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Knight-Mozilla and BBC News

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 11:48 UK time, Friday, 4 November 2011

The web has created many challenges for news organisations but also lots of opportunities for telling stories in new and innovative ways. In particular it allows us to bring together multimedia combinations of text, graphics, video and audio, and gives us new ways to visualise information and create interactive graphics.

At the BBC News website, most of this work is handled by a combined team of journalists, developers and designers (we call them the 'Specials' team) and they produce content such as the recent and popular World at seven billion and 9/11 memories from the wreckage..

Now, as a result of a fellowship scheme we are taking part in called the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership, we're looking forward to welcoming a new member to the team. If you are interested to know more, Senior Product Manager Andrew Leimdorfer explains:

News website screengrab

The project, set up by the web browser provider Mozilla and the not-for-profit Knight Foundation, has created a series of fellowships for aspiring tech-savvy journalists or news-savvy technologists (depending on your preference). The Partnership ran a series of "challenges" to select five fellows, who will each spend a year working in "one of the world's most exciting newsrooms".

Working as a partner in this project fits perfectly with the remit of our team. The project's goals are "to advance the best values of both journalism and the open web by continuous innovation. Working together, technologists and journalists can accomplish great things". The BBC News Specials team has a particular focus on this kind of collaborative approach to the production of digital news content for the BBC. In our corner of the newsroom, journalists, designers and developers work side by side on finding new and interesting ways to enhance our storytelling.

Choosing the five successful fellows (who will also be based at The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Boston.com and Zeit Online) has been an extremely creative three-stage process, which started with a call for entries on the following themes:

  • Unlocking video: How can new web video tools transform news storytelling?
  • Beyond Comment Threads: How can we reinvent online news discussions?
  • People-Powered News: What's the next killer app for news?

Hundreds of ideas were submitted and assessed. The best sixty proposals then took part in a Learning Lab in July where participants refined, combined, and developed their ideas from the challenge.

In October this year the twenty "finalists" attended a really inspiring four-day "Hackfest" in Berlin. This was where the partner news organisations got to meet the prospective fellows and see this group of outstanding journalism innovators in action. It was also a great opportunity for the partner news organisations to get to know each other and begin to open channels of communication about the work we do and how shared approaches to technology might be mutually beneficial.

Deciding alongside the partners which of these candidates should be placed in each news organisation was huge challenge due to the calibre of entries, but also extremely enjoyable task. Everyone taking part in Berlin displayed levels of enthusiasm, creativity and skill that would benefit a newsroom.

The final five names are being announced 4 November at this year's Mozilla Festival, which has a theme of "Media freedom and the Web" and takes place at Ravensbourne College in London.

We'll be there with our new fellow to talk about how this year's MoJo program has gone so far and how we think the project will develop. We certainly have high hopes for the collaboration as we begin the next phase, working with our fellow to continue inventing the future of news.

Update, 09:38, 9 November: Andrew Leimdorfer: I think it’s worth mentioning a couple of points that people have brought up in the comments.

With regard to the BBC’s policy on commenting. The subject of the original challenge set by Mozilla - Beyond Comment Threads: How can we reinvent online news discussions? is not a subject the BBC proposed. Although it’s obviously of interest to many organisations publishing news (the BBC included), this won’t be where our fellow will be focussed as it isn’t something that sits within the remit of the Specials team, whose focus is on interactive content.

Similarly with regards to the comments made by JunkkMale and just-passing-through, the news partners working with the Knight-Mozilla fellowship were not chosen by the BBC. The BBC is happy to be working with the other four news partners, including the Guardian, but this is not a relationship we specifically fostered in favour of any other. Mozilla are very keen to attract other news organisations to the fellowship in the future and one of the main aims of the project is for the partners involved to release code to open source libraries where it could be used by anyone.

Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Beyond Comment Threads: How can we reinvent online news discussions?

    Stage 1) Undo the BBC News blog comment changes of last spring in relation to articles that are analysis (this will allow discussion length comments rather than oversize tweets). Leave comments on factual news pages as is, what I call the Daily Mail comment style, as it keeps the ranters away from the real discussions.

    Stage 2) Expand the number blogs using the old format by moving various editors back to them.

