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Editors' blog - the first year

Peter Barron | 13:09 UK time, Friday, 15 June 2007

The Editors' blog is one year old. We didn't exactly have a birthday party but the other day a few of us got together to toast it with mineral water and try to assess the success or otherwise of the venture. The verdict was that despite the fears of some that a new openness would lead to embarrassing disclosures and uncomfortable headlines, by and large these haven't been realised and the experiment has been judged at least worthwhile.

A few of the memorable moments for us: the discussion over claims that the BBC had banned Fiona Bruce from wearing a cross on air (actually it hadn't); ongoing debates about conspiracy theories, bias, balance, hype, 'dumbing down', covering difficult news for children, and, yes, even when things haven't gone right.

It's also given us a chance to show some of the drama behind the scenes, (such as when we were hit by an injunction); and of course the massive support readers have shown for our colleague Alan Johnston.

Just this week we've had a fascinating debate in the blog between Kevin Marsh and the Guardian's Emily Bell (which you can read here).

But you won't be surprised to hear that not everyone at the BBC is impressed. I noticed - on a blog as it happens - that Kate Adie reportedly objects to BBC managers who blog during working hours. "Their weblogs, she maintains, are proof they have nothing better to do." Nothing better to do than talk to and listen to their audience?

On the other hand, some external observers think that much of the BBC's contribution to blogging is still far too gentle and uptight. This week I met Joe Trippi, the American political guru who's credited with reinventing political campaigning through use of the internet. He thinks we editors should be blogging after every show, discussing with viewers the successes and shortcomings. At least in Newsnight's case this wouldn't be on company time.

It would be good to know if you're with Kate or Joe, what you'd like more or less of, and how the editors' blog might develop in its second year.

Comments

After every show seems very extreme. I mean BBC News has numerous Programmes and Bulletins on a daily basis, so I think it would only end up bogging up your Site with no responsive posts.

However if you do receive a lot of questions concerning one element, then defiantly share your opinion on that matter.

As for doing it in Work Hours, it makes sense to me. There are too many blogs out there trying to create the idea that they are expressing what they feel, while at the same time looking at their Non-Disclosure Agreement and their Bank Balance shoot up for promoting the Company.

It's a BBC Blog, so do it on BBC Time.

  • 2.
  • At 02:31 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • antifrank wrote:

All BBC blogs and comment pages suffer from the same fatal defect that they are heavily moderated. Usually this involves some dimwit straight out of college deciding which posts to allow to appear, even if he or she knows about a quarter as much about the subject as the poster. It also results in an insidious bias towards a debate framed within BBC-approved parameters. For this reason, I only put comments on BBC pages in order to make this point, and comment and argue on other better-run websites such as the Guardian's commentisfree. Sort it out!

Don't like the look/layout of your blog. Too harsh having the words on the left hand side - some sort of margin is needed. Maybe make it look MORE like an independent blog page and less like a BBC news page. Oh, and expand it so that it's not just 800px wide like the rest of the BBC news pages! come on.. break out.. be radical!

  • 4.
  • At 03:37 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Alex wrote:

I personally think the amount of blogging is about right. In response to the person who said it should look more like an independent blog page, I don't think that's a good idea. I quite like the way it looks and it needs to look professional and fit in with the style of the rest of BBC News.

It would be good for clarity purposes to show where a comment is rejected, perhaps having a short reason taking the place of the original message (e.g. Not Approved - Libellous content). That and being quicker in allowing comments to appear.

  • 5.
  • At 03:42 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Aaron McKenna wrote:

The problem I've found is that BBC editors have very, very rarely ever admitted to mistake on the medium of this blog. Sometimes it seems like it's more of a place for making excuses than admitting mistake, something I'm sure a few schoolteachers could speak to us about.

I also note how some very sensitive issues have had the comments feature turned off...

  • 6.
  • At 03:58 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Matthew Burdett wrote:

I have throughly enjoyed the year with The Editors... it is a much more up to date version of the diary that the former BBC News Online editor used to publish on Saturday morning. Certainly in the year you and many other commentators have raised many important issues.

However, I think what would be revealing is to discover the fate of a certain Mr Adrian Van Klaveren after that disastrous episode in December when the BBC ran the interview with the innocent suspect in the Ipswich murders case. I would be very interested as to why he has not posted since that episode, but up until then had contributed on an almost monthly basis. Here's the link to his final post

https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2006/12/tom_stephens_interview_ii.html

  • 7.
  • At 04:02 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Wayne Kraft wrote:

Dear BBC, one year old? I hadn't even noticed that you've had a web log. Congratulations!

  • 8.
  • At 04:16 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

I enjoy the Editors' Blog, but I think you are being a little harsh on Kate Adie. Her R4 programme 'From Our Own Correspondent' has contributions from reporters who have stepped out of their journalist's shoes, and are reporting on their personal views. There is a clear distinction. Maybe she worries that the news journalists shouldn't do this to avoid compromising their integrity and impartiality ?

I don't think that this is valid for the Editors' Blog which is a different animal. And the 'political' blogs such as Blether with Brian and Betsan's Blog adhere to the same journalistic standards as their hews output.

But can you imagine if the political blogs employed the same techniques used by 'Evanomics' and Stephanie Flanders ? As economists they have to interpret facts through the prism of their opinion's as economists - there wouldn't be much point employing them otherwise.

But if John Simpson or Jeremy Bowen started blogging about their own personal views then their integrity would soon be compromised - indeed it is why rules have been introduced about what BBC journalists can write or produce externally.

  • 9.
  • At 04:37 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Andreas wrote:

Congratulations!

This blog is great as far as it goes, but I'm with Aaron McKenna. I think BBC editors are still too afraid to admit their mistakes in public. So you get phrases like "some people have said we got this or that wrong, but