a couple others to see if there were any articles they thought were important that I had missed.

You’ll probably get a very very long list of links back. Don’t panic! You don’t have to include every article you find! You can start with a handful of links and add more later. Here’s a couple of ways to narrow things down:

There’s no right or wrong answer; for Indivisible, I didn’t bother with Republicans gnashing their teeth and blaming George Soros, but there’s enough entertaining articles that somebody else might want to do a roundup just of these :)

Once I find the first few articles I want, I usually start creating the body of the post. Then I iterate, adding a few more at a time, clicking on the “next” page in my search results until they’re not useful any more. If I’m trying to be thorough I check Twitter and another search engine to find some I’ve missed; again, though, this is the kind of thing you can skip or do later if you prefer. Other people approach it differently and create their list of articles up front before doing any of the post creation. Try it different ways to see what works best for you.

Create the body of the post

Start by creating a blank post in whatever blogging system you’re using. [If you’ve never blogged before, no worries: it’s easy to set yourself up on, Medium, or Ghost.] Don’t worry about the title at this point; I usually call it “work in progress, February 14” or something like that. You’ll use this draft post to collect the summaries of all the articles you’re including.

Now decide how you want the summary of each article to look. You almost certainly want at least the headline and a link, and probably also the name of the publication. Here’s a simple example:

Hundreds turnout for Rep. Sanford and Sen. Scott town hall in Mount Pleasant, Alexis Simmons, Live 5 News

Putting in an excerpt for some or all of the articles makes the roundup a lot more useful to people reading it, but takes more time. Including photos makes your post prettier, but also takes more time. Here’s an example from one of my roundup posts

Don’t be afraid to experiment: start with something minimal and try adding more once you’ve got a little practice, or start with the whole megilla and drop things if they’re too time consuming.

The most straightforward, albeit tedious, way to get the contents from the article into your blog post is to cut-and-paste from the article into your blog post, and then play with the formatting.

  • Select and copy the headline from the article, put it in your post, change the formatting.
  • Select and copy the URL, and change the headline in your article to a link.
  • If you want an excerpt, select and copy the text you want andput it in your post.
  • If you want an image, select it and copy it and add it to your post. (On Wordpress, you might be better off copying a link to the image: control-click and “Copy Image Link”, or whatever your browser calls it.) If you run into problems, you can always download the picture and re-upload it into your post.
  • … and so on with whatever information you want to include.

If you’re using Wordpress, or have access to a Wordpress blog, the handy Press This bookmarklet can help make this more efficient. More details on that here.

If you want to include an excerpt, articles often have a short “subhead” that usually does the job well. Or you can use the “lede”, the key point of the article, which is very often the first paragraph. If you want to take a little more time, scan the article to find something that’s more distinctive and will catch people’s interest. Some of the things I look for group’s names, pithy quotes, attendance at meetings, and discussions of next steps.

Remember that it’s still a draft at this point, so don’t worry too much about the exact contents of the excerpt, or order of the articles. And you don’t have to include all the details for each article. When there are multiple stories on a town hall, for example, I’ve been picking one or two to excerpt, and then just including the headlines, publication, and author’s names for the rest. The Indivisible: Ready for Recess post has some good examples of this.

Wordpress and Medium usually save drafts of your post automatically (and on Wordpress you can see your revision history) but I often make my own copies from time to time just in case.

Edit and assemble the post

Now that you’ve done the bulk of the work, it’s time to finish polishing the post. What I do at this point is to take a quick pass through and see what I want to highlight, or if there’s a natural way to organize it. Are there one or two particularly important stories? Is there a theme? Then I write a short introduction, choose a title, and potentially reorder and edit the stories.

Some people like to put the stories in some particular order — chronological, sorted by topic or geography, alphabetical … it takes some time, but especially if you have a really long list it can be quite useful. For the Indivisible posts, I haven’t spent the time to do this. Instead, I’ve just tried to arrange things to look visually interesting by not having too many posts in a row without photos.

If you’ve got images, you can also decide how big you want them to be, and whether you want them centered or left- or right-justified. Wordpress gives you a lot more control here; on Medium, you only have a couple choices. It can be tempting to spend hours and hours fiddling with this … that’s probably not the best use of time :)

Then I choose the title for the post. My first reaction is usually accurate, but dull: “Indivisible press roundup” won’t get as many as many people to read it as a catchier phrase. “Indivisible: getting organized!” If nothing obvious comes to mind, brainstorm with a friend. You might also want to choose a title for the series, but you can always do that after you’ve done a few posts.

If you really want to polish your post, there’s a lot more you can do: tags, making sure that the Featured Photo on Wordpress is a good choice, setting the “excerpt” on Wordpress or the Custom Title/Subtitle on Medium, and so on. Then again, you can always do fix later, so you might not want to worry about thm yet.

Proofread and Publish!

It’s always a good idea to take a proofreading pass before you post. One important thing to check is whether you’ve spelled people’s and cities’ names correctly — it’s easy to get wrong. On Wordpress, you probably want to hit Preview to see what it will look like. Sometimes I’ll ask somebody else to take a look at it; Medium lets you initially publish a story as “unlisted”, meaning only people who know the link can see it, which is ideal for sharing it with on or two people for feedback.

Once you’re happy with it, share it with the world by publishing it. Hooray! Give yourself a round of applause!

Even when I proofread carefully, I almost always discover some mistakes after I publish a post. Drat. Oh well; that’s why Edit exists. If you’re making major changes in a post after people have already seen it, you may want to say something about it in the post (“Edited to add a dozen more links”). For typo fixes and other minor changes, or if nobody’s seen it yet, I usually just make the fixes without saying what I’ve done.

Final thoughts

Now that you’ve done all this work, you probably want to share it, at least with a few people. One easy thing to do is to send it to friends via email, Facebook, WhatsApp, or however you stay in touch with them. It’s also easy to share it on your Facebook profile — think about whether you want to be friends-only, make it visible to frinds-of-friends or the entire world, or use a custom list to lock it down even further. If there are specific friends you think would be interested in it, you can tag them in a reply (which is more polite than tagging them in the main post).

If you want more people to see the post, there’s a lot more you can do to promote it as well. I’ll cover this more in follow-on posts. ANd if you’ve enjoyed the first one, why not try again?

I hope there’s enough here to get people up and going. If there’s things here that are confusing, or stuff I’ve left out, please let me know! You can get in touch by leaving me a “private note” or response here on Medium, or tweet them to me at @jdp23.

And if you’ve followed this advice and want to share your work, or have suggestions that would make it better, I’d love to see them!

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