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Blogs or diaries?

Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 09:52 UK time, Thursday, 1 March 2007

Should BBC correspondents writing for the News website write in blogs, or in conventional diaries/columns? Not the most burning issue in the world maybe but we've been pondering it nonetheless...

A graphic of the BBC News websiteMark Mardell, the BBC’s Europe Editor, is asking readers of his excellent weekly online diary whether we should migrate it into a blog template, like the one you’re looking at now. We're wondering about the pros and cons (it's the kind of thing editors do).

At the moment some of our correspondents (for example Mark’s Europe diary, Matt Frei in Washington, James Rogers in Moscow and Andy North in Baghdad) write regular columns or diaries, others write in blogs (Nick Robinson, Evan Davis, Robert Peston). Which is better? Does it matter?

Blogs allow easier updating and comments, permalinking to individual posts, an RSS feed so you can keep track of the new entries and don't have to come to the site to find it... The conventional story template tends to collect together lots of thoughts into one long-ish piece that gets published in one go, which is easier to schedule regularly and therefore promote systematically across the website. Maybe it’s also easier to write - a once-a-week or once-a-fortnight task rather than an ongoing preoccupation.

What do you think?

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 10:41 AM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Jeremy wrote:

Well, given that I've read all the blogs that you mention, but wasn't even aware that the diaries existed...! I'd say go with blogs.

  • 2.
  • At 11:36 AM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Katie wrote:

Ultimately, the content matters more than the format, but I'd go with blogs. The interactive nature of a blog lets your readers feel more engaged with the reporters.

"Blogs allow easier updating and comments, permalinking to individual posts, an RSS feed so you can keep track of the new entries and don't have to come to the site to find it..."

Answered your question really - get them on the blogging bus :-)

  • 4.
  • At 12:09 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Well i see very little point in the BBC having a blog. You NEVER adress any of the issues raised by posters, and in the very rare occasions you do you will hand pick a comment often irrelevant to the topic and comment on it becuase it suits you.

A perfect example would be the 'BBC bias' post.

Everyone posted dozens of examples of BBC bias but rather than adressing those comments and trying to defend yourselves you choose to comment on a poster who critised the BBC's accuracy of reporting on North Korea which was irrelevant to the topic.

Also if you make a headline on the front page relating to a blog entry you do not publish anyones comments until the main story has been taken off the main page becuase you don't want the masses to see what people think.

So why do you bother? You might as well get rid of 'the editors' it doesn't serve any purpose.

  • 5.
  • At 12:10 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Nigel wrote:

You have written this in a blog, and strangely (or not) the comments are all positive towards blogs. Maybe you should also get the same sort of thing published within a diary format and see how the responses go for that (but diaries have no direct comment mechanism, so thats a bit of a non-starter).

Personally I'm not too worried about the content scheduling (whether its a longer, probably more comprehensive, "diary piece", or a set of shorter "blog pieces" as long as it doesn't descend into stream of thought drivel), but the blog publishing mechanism does have the advantages of a direct feedback mechanism.

  • 6.
  • At 12:20 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Des Currie wrote:

The Blogs are interesting for the reason that they are written more as "off the cuff" entries with no particular schedule in mind. Some are mind-boggling boring while others give extremely interesting insights into journalistic functionality.
Keep the diaries out of the blogs, they are pre-structured entities and tend not to have the spontaneous feel of the blogs. A Washington Diary, for example, remains a Washington Diary whereas a weblog can be on the washing or keeping a diary.
Des Currie
ps. …and I am thinking that the Diary/column guys are feeling a bit under read and want to crash the blog scene so that they will be read, whether one likes it or not.

You seem to want the best of both worlds - why not have it? Why restrict to one format? Let the writer choose which one suits them best.

I do agree with:

"Blogs allow easier updating and comments, permalinking to individual posts, an RSS feed so you can keep track of the new entries and don't have to come to the site to find it"

Why restrict that to blogs - make the articles/diaries/weekly supplements easy to update with effective content management, allow comments with a blog like engine, and provide an RSS feed of them.

  • 8.
  • At 01:44 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • JG wrote:

I have to agree with Sam, No4. The BBC 'blogs' are not in any way equivalent to a normal blog as we know them. Blogs are all about interactivity, the owner posts a topic, people comment on this and the owner interacts with those people. That is what makes them such a great tool for having discussions. The BBC blogs just do not do this. The (admitted necessity) of having to pass comments past the censor makes it hard for commentators to have a good discussion, but the real problem is the almost total lack of interactivity from the BBC. The BBC blogs are really just a slightly changed format of 'have your say'. If you are going to do blogs, do them properly, don't just call them blogs because that is the latest buzz word.

  • 9.
  • At 01:45 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Sean Kelly wrote:

I think that both formats are valid as they have different styles. What I would say is that it can be difficult to find the columns or blogs.

You have an Audio & Video section, how about a Blogs and Columns section where users can quickly see what the latest entries are.

SK

  • 10.
  • At 01:51 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Kendrick Curtis wrote:

What's to say that you can't use blog technology to publish diaries in a diary form? That is, keep the structure and the posting frequency, but publish the entries onto a blog. That way those of us who like the diarists but can never seem to find them can use RSS to keep track of them, and post the occasional encouragement.

I second posts (4) and (5), incidentally.

  • 11.
  • At 02:00 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Craig Pearson wrote:

I agree

The problem is not the format (if correspondents want, well, correspondence, then the blog format is appropriate, otherwise, not), but the public perception that goes with the format.

The 'diaries' are personal, but are an extension of the diarist's journalistic job, within the constraints of the BBC's editorial guidelines.

