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Reaching out

Matthew Eltringham Matthew Eltringham | 09:00 UK time, Saturday, 11 October 2008

Interactivity is a two-way street, so we've started a pilot to report more of the stories you're sending us while at the same time making a bigger effort to reach out and join in conversations on the web outside the BBC's own editorial space.

A graphic of the BBC News websiteFor some time now the UGC Hub has been successfully making use of remarkable eyewitness images and accounts sent in by people from all over the world, we've been feeding the views and experiences of the BBC's audience into our journalism and occasionally breaking stories - such as the revelation that foreign workers at Heathrow's Terminal 5 don't undergo a criminal records check, a story which came from an e-mail sent into the Hub.

However it has been obvious for some time that there's a lot of other ideas for stories that have been sent in to us that we haven't really been able to investigate properly. They're stories that matter to people but often aren't part of the conventional news processes and weren't getting the attention they deserved so we've decided to try out a reporter whose beat is simply all the content you've been sending in to us - our first Interactive Reporter.

Siobhan Courtney has been with us for a fortnight now and has already scored two major successes - last week she revealed the extent of the initiation rites that students at some British universities undergo. We had exclusive UGC footage sent to us that showed students at one university paraded through the streets with plastic bags over their heads lead by a man in a Nazi uniform. Her story prompted a police investigation into the incident.

This week she has spoken to some of the thousands of students who e-mailed us because they have yet to receive their educational maintenance allowances worth up to £30 a week that encourages them to carry on studying for the A-levels.

She's got lots more stories already in the pipeline - all coming out of the e-mails and texts you've sent in to us, but we're keen to hear from you if you've got a story you think we should be reporting.

At the same time we're very conscious that while we get thousands of e-mails a day sent to us here at the BBC, that is only a drop in the ocean of all the conversations that are going on the web all the time. We already use Twitter everyday, alerting people to the debates we are hosting on the BBC's HYS pages, but on Tuesday night we experimented by opening up channels on video chatrooms Qik, 12Seconds and Phreadz to join in conversations wherever they were happening rather than expect people to come to us and host them on the BBC's platforms.

We wanted to hear what people thought about the US presidential debates and get their views in video rather than in text. It was the first time we have done something like this - starting a conversation on the web outside the BBC - and we tried to approach it in a more informal and open way.

We were really excited by the response - with more than 50 videos posted in around three hours on our Qik channel discussing the VP debate last week. We even edited some of the contributions together and used them on the BBC News website. We learnt a lot about how to go about this kind of thing and are planning to do a lot more of it - but in the true spirit of interactivity, we'd like to hear what you think.


  • Comment number 1.

    its all well and good to expand your horizons and broaden the user base it will have an affect good or bad who knows.
    but to not do it is basicly self cencorship and that flys in the face of modern news gathering, reporting. no news company wishes to beknown as a cencorship organisation.
    i think its only fair to attempt new concepts and even if they fail to learn from them.

  • Comment number 2.

    Great idea - but you are missing out that there are three levels of interaction on the internet which are to an extent 'mutually exclusive'

    That is to say 'video' 'chat' and 'message boards/blogs'

    What's also significant is the relative isolation of US communities from the rest of the world.

    There are some astonishing intellects out there on the internet, many with records that stretch back 15 years or more. You don't seem to be picking up on them.

    You're basically just grabbing the froth, while there is much deeper stuff out there.

  • Comment number 3.

    I don't know if this is news worthy and this may be old since stories do travely slowly to our side of the pond but some of us hear tell that there is a large flotilla of about 110 Spanish vessels headed your way. Normally I wouldn't think it important but some are reported to have canons on them. I also hear they got a big ceremonial sendoff when they left Spain. Perhaps they're just a little fed up with the soccer hooligans you send them and want some reparations. Nah, probably nothing to that story. Where would Spain get 110 ships anyway? More than likely just a rumor.

  • Comment number 4.

    Would you care to start a discussion that could not be closer to home and affects everyone who listens to the BBC?
    I am talking about the presentation of programs. What do people think about the presentation now? What do they think about the banging drums behind the News and many other programs? I have heard a lot of people complaining about this. What changes should be made?
    I wonder why it is that with the exception of those on this subject almost all my messages are published?

  • Comment number 5.

    A video picture captures the the reality of the situation far more graphically than words. This is a brilliant innovation and enhances the quality of the programmes through listener and viewer interaction with BBC editors. BBC reporting grows from strength to strength. Keeping the channels open for suggestions from BBC viewers should bring healthy criticism and consequent improvement. Great work Editors keep the BBC flag flying really high!

  • Comment number 6.

    Video is very slow method of transferring information as is audio.

    Reading is far faster and a lot more effective in terms us user recall.

  • Comment number 7.

    You now have an opportunity to prove your journalistic integrity! Some where in the BBC vaults is the Norfolk video. As journalist I expect it wouldn't be to hard to hunt it down and show it to the world.

    Video here:

    Links to petition.

    I look forward to seeing it on the BBC again.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think its a good idea to start viedo chat rooms..It is a good way to kill the boredom of seeing the method of message delivery in text form..It would also help people to keep themselves more involved in the news..

  • Comment number 9.

    Democracy is a slow, boring process.
    But on this one, more power to your elbow.
    Like it. Now there's a first.

  • Comment number 10.

    How much licence money has been spent on the BBC "starting conversations" on external websites? People can start conversations on those sites if they want to, why does the BBC need to get involved in the conversations? BBC news should concentrate on reporting the news, the audience is quite capable of discussing it without the assistance or involvement of the BBC. This latest announcement really is an insult to the intelligence of the BBC's audience.

  • Comment number 11.

    A two dimensional image can be every bit as misleading as a poorly written report, and doesn't all news start with someone making it news?

    To echo #4 can the BBC not have a place where there is open debate about the quality of the Corporation's output?

  • Comment number 12.

    Sounds like a great idea.

    But I would urge caution when it comes to anything that might sound like news.

    I can remember the Menezes incident when I heard all about him jumping over tickets barriers etc from 'eye witnesses' (then the police did not contradict it). It gave a totally false impression of what it now sounds like really happened.

    The BBC has always had a good reputation for confirming its own news with its own correspondents - not relying even on major news agencies.

    I hope pictures, texts, videos coming in on email or off the net will always be confirmed or presented as what they are and not confused with news.

  • Comment number 13.

    What did the police investigation into this student stupidity cost? Was there any chance, or benefit to the public of bringing a prosecution against (at least legally speaking) consenting adults doing stupid things to themselves? It appears some busybody has decided to use the BBC to force the police into moving scarce resources away from real crime so that they're not criticised for doing nothing. This sets a dangerous precident and the BBC is encouraging it.

  • Comment number 14.

    Siobhan , congrats on your promotion. What happens to all the health reports on bbc breakfast now? They were really topical.
    The piece on Glos. was really informative but horrifying to think that this happens here. What else goes on that we don't know about????
    Keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 15.

    Interesting experiment. I've just had a look at the links. 12 seconds appears to be in private alpha so I'll go back to that when I have more time. Browser here is Firefox on a pc. Qik downloaded far better than Phreadz and has a much cleaner interface.


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