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UGC on Newsnight

Peter Barron | 11:15 UK time, Friday, 9 May 2008

We've often had debates among the staff (and presenters) of Newsnight about the value of user generated content (watch Jeremy Paxman's views here). In general we think our viewers don't particularly want to hear the views of other viewers on air. And they don't want to decide what goes in the programme. They want to leave it to us to come up with good material. But where does that good material come from?

Newsnight logoOn Wednesday we led the programme with an exclusive story about a loophole which means that foreign criminals can work airside at UK airports without undergoing criminal record checks. That story came from a viewer who was concerned about security at the airport where he works and sent an email to the BBC's UGC hub, who passed it to us.

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After the report aired, several further viewers wrote to us with their concerns and we followed up with a report on Thursday's programme.

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One viewer wasn't happy. He wrote: "I would prefer it if Newsnight reported the news and stopped asking us viewers to grass on people to help your program."

I think that would be a pity. These days there are millions of potential sources for news stories we could never have got to in the past. On Newsnight we won't often put your opinions on air (though you can leave them here on the website) but if you have a good story which you think should be told we'd like to hear it.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think it's one thing getting news from the public but it's a separate issue broadcasting their comments and reactions.

    I'm not interesting in Joe Public's comments or concerns on a story, whether I'm watching Breakfast or Newsnight. But particularly with Newsnight, I want to hear an experts opinion on the subject, or a professionals analysis of a situation, not what the guy next door thinks.

    I can ask Joe Public myself what their opinion is, but I don't have access to the experts and professionals the BBC does in their reporting.

  • Comment number 2.

    How about a story about The Death Of DR. Kelly and how the BBC seems to have lost their editorial independence since then.

    I have tried to raise many stories for coverage, from the illegal movement of nuclear weapons, to the foreknowledge that Peter Powers had on 7/7.

    Or why not do a special report on all the D-Notices you have had to follow.

    or best of all, you could do a wee story on how Prescott Bush. the grandpa of the Bush Clan, went to jail in WWII for colluding with the enemy (the Nazis) and for treason (he led an attempted fascist coup in the US). It in the library of congress so its not some wild rumour.

    the truth will set you free

  • Comment number 3.

    MORE PLEASE of viewers and listeners input as you are doing. As Hank points out, absolutely huge stories are covered up, and if they finally are outed, we get brief coverage and then the story is put to bed once more. Surely we must all push and shove the whole time for more of the truth to be found in our news media, and less of the trivia items we are faced with daily- you know the sort of thing, presenters interviewing each other on which football teams they think will be relegated, 'Do e-mail us with the names you give to your car', or 'Will Dwain Chambers really make it in Rugby League?'
    The response of posters on this site to the opportunity to put a question to David Miliband, illustrate how motivated and interested viewers of NewsN and other similar programmes are.

  • Comment number 4.

    Its a good idea that viewers can suggest stories. I am a tad cynical about how you can objectively represent viewers opinions without being subjective. If its a poll, which can be very interesting, thats quite different although possibly the stats would have to be represented carefully. But the airport story is a good story and its important. Mongo think:

    whistle blowing good and viewer stories good
    viewers opinions just yabba yabba yabba.

  • Comment number 5.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with the public informing the BBC of issues which aren't being raised, and the BBC then investigating those issues. If Newsnight viewers don't like that, it may be a good idea for Panorama to only investigate issues the viewers have raised, and Newsnight to investigate what the Newsnight team wishes to be investigated. Having both approaches would enable viewers to watch the programme with the approach they prefer, and enable the BBC to fully implement both approaches.

  • Comment number 6.

    Peter Barron's points are well made and I agree with the balance he has struck.

    While a lot of viewers comments are trite or poorly presented and therefore have to be discarded, the Beeb has a duty to listen to its paymasters and trawl every possible avenue for news.

    With various unseen pressures trying to suppress information these days, the BBC represents the comparative freedom, we the audience enjoy compared with much of the world.

  • Comment number 7.

    For a credible news programme to publish viewers opinion as news would be weak. To receive a tip-off, properly investigate, offer the oportunity of reply to the managers and then air a serious report is entirely correct.

    By the way - what makes you think it's just airports? CRB checks for doctors/nurses/teachers etc only cover the years the person has lived in the UK - if they lived 30 years in (eg) Zimbabwe first there no realistic way of checking for offences commited in that 30 years. Some 'Western' countries can provide information, but many other countries can not/will not - very poor countries may not actually have central records to check.

    List of countries able to offer checks is openly displayed on the CRB website.

  • Comment number 8.

    Jeepney Man,

    I find your comment one of the most shocking i have ever read.

    Your comment essentially reads that you dont mind being lied and misinformed because you feel well informed compared to others.

    Would this be similiar to being a well treated slave compared to a badly treated slave.

    I know its a trite and poorly presented argument but i for one would rather fight for the truth and fight to live free, and i would sooner have my newsmedia report nothing then feel they have to report lies due to pressure from unnamed places.

    Its this attitude that is the reason we can have what few liberties we have stripped from us and continue on the road to a police state.

    But i guess as long as they dont come for you Jeepney man.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm one of those guys who couldn't give a t**s what some punter on the street thinks about this or that news item. Radio 5 drives me to distraction in this respect: I just turn it off when Joe/Josephine Public comes on. If I want to hear the views of the man on the street about the Burma cyclone, I'll walk up to my pub and ask him. But when I have to pay a licence fee to hear John from Epping tell me what he thinks of Gordon Brown's plight at the moment ... forget it. I'm with Paxman on this one.

  • Comment number 10.

    I fear some can't distiguish the difference between viewers contacting journalists about a story, and the views of 'the public' about a story.
    I couldn't give two hoots what Nigel Smith from Milton Keynes thinks about the state of the economy. Is he an economist? A financial advisor, almost certainly not, so how worthwhile is his opinion exactly? Probably not a lot.
    Well done for saying no to this ridiculous fad where the users 'generate' the content. If they had a talent for it they would be producing it professionally.

  • Comment number 11.

    Well if it wasn't for the tip off we wouldn't have known about the huge black hole in security at airports! Who knew that foreign criminals remained unchecked before going to work at a British airport? It's only thanks to a tip off from the public and Newsnight's investigation, that has come out.

    It's great that Newsnight want viewers input - for instance the Deputy Leader Leadership where we, the viewers, were able to write in with our own questions, then with the London Mayoral Debate and more recently with David Milliband.

  • Comment number 12.

    This User Generated Content gives to much influence to the 'Points of View' Stereotype middle class Conservative and I have noticed that it is being treated as representative of public opinion by BBC news programs. Who sound more like 'Angry from Tumbridge wells' every day.
    I think many people know that the very few angry 'Points of view' letters have had an unfair influence over BBC programming policy. It would be completely unfacceptable for a relatively few middle class Conservatives to have influence over BBC News and Current affairs and potentially the way people vote or accurately dont vote.


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