Why blogs matter to the BBC
If you read Boxing Day warnings given in the Daily Mail by media commentator Stephen Glover, you might believe that the blogs written by senior BBC reporters such as Robert Peston, Nick Robinson and Justin Webb were sounding the death knell of journalistic integrity at the BBC. Mr Glover's thesis was that blogs "corrupt the distinction between news and views which is supposed to be sacrosanct at the BBC", and he said that by allowing "the proliferation of blogs", BBC managers were "disregarding the Corporation's duty to be impartial".
There are two things which need to be said in response to these concerns. The first is that Mr Glover is quite right to point out the importance to the BBC of the distinction between news and comment, the value that our audiences attach to it, and the dangers for reporters who "let their hair down" (Mr Glover's phrase) and allow their normal standards to drop, simply because they are writing in a blog. We at the BBC are acutely aware of these points.
But the second thing which needs saying is to reject the implication of his article that for a reporter to write a blog necessarily means them becoming purveyors of opinion and comment. He claims it is "impossible to write a half-readable blog without peppering it with opinions". That's just not true. We look to our expert editors such as Nick and Robert to tell us what has happened, to explain why it is or isn't important, what it means, and even what might be the effect. As to what their personal opinions about the news are, well, that's just not the business we're in.
Mr Glover also says "hard-pressed journalists are not using their time well if they spend hours penning blogs". I'm afraid the millions of people who look at our blogs will, like me, disagree with him. Research published by the BBC Trust in May this year, well before Robert's blog became such a useful companion to the credit crunch and recession, indicated that the BBC's blogs are "already highly appreciated by audiences" - and that even those who do not use them recognise their value.