User generated content and 'Arab Spring' coverage
A BBC Trust report on the BBC's coverage of the Arab Spring has highlighted, among other things, the BBC's use of user-generated content to shed light on those events as they have unfolded.
The Arab Spring began in Tunisia in December 2010 and soon spread to other regions
In its executive summary the report says: "The great new challenge of the 'Arab Spring', as a media phenomenon, has been the explosion of 'user generated content' (UGC) combined with the need to rely on this because direct access to the story is so often denied or impeded.
"On the whole the BBC handled this well, drawing on its impressive reserves of regional expertise in the Arabic section and the Monitoring service."
The report also says the BBC "made efforts to alert listeners and viewers when such material could not be definitely authenticated, but this should perhaps be done on a more systematic basis."
And a summary of the report's conclusions recommends that "the BBC should consider how it might better share more effectively with the audience the rigorous vetting process to which all user-generated content (UGC) is subjected."
In light of this, it's worth mentioning, for anyone interested in knowing more about how this process of checking UGC material happens, that there's a good explanation here from one of the team working in the "UGC Hub" in the newsroom.
When we have done all we can to check but still cannot be 100% sure, we will sometimes still decide to use the material, whilst making these doubts clear, and the Trust is now asking us to be more consistent in the way we signpost and caveat this type of content. In those rare cases where we do get something wrong, we acknowledge and correct it as soon as we can.
It is significant that the Trust report recognises so clearly the great importance of UGC for our journalism.
We will continue to do everything we can to make best use of the accounts of people caught up in the stories themselves (such as this video, Syria activist: Homs situation 'so bad' and Egypt's Tahrir Square protesters tell their stories), making clear the origins of the material, as well as the first-hand reporting of our own correspondents.
Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.