The 'blogs' are commentary *about* the job, and so not necessarily subject to the guidelines, as I understand it (though I'm sure there are rules that should apply - I would not recommend, say, a piece by a pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian BBC employee on 'how I reconcile my beliefs with my job' without a great deal of careful thought).

Or so I think, anyway.

I see quite a bit of confusion in the comments on the blogs arising from failure to realise this, and I think it's worth addressing.

I think it's strange how specific you are being about what constitutes a blog and what constitutes a diary/column.

The features you described as belonging to a blog, such as rss feeds, can all be applied to a diary/column format just as easily. The whole question of a blog vs diary/column is one of symantics.

I believe you'd be sensible to apply features such as rss to the diaries/columns even if you didnt move them over to a "blog" format, though, as it would encourage greater readership and make it more accessible.

Just my thoughts :D

  • 14.
  • At 03:53 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • JG wrote:

I have to agree with Sam, No4. The BBC 'blogs' are not in any way equivalent to a normal blog as we know them. Blogs are all about interactivity, the owner posts a topic, people comment on this and the owner interacts with those people. That is what makes them such a great tool for having discussions. The BBC blogs just do not do this. The (admitted necessity) of having to pass comments past the censor makes it hard for commentators to have a good discussion, but the real problem is the almost total lack of interactivity from the BBC. The BBC blogs are really just a slightly changed format of 'have your say'. If you are going to do blogs, do them properly, don't just call them blogs because that is the latest buzz word.

  • 15.
  • At 04:03 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Matt wrote:

Blogs and diaries section - good idea. Blogs preferred.

  • 16.
  • At 04:11 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

Personally, I see little difference between a "blog" and a "diary". It would make sense for everyone to use the same software, to make it easier for people to navigate and to provide a uniform look/feel.

The tone of the content, whether off-the-cuff opinions, or a weekly overview is completely independent of the software that is used. The tone can (and should) vary from correspondant to correspondant.

  • 17.
  • At 05:20 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

I prefer the blog format by far thanks to the RSS capabilities. However, the BBC RSS feeds are poorly implemented as they do not provide the entire content of the blog post, just a summary. You are therefore forced to visit the website to read the entire post which completely defeats the purpose of RSS.

  • 18.
  • At 06:04 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • ecohappy wrote:

I'd say blog rather diary - I like Nick Robinsons blog which I think works really well - but I think the differences you point out between the blogs and diaries are really pretty slight for the average user.

I'd also support some of the comments above that it's a shame there's not more interaction between the author and the comments on the BBC blogs. What do you think Mr Herrmann?

... tumbleweed ...

I think the mass media has changed. The conventional diary is not atractive for the viewers, above all, in Internet.

In diaries the receptor is relegated and he doesn't chance to explain his thinks about he is reading, watching or listening.

In blogs you have a chance to do it.

  • 20.
  • At 07:10 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

I think they should have a choice. A radical concept, I know, but each journalist knows which medium is best for him or her.

The point about people not knowing that the diaries exist is your problem, not the journalist's. Mark Mardell makes the very sensible point that a weekly post allows time for things to be put into context and analysed. Something which sadly seems to be a very low priority indeed at the BBC these days.

And it beats me why an excellent journo like Justin Webb should have to post daily. It will turn into the facile and superficial nonsense they churn out on News 24.

You could of course ask Jeremy Paxman to start one, if only for us to be amused by his vitriolic vituperation.

  • 21.
  • At 07:39 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Malcolm Powell wrote:

You media geeks already have an unfair ability to air your opinions with your thoughts blaring out of big, loud transmitters. In your arrogance you want to take up even more bandwidth?

  • 22.
  • At 10:34 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

I would tend to agree. Blogs are alot more interactive and the person reading them would feel more engaged and feel more at liberty to try and take an active part in the current issues that said blog was concentrating on.

Get em Blogging. Thats my opinion

  • 23.
  • At 10:52 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Anthony wrote:

Blogs allow the original poster to respond to feedback and criticism from those who spend their time posting comments. However, Richard Porter hasn't bothered to respond to comments made after his flippant and patronising shrugging off of criticism about the BBC's woefully poor journalism on 9/11

  • 24.
  • At 12:57 AM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • Rod Earl wrote:

You don't respond to the blogs and you don't post even a tiny fracion of the comments.

A complete charade and waste of time imo. Not like the BBC in the least.

  • 25.
  • At 09:27 AM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Relating to the lack of interactivity issue, i think this blog entry is particularly ironic because it poses a question, should the BBC have blogs or a diary system. And yet as with all other posts we haven't as yet had any feedback and probabley won't.

So whats the point? You have asked a question but don't seem interested in the answer?

I agree with the above comments that you should:

a) encourage the BBC bloggers to interact with their audience more, by commenting on their own posts, and sometimes writing follow-up posts which acknowledge comments on previous posts.

b) not force blogs into a structured content format. A general subject is fine, by the BBC bloggers should be able to deviate from their subjects, write personal or off-the-cuff posts, and post at their own frequency.

c) realise that blog posts don't have to be fully considered pieces of journalism. It might be better to blog a story early, for example, and to update it, rather than to wait until it can be properly analysed.

d) remember that blogs don't exist in a vacuum. BBC news bloggers seem to rarely link to each other, let alone external people. Sometimes a link with an 'I agree with this person' or 'this is interesting' can be just as good as something original.

Hope that helps!

Frankie

  • 27.
  • At 11:57 AM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • John Farmer wrote:

Blogs are best. I've found Matt Frei's articles 'coloured' and being an article, does not give readers an immediate method of commenting, whereas a blog, like this or Nick Robinsons (the two I visit regularly) actively encourage feedback, which can only be a good thing for everyone.

Hello all..

I've responded to some of your comments in a new post - which you can find here.

Steve

This post is closed to new comments.

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