BBC BLOGS - The Editors

Archives for October 2010

BBC News linking policy (4)

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 12:30 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The question of how and when we link from the BBC News website to external sites is something I've posted about here before and I had a go at rounding up the interesting discussion which followed.

Linking from the BBC News website

From the piece Q&A: The Avenue Verte

Since then, we've done some work on this aspect of our journalism and have recently revamped our guidance to journalists about best linking practice - something one or two others have already spotted and reported on.

The new guidance places more emphasis on good inline linking from news stories. This includes not only backgrounders; in particular, it's about linking directly to the source of a story where possible, such as a newspaper exclusive or a scientific report.

We'll also continue to link to related sites under the sections labelled "Related Internet links" and "From other news sites" (also known as Newstracker), which are now located at the bottom of story pages.

Here's a summary which I have just sent out to our editorial teams, for those who might be interested in our current thinking on this issue:

"Linking to relevant source material and useful additional content is a key part of being a good online journalist. The links we provide, when done well, add value to our reporting. Our objective is to double the number of 'clickthroughs' to other sites.

"There are full guidelines on linking style on the intranet, but they boil down to this:

"External linking:
  • News stories - add inline links to the key source, e.g. report, document, newspaper article
  • Features and analysis - you can go further and inline link to carefully-selected external (and internal) sources that add value
  • Inline links should always make clear where they will take you - for example in this story: 'The study by the Senate Armed Services Committee says this is because contractors often fail to vet local recruits and end up hiring warlords'
  • Use Newstracker on all stories - unless editorially inappropriate

"Internal linking - see above, and also:
  • Add a mini-hyper [a box linking to our own in-depth coverage] or mini-related stories box on all stories - unless the whole story is very short (e.g. six pars or less) or there really are no suitable links. That's because we want to make the depth we have in our related stories visible near the top of every story, not just at the bottom
  • Choose stories or backgrounders that add value when you are adding related stories - not just the latest archived news stories on the same subject, or earlier versions of the same story

"Taking the time to add good links is important, even if it means we produce fewer stories. It is also worth updating a live story with a fresh link if, for example, a key report is published a few hours later. Our aim should be to act as a trusted guide to source material, additional information and further perspectives elsewhere on the web about the stories and issues we are covering."

Looking around the site at our current coverage, there are examples of major news stories with inline links to external source material, including the UK's national security strategy, business support for spending cut plans and a ship hijacking study. Other recent examples include this feature with a range of interesting added links, a review round-up and a backgrounder with a wider range of links to reference material.

Our links in blog posts have always been closer to standard blogging practice; we also have the See Also blog which is dedicated entirely to presenting links from around the web on particular subjects such as Media Brief, Tech Brief and Daily View.

The BBC's overall policy on linking, and on much else, is summed up in the BBC's Editorial Guidelines, the latest edition of which, as my colleague David Jordan discusses, launched last week.

Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.

Biodiversity: Lost or missing?

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Alistair Burnett Alistair Burnett | 17:30 UK time, Friday, 15 October 2010

On Monday another big UN conference is beginning in Nagoya Japan.



You may be forgiven for not knowing much about it, but 2010 has been the International Year of Biodiversity.

The UN's member states are getting together next week to review the progress - or rather the lack of it - in meeting their commitments to stop the loss of plants, animals and fungi species - or biodiversity - and, conservationists hope, commit to new action to meet their commitments.

The Convention on Biodiversity was established at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 with the aim of preventing the creeping extinction of the various forms of life on earth which are under threat from the growing population of human beings and their industrial and agricultural development.

UN members committed themselves to protecting life on Earth from extinction and making this a central part of their economic development - what's called sustainable development - but since then, biodiversity loss has accelerated.

Many environmentalists and conservationists, such as Jonathan Baillie of the Zoological Society of London argue the loss of biodiversity is an immediate threat, and yet there is much less coverage in the mainstream media of the issue than, say, climate change.

This week on The World Tonight we have been previewing the conference with a series of reports and special edition of the programme tonight.

(Before I am accused of being holier-than-thou, I have to acknowledge that we on The World Tonight have not given this issue as much coverage as we have climate change and other environmental issues, so in a sense this week we've been playing catch up.)

The participants in our special told me they felt the issue has been largely ignored by the mainstream media and that they find it difficult to get journalists and editors who are not environment specialists to engage with the issue.

But why should this be, given the experts are saying the situation is very bad and deteriorating fast?

Working on the plans for our special programme, has made me think about the possible reasons for this

Journalism - especially perhaps broadcast journalism - prefers issues where there are clearly divergent views and a more binary debate, such as there is regarding climate change. But with biodiversity there isn't that divergence over the fundamentals - there seems to be little disputing that biodiversity is being lost, so the debate is over what to do about it and, even there, there seems a high degree of consensus between environmentalists, conservationists and business - as our special programme reflects.

Stories about the threat to tigers in a particular country or say polar bears in the Arctic are not uncommon. But wider biodiversity loss and its causes are a more complex issue which is quite difficult to present in short reports and articles, which may be deterring mainstream journalists and editors.

Also, it's been suggested that because natural history programming, be it from the BBC, National Geographic, or others, is very good and very popular with audiences, many journalists have seen that as providing adequate coverage of the issue.

