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Updated social media guidance for BBC journalists

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Chris Hamilton | 11:05 UK time, Thursday, 14 July 2011

Few news organisations can now doubt the crucial role social media plays in breaking down barriers to engagement, opening up newsgathering networks, and as an outlet for journalism.

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Sometimes there's still a sense of risk, especially around staff use, which has prompted different responses from different organisations. At the BBC, guidance for all its employees has previously been published covering official use of social media and personal use.

Today we're publishing our guidance for staff in news [66.8KB PDF] (in fact a refreshed version of guidance we've had for a while), which goes into a bit more detail to cover issues specific to our news operations.

There are a few rules but it's mainly suggestions, reminders, best practice and housekeeping. The aim is to help people get the best out of social networks and tools, working within the BBC's editorial values that are at the core of our journalism.

We think it's important to be open about what we're doing in this area. To pick out a few key points that might be of interest:

• The guidance is based on common sense, the section on personal activity starting with the phrase: "Don't do anything stupid". It goes on to say - among other things - that you shouldn't say anything that compromises your impartiality or sound off "in an openly partisan way".

• We label the Twitter accounts of some presenters and correspondents as "official" - and are also today publishing some specific guidance for them [64KB PDF]. This activity is regarded as BBC News output and tweets should normally be consistent with this, reflecting and focusing on areas relevant to the role or specialism, and avoiding personal interests or unrelated issues. A senior editor keeps an eye on tweets from these accounts after they're sent out.

• Finally, we remind people that programme or genre content - like @BBCBreaking and BBC News on Facebook - should normally be checked by a second person before it goes out. The guidance also urges people to think carefully about the practicalities and editorial purpose of this activity. It shouldn't be started "because it's what everyone does these days".

The guidance we're publishing is not set in stone. It will change as the digital and social media landscape changes - hopefully as fast.

For now, as it is, it aims to strike the right balance for us and to help our journalists engage, gather news and spread their journalism.

Chris Hamilton is BBC News's social media editor. You can find him on Twitter @chrishams

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    As I write the blog post by Nick Reynolds on the BBC Internet Blog, pointing at this one, fails to show on the RSS feed for that blog. Also it is missing from the Twitter feed of that blog. The oversight rather shows that "the crucial role social media plays" is being ignored.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    I am still very concerned by the way the BBC references information it finds on Twitter.

    For example, if a celebrity reveals something on Twitter (say the name of their baby) and the BBC knows the account to be genuine, is there any need to mention that the information was posted on Twitter? Why not just say that the celebrity said that, instead of mentioning the Twitter name (which is usually in breach of the BBC's editorial guidelines on undue prominence).

    Likewise, if a comment is sent to the BBC and it is read on air or posted as part of "live" coverage, why are we told that it came from Twitter? Why does the communication medium have to even be mentioned? Why not simply say that the person sent a message?

    Again, the constant references to Twitter as part of live news coverage on the website are dubious, and I would say step over the mark of what is permissible under the BBC's own guidelines.

  • Comment number 7.

    'the crucial role social media plays in breaking down barriers to engagement'

    How, with some considerable evidence to suggest the exact reverse in certain quarters, is that working out?

    Google kicked off with 'don't be evil'. Odd that, like others, and here, a more positive note was not favoured.

    They seem to be struggling too, and that's only after a very brief time in the media infirmament.

    Explains much. Excuses little.

  • Comment number 8.

    Why does the communication medium have to even be mentioned? Why not simply say that the person sent a message?


    Good point. What I would really like to know is if the constant references to these sites, Twitter and Facebook, in any way breaches the BBC's editorial guidelines on giving undue precedence to a particular product.

    Especially since both sites quite clearly use advertising.

  • Comment number 9.

    2. At 14:29 14th Jul 2011, Sandstrom wrote:
    As I write the blog post by Nick Reynolds on the BBC Internet Blog


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2011/07/social_media_guidance_for_bbc.html

    Just...

    Read more

    Be very quick.

    and comment

    And very lucky.

  • Comment number 10.

    Social Media, Twitter, Facebook - of absolutely no interest to me.

    I like blogs. Particularly blogs by Peston, Flanders and Robinson. You know, where the journalist (or whatever they want to be called) puts up some news for debate and then gets comments from others. By comments, I mean opinions, with foresight, probably new suggestions, but something that really gets people interested and debating.

    Unfortunately, yesterday, Giles closed the only blog left where you could place a comment of more than an extremist's dream of 400 characters (including spaces). This is called dumbing down. It also stinks of restriction of free and measured expression.

  • Comment number 11.

    Part 2 - Still, with the new blog formats all more or less now converted to the cumbersome and inadequately thought out (from a technological point of view - I'm ex IT) format, I leave the BBC site off my visit to the internet from here on.

    I suggest, though, that Giles could have had the common decency (and expected professionalism) to have said something more on the blog (we all know which one I'm talking about) to say - sorry I didn't come back with answers to your complaints but you don't count anymore - we only want Twitterers (or whatever they're meant to be called now).