    Stage 3) Create a new system with advice from the writers and commenters that use the BBC. Do not let bean counters or BBC mission statements have any say in the formation of these ideas.

  • Comment number 2.

    I pretty much agree with everything post #1 says.

    I suspect we all enjoy a good rant sometimes (I know I sometimes have to bite my typing finger quite hard). But there are also a lot of very knowledgeable, educated readers on these blogs. The BBC, now more than ever, needs to find ways of eliciting (free) contributions from those people, and novel ways of presenting contributions.

  • Comment number 3.

    Going back to the old non restricted system will mean blogs once again becoming long winded tirades by a few people with the proverbial axe to grind. Even with the restricted length of text , the same contributors appear time after time on the same blog on the same theme and indeed seem to carry on long running arguments with each other to the detriment of everybody else.

  • Comment number 4.

    Steve Herrmann

    "The project's goals are "to advance the best values of both journalism and the open web by continuous innovation."

    introducing innovative ideas and mechanism for the sake of it doesn't help -- just look at the endless list of near meaningless 'tweets' that litter the (blog) pages of many of your employees.


    #2. well said.


    #3. good standards of moderation prevent "long winded tirades by a few people with the proverbial axe to grind" from becoming frequent.

  • Comment number 5.

    '3. At 19:39 4th Nov 2011, kaybraes - the same contributors appear time after time on the same blog on the same theme"

    Couldn't agree more, if a tad ironically.

    'to the detriment of everybody else.'

    On top of what constitutes detriment, the tricky part is who gets to decide who is 'everybody else'. Self-selection can often lead simply to a new class of wisdom bearer who feels other views do not warrant exposure.

    Orwell covered that.

  • Comment number 6.

    At a time when the BBC budget is anything but stable, this project, set up by the web browser provider Mozilla and the not-for-profit Knight Foundation, is an innovative way to create fellowships for those that aspire.
    Beyond Comment Threads: How can we reinvent online news discussions? There are often times articles where I feel a need to comment, but it is not a comment item under the blogs or editors. In other words, I am shut out. I've wished that I could just press a key and voila, I could submit a comment - right there, right then - subject to moderation of course.
    The final five names are being announced 4 November at this year's Mozilla Festival, which has a theme of "Media freedom and the Web". I look forward to meeting the "five" and perhaps getting to know a little about each, especially the speciality. Will they each have a blog, a place where we - the public - can submit ideas that we think they may wish to develop?

  • Comment number 7.

    "Choosing the five successful fellows (who will also be based at The Guardian, ..."

    Well that's a shocker. Who could possibly have foreseen that the BBC would choose the left-wing Guardian, one of the lowest circulation newspapers in the country, as a partner in this venture.

    Will this new fellow be "based" at the Labour party as well? In a completely impartial way, obviously.

  • Comment number 8.

    Partnering the 'left wing Guardian' eh?

    Must say that's better than any partnership with the erstwhile News of the World would have been.

  • Comment number 9.

    '8. At 18:32 5th Nov 2011, Micky -
    Must say that's better than any partnership with the erstwhile News of the World would have been.'


    Or, possibly, and it's just a less 'two wrongs make a daft defence' thought, instead of 'partnering' with any niche tribal comfort area, stick with the presumed impartiality remit and at least avoid knee jerk default supporters getting shown up with their own words.

    The private sector News of the World crossed a line and paid the price. Lines get crossed on more critical areas of professional integrity in what this nation is served under guise of fact by a self-promoting 'most trusted' media monopoly, and the unique nature of everything means yet another unaccountable system blunders on regardless.

    Simply looking back at several hurriedly closed threads on this blog over the last year alone is evidence enough of that.

    Here's a good 'un..

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2010/09/impartiality_is_in_our_genes.html

    In some quarters the Guardian may well be seen, and revered, as a 'counter' to some other media, who by most rational measures could claim to be more representative of the public.

    However, it is not the job of the publicly-funded BBC to be the Guardian's broadcast complement and/or counter to anything, no matter the influence of the few who may deem it necessary. Especially via a rather twisted, 'unique' funding mechanism.