I have to say I wouldn't agree that natural history programmes are enough given the role that governments, business and non-governmental organisations play in biodiversity policy.

Whatever the reasons for the relative lack of coverage, the conference next week, even if there's no conclusive outcome, gives us the opportunity to report on the issues around biodiversity loss.

Just a note to our listeners who've e-mailed us in the past day pointing out that we failed to mention fungi when describing what biodiversity is, my apologies, we could have been more explicit.

Alistair Burnett is the editor of The World Tonight.

BBC News coverage of San Jose mine rescue in Chile

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Jon Williams Jon Williams | 14:50 UK time, Thursday, 14 October 2010

Fifty-three days ago, the news broke that 33 miners, feared dead in a mine collapse in northern Chile, were alive - trapped half a mile beneath the remote Atacama desert. Within 24 hours our correspondent Gideon Long was on site; as the rescue operation begun, we began preparing for the moment the San Jose 33 would walk free.

Yesterday, as the "Phoenix" capsule brought the trapped miners to the surface, those preparations paid off.

For 36 hours - from 2100 on Tuesday night to 0900 this morning - the BBC team at Copiapo broadcast non-stop, capturing the drama - the excitement, anticipation and emotion; the culmination of an operation that began more than a month ago.

Copiapo is remote, with little infrastructure; its climate is punishing - hot during the day and bone-chillingly cold at night. This meant we had to be self-sufficient on site with the team sleeping in tents and caravans - albeit, as pointed out in the press, with the "luxury" of a chemical toilet and "soft" toilet paper: an odd definition of "luxury"!

Tim Willcox


For the past month, the English team on the ground has worked alongside a team from BBC Mundo, the BBC's Spanish-speaking Latin-American service. We made a decision to send two Spanish-speaking presenters, Tim Willcox and Matt Frei, who were able to interview the families of the miners and Chilean officials in Spanish, and then translate simultaneously, live "on-air".

It was a huge point of difference with other broadcasters, and one that built a bond with the families in the days and weeks before the rescue.

The truth is, the preparation and the resourcing of one of the biggest stories of the year is expensive. The cost - and some of the difficult choices we now have to make about what future stories we may have to pull back from to recoup the cost - has also drawn some press comment. Making choices and prioritising is about spending the licence fee responsibly. And it seems the audience values the investment we made.

Yesterday, the BBC News channel had its third-best day ever in terms of audience numbers - eclipsed only by the key days following this May's general election: 6.8 million people followed the rescue on the News channel, more than 50% more than those who watched Sky News. The main BBC One news programmes also enjoyed significantly bigger audiences than normal. More than 8 million people read the coverage of the miners' escape on the BBC News website.

Yesterday, more than 3,000 of you e-mailed to praise the coverage - others used Twitter or our Have Your Say page to send us messages. Thank you. We don't always get it right. When we do - and when it strikes a chord - it's great to know.

Jon Williams is the BBC World News editor.

New edition of BBC Editorial Guidelines

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David Jordan David Jordan | 11:48 UK time, Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Every four or five years the BBC revises its Editorial Guidelines; before 2005 they were called the Producers' Guidelines. The latest edition is launched today.

The BBC's Editorial Guidelines encapsulate the values and editorial standards every producer of BBC content is expected to follow. Since 2005 they have been formulated within the context of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and, in addition, since 2006 they have been commissioned and signed off by the BBC Trust.

For the first time the guidelines have been subject to public consultation, under the auspices of the Trust.

Read on and comment at the About The BBC blog.

Newsbeat survey: Young voters and cuts

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Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 08:30 UK time, Monday, 11 October 2010

What to cut? What to keep?

The government's dilemma is one we're chewing over across BBC News and this week we're working hard to help audiences understand the story and its implications on radio, TV and online - nowhere more than Newsbeat where our young audience is not only engaged with the story but also highly opinionated.

So we asked Comres to survey more than 1,000 18-to-24-year-olds to get their views.

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Young voters, the survey says, think the government should take a hard line on benefits, slashing them to help plug Britain's £90bn deficit. It finds that 76% of young voters think unemployment benefits should be cut and 68% say that housing benefit needs to be reduced.

When it comes to public services that should be protected, 87% say the NHS, followed by 82% who pick schools; 81% select police and fire services.

The survey suggests they're prepared to see the government make the "tough choices" being discussed. Young voters favour spending cuts over tax rises by a large margin.

62% say there is a need to reduce spending - though most want the cuts to be made slowly to give the economy as much time to recover as possible.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, moves to increase university fees or introduce a graduate tax are only supported by 33% of 18-to-24-year-olds, with 64% against.

Policies to scrap quangos and freeze public-sector workers' pay if they earn more than £21,000 are also not widely supported. Apart from front-line services such as the NHS and schools, old-age pensions and defence spending emerge as the most popular to survive unscathed.

Other welfare payments plus new house building, overseas aid and transport are ear-marked for the deepest cuts.

We'll keep returning to our young voters to gauge their reactions: first to the government's plans and then further down the line when they bite. Will their views change or harden? It'll be interesting to see.

Rod McKenzie is editor of Newsbeat and 1Xtra News. Fieldwork for the survey took place from 28 September to 3 October 2010.


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