    To the BBC Directors - I don't know how much you paid for the transformation of the old blogs but, take it from me, you paid too much for an inferior product. I also suggest you take a look at what the Guardian does with comments. Far superior, easy to use and, guess what? Has a maximum of 5000! Goodbye for ever!

  • Comment number 12.

    Chris, I think the integration of twitter and social media into reporting is essential. As a photographer and journalist myself, it's often a great way to break news and the coverage is tremendous. Whilst I appreciate that many hold the views of Giselle above wrt the use of social media, the public in general have embraced the technology and like it or not, news corporations have to address their needs and provide info in the context required by their readers.

    On the point about the blog changes however, I do agree fully with Giselle - the new format is awful for the news reporter blogs. It does not allow for any sort of flow in terms of commentary - which used to be where one could get significant insight based on the opinions of readers and other journalists alike. The new blog format really makes the interaction very one-way in my opinion and is a step backward for BBC.

    Olga - Czech on Africa blog

  • Comment number 13.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 14.

    '12. At 08:55 16th Jul 2011, Olga Rikova : news corporations have to address their needs and provide info in the context required by their readers.'

    If I may suggest... 'as well'. Not instead of, or certainly not to the exclusion of all else.

    For a £4Bpa media monopoly to be using 'cuts' as a reason to source news and generate future stories mainly via its twitter groups seems... short-sighted.

    Especially while in process of crushing all competition.

  • Comment number 15.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 16.

    From what I have seen, the bbc seems more keen on restricting comments from the public. It has done exactly the opposite of what it was supposed to do "Enhance the public interaction", and has step by step restricted license payer input so as to (it seems to me), constrict input from the public. (rather the opposite I would say to "interaction" with citizens who actually FUND auntie Beeb).
    Try opening the Organisation to freedom of speech BBC. THAT means publishing blogs unedited. After all grown ups can handle more than one point of view at a time!! Also, drop your insistence on being part of the NHS! Viewers are able to do without PC thanks,and can cope with the truth, even though PC control seems ever more essential to BBC management these days.

    Censorship not appreciated in 2012...honest!!

  • Comment number 17.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 18.

    I have to echo FishFingers at #6; I'm also becoming increasingly concerned with the prominence to which the BBC seems to be giving Twitter and Facebook - which are, after all, commercially-funded, profit-making companies. And foreign ones, at that - so not even licence fee payers.

    As Mr Fingers says; surely there are rules which strictly govern advertising on the BBC - and surely your continued mention of Twitter on what seems like every other damn story, these days, is in violation of those rules...?

    If you're going to keep passing them millions of free hits, at least start charging them for it, and get some of our licence fee back!

    Either way; would be helpful if the BBC management were to comply with their own guidelines, before issuing such to their journalists.

  • Comment number 19.

    It's an interesting subject.
    Chris, what are the most common issues the BBC has surrounding its use of social media?

  • Comment number 20.

    Sorry - cant find anywhere else to leave this message...

    Could someone please improve the visibility and navigation to Democracy Live on the BBC website? It's practically invisible and yet it's one of the most important things you do in my opinion. Why hide it away?

  • Comment number 21.

    A question about bbc 'live' coverage of events on the news web site, ie yesterdays questioning of the Murdochs.
    You are invited to make comments via facebook, twitter and by texting. You may also 'add your comment' which leads to you being asked for your name, location, e-mail and telephone number.
    I am not on facebook or twitter, i dislike paying again towards the beeb's coffers by texting, but i do have a bbc 'identity' and seem to be disqualified from commenting unless i enter my details all over again. Any thoughts?

  • Comment number 22.

    Had to read this three times before I understood that 'genre' isn't a verb:

    "Finally, we remind people that programme or genre content - like @BBCBreaking and BBC News on Facebook - should normally be checked by a second person before it goes out."

    Maby they could check for clarity as well (what is genre content and how can I buy some?).

  • Comment number 23.

    Question:

    Given the special added value of interactivity in social media, one notices many BBC blogs do have this facility.

    Why then do so many 'shut down' within matters of hours, often with only a few score comments, especially when the topic still seems topical?

    For instance, the Nick Robinson political blog often kicks in post 9am and closes pre 5pm.

    This rather suggests that the 'service' is only targeted at those who have daytime access, time and/or permission to partcipate.

    As this seems restricted to a few hundred folk, how is this properly serving the millions of UK licence fee payers?

  • Comment number 24.

    Who moderates BBC Social media, when it's not hosted at a BBC domain?

    The BBC surely aren't recklessly allowing inappropriate content to appear on BBC branded third party Social Media sites? That smacks of mismanagement, if it's being allowed to go unmoderated.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    I feel that it is good to have a standard social media guidance as far as organizations go. An organization needs to stand together as a united front though hopefully the rules are transparent and are restricted to companies' policies so as not to muzzle the freedom of expression or speech.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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