    "Media freedom and the Web"

    To paraphrase an ex-employee who once observed, in caution: 'though some often seem to be freer than others...'.

    And controlling the edit suite is a heck of a good starting point to effect that.

  • Comment number 10.

    Abhijit Lahiri sends best of wishes to the aspiring tech-savvy journalist and news-savvy technologist to grab the opportunities, that, has been offered by the Knight-Mozilla and BBC news to sharpen their skills towards optimizing their productivity.

  • Comment number 11.

    Vilnius mayor Arturas Zuokas: "Don't Make Me Get The Tank" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avTbn5xRoXI

  • Comment number 12.

    "•Beyond Comment Threads: How can we reinvent online news discussions?"

    Erm.... I'm sorry?!?

    Are you *actually* asking that question, Mr Hermann? I mean; do you, and the rest of the higly-paid BBC editorial really need a lowly member of the licence fee-paying public to explain it to you? Yet again?

    Well.... starter for ten? How about you go track down whoever's using the communal editorial brain-cell at the moment; borrow it for a while; and then use it to consider whether or not participation in a "disucssion" on a complicated political issue might, occasionally, need to comprise of more than a single sentence of under 400 characters???

    Sorry for the flippant - and no doubt, slightly offensive - tone; but I've run out of patience with you people on this issue. It's bad enough that you ignored the vast amount of complaints when you changed the format at the start of the year - not to mention, in almost every other blog or HYS since, from all sorts of posters including myself on a few occasions.

    But to then turn around and ask 'how can we promote discussion?' as if you haven't already been told, over and over again... as if it weren't blatantly obvious to anyone with a scrap of common sense that you made a mistake with this daft limit, if your objective is really to "re-invent online discussions"... well, that's just plain offensive, Mr Hermann.

    Accept you screwed up, and fix it. And ideally, get rid of whatever incompetent made the decision in the first place.

    Good enough answer for you?

  • Comment number 13.

    I don't understand how your blog instructions about commenting on articles can say," ...just leave a comment." Since there is no way to leave a comment that I could find - and maybe it is just me, but this instruction almost seems to fit the category of being an oxymoron? I wanted to comment on your article on the seeming face-off now between Israel and Russia possibly supporting Iran in any attack from Israel. We can learn how well diplomacy has worked in the coming the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report. But again, there is no way to comment on such articles.

  • Comment number 14.

    '12. At 14:26 7th Nov 2011, Khrystalar

    Good point(s).

    There is a glimmer... at least it wasn't modded out, which would have cranked the irony meter past 11, to be sure.

    I'm guessing they are hoping 13*:25,000,000 means it can get a niche mention and they get away with it.

    *Mind you, even when not 'broadcast only', even mainstream editor stories often barely get much more before being self-yanked.

    I think they are just 'avin' a larf, meslef.

  • Comment number 15.

    When I first posted on BBC Have Your Say we were only allowed 5oo characters. As a poet I found that it was good discipline. That was over 7 years ago. What I learned from the thousands of posts from people around the world that I was also part of a global community.. Sometimes I was called by the BBC to partake in discussions of various topics. This only added to the feeling of being globally connected. A lot has happened in the world in the past seven years. We are being challenged to be part of the Global Mind. BBC does their part in making this possible. I am grateful to be part of BBC Have Your Say.

  • Comment number 16.

    dear bbc i like your story about
    Giant asteroid to pass near Earth soon
    www.bbc.co.uk http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15572634

    i found this film on youtube could it be the same? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxLgLJq7_xU&feature=channel_video_title

  • Comment number 17.

    Video, keep it off, never auto start. Always have a text copy of what was said.
    Comment. Stop pretending 'new' is better. Get back to proper open news messageboards.
    Blogs are not are really anything of the sort. Compel blog writers to engage with their commenters. Or stop pretending they are anything other than post and ignore subject articles.
    Get rid of character limits, yes some people are over wordy most simply skim past such walls of text. But the limits on HYS for example are ludicrous. Dump association to Twittser. Every program should have an open messageboard style way of commenting on the program. Guests on interviews should be expected, or no interview, to take part in a related open web comment.

    As for the silly comments here already made against those commentators or styles, frequency, they do not like moderate them off! (joke) Moderation on the whole is not bad but it needs to be less keen to suck up the the I want to be offended line, should not be allowed to say that sort of PC bullies.

    Unsurprisingly the BBC who had its politics disturbed by its initial freedom on web interaction, for its licence payer or customer, so we have the update above that reflects the core policy that they will avoid all chance of improving that with their new free employee from the foundation! Keep him to the old pre internet style the BBC prefers, of delivering managed news from on high that we are supposed to accept. Editors choices, selected e-mails BBC politics rules ok.

    The truth is we will have no say on what is provided, the BBC never takes any notice of its customers, it is always right. See any complaint sop of a programme. We must know our lowly place.

  • Comment number 18.

    To go beyond this thread..
    has BBC Scotland stopped regular threads on politics.
    Nothing to comment on or reply to at the moment.
    What is going on... is there no "dedicated" political commentator
    at BBC Scotland ????

  • Comment number 19.

    'Update, 09:38, 9 November: Andrew Leimdorfer: I think it’s worth mentioning a couple of points that people have brought up in the comments.

    With regard to the BBC’s policy on commenting. The subject of the original challenge set by Mozilla - Beyond Comment Threads: How can we reinvent online news discussions? is not a subject the BBC proposed. Although it’s obviously of interest to many organisations publishing news (the BBC included), this won’t be where our fellow will be focussed as it isn’t something that sits within the remit of the Specials team, whose focus is on interactive content.

    Similarly with regards to the comments made by JunkkMale and just-passing-through, the news partners working with the Knight-Mozilla fellowship were not chosen by the BBC. The BBC is happy to be working with the other four news partners, including the Guardian, but this is not a relationship we specifically fostered in favour of any other. Mozilla are very keen to attract other news organisations to the fellowship in the future and one of the main aims of the project is for the partners involved to release code to open source libraries where it could be used by anyone.


    Appreciate the response. Always worth trying to pop in the thread body (as well) as folk who have read the original may not think to check back for additions.

    It is evidently just the luck of the draw that the Guardian relationship was not one specifically fostered, but from phrasing can one just confirm the BBC had no input or influence on choices or interaction with those making the choices that ended up with these being made. Where's Bill Clinton when you need him?

    It would be interesting to discover what did, in fact, guide these initial choices. What parameters were at play, etc.

  • Comment number 20.

    '17. At 11:22 9th Nov 2011, JamesStGeorge -
    Blogs are not are really anything of the sort. Compel blog writers to engage with their commenters. Or stop pretending they are anything other than post and ignore subject articles.


    LoL.

    As I look at the most recent Nick Robinson megaphone pronouncements, which are precisely this.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15640299

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15600516

    Or being closed after 54 out of 25,000,000 get a say..

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15593270

    ..or 36:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15571083

    Yours, from a lowly place. But looking up you'll never guess what I see.

  • Comment number 21.

    It would be interesting to compare Cambridge, Massachusetts with Cambridge, England at the present time on BBC HYS. After all Cambridge, Massachusetts was named for Cambridge, England. Cambridge, Massachusetts is a city of diversity and contrasts. A place where the very wealthy, the middle class and the poor live. The desolate seek refuge on its streets. It is estimated that there are over 17 thousand homeless kids in Massachusetts. Every day you can see homeless kids in Harvard Square. Usually they are at The Pit, a small round concrete structure that is also used as place for protest of social and political injustice. The homeless kids look like your average white American teenager, They beg for money to ride the rails. Hoping to find a place to call home. But that is unlikely. Some have mongrel dogs, maybe they are for protection. One boy has a sign that reads"Hit me in the face. I will do anything for money. Another kids' signs reads "I need food. I am too ugly to be a prostitute." Other kids hold a sign that says "waiting for the change that Obama promised. In the meantime,can you spare any change?" A homeless kid of about 15yrs when asked how he is shyly replied "I'm ok Miss. He was grateful when I gave him some money. He was with a small group of homeless kids with their dogs. They looked like they had stepped out of the pages of a Charles Dickens' novel. An ugly middle aged man was squatting next to them. You knew that he was up to no good. Pimp and drug dealer came to mind. Compare these kids with Harvard students who do have enough to eat, a place to live, clean clothes and a chance for a future. However, even a Harvard student could face unemployment once they graduate with massive school loans to pay off, Traditionally Harvard Square was a place where street performers with a variety of acts entertained the public. The talented ones like Igor the Russian puppeteer could earn a modest living in good weather. Sadly, Igor died young. Now there are more homeless in Cambridge than street performers. In Harvard Square you see everything and everyone. Oh Yes on a rainy day you can spot me using my BBC umbrella imprinted with London landscapes. What is happening in Cambridge, England? Are there homeless kids? Street performers? Protesters? Harvard Yard is now Occupied. If you are not a student you must show ID. Security is high. How do people posting to the BBC HYS feel about homeless kids in their part of the world?

  • Comment number 22.

    PLEASE excuse me if I do not use the correct terminology, This is my first blog, I am unsure if what I need to say is appropriate here, forgive me if it is not.
    I am a 34 year old wife, mother and teacher (yes I'm busy!) but felt I needed to make time (albeit 4:21am) to comment.
    I am very disheartened with the BBC and have now decided that BBC will not be switched on in my home. I will begin to lobby parliament this week about my yearly contribution of 145.50 POUNDS to an outdated, offensive institution which has fallen so far from its former glory.
    Very briefly the offence I quote is why, after three weeks of waiting for a response to my comment 'HAVE YOU NO RESPECT FOR THE DEAD" (BBC:I apologise about not having a specific date, your system does not provide a copy of complaints sent- clever policy maybe but surely you have a copy of it???) about a documentary you aired showing how new mothers had been tricked into believing that their newborns were stillborn by presenting them with a frozen full term child's corpse (which you showed), an image that is etched on my mind from personal experience forever, and many others who watched that night.
    After failing to recieve ANY response from you whatsoever I feel this is my only option. And after hearing Simon Waldman BBC News Channel Morning Editor's quote in defense of the recent coverage of the tragic M5 crash and I quote "It is our job to rubberneck on behalf of the public" whilst having the hypocrisy of wearing a poppy it causes me to surmise that had technology been capable would the BBC have been 'rubbernecking for the public' on the front line? I really hope not. Your integrity is gone and I'm switching off, lobbying Parliament and suggesting you do likewise.
    SO sorry to be so wordy! If you are reading this, thanks for taking the time to read It's more than the BBC has done. As a teacher I ALWAYS end my lessons on a positive note and want to say I enjoy BBC weather coverage
    Anonymous (I don't trust British Media! and this time I made a copy! ;)

  • Comment number 23.

    To A concerned wife and mother #22

    Can you provide a link to the content or information about the specific programme or episode (s)? or links to discussions/comments about it. It's important to post evidence like this.

  • Comment number 24.

    To JunkMale #19

    Not sure how Mozilla's choice of partner is going to affect the interactive code released to open source libraries or who benefits from it - maybe organizations across the political spectrum aren't all equally willing to allocate resources to open source projects.

  • Comment number 25.

    The initiative sounds amazing - it would be good to get the broader public engaged in the partnership in a bigger way I think. Have just read a comment on one of your other posts Steve and some of the ideas mentioned there about integrating social media and newsrooms I thought would have fit in well with some of the themes you identified in this post (e.g. 'Beyond Comment Threads: How can we reinvent online news discussions?')

    Oli

  • Comment number 26.

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

  • Comment number 27.

    Marko_ here is the specific programme I referred to in my previous post:
    It was aired on 18/10/11 at 21:00 on BBC 2 'This World' Spain's Stolen Babies with Katya Adler

  • Comment number 28.

    24. At 11:03 12th Nov 2011, _marko wrote:
    (it's... JunkkMale, easily done, but avoided via cut 'n paste) #19

    Not sure how Mozilla's choice of partner is going to affect the interactive code released to open source libraries or who benefits from it - maybe organizations across the political spectrum aren't all equally willing to allocate resources to open source projects


    Hard to address what you are unsure about, especially when based on a maybe, or comparing what is with what might be (with no reasons considered, and ignoring commercial vs. uniquely funded parameters).

  • Comment number 29.

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

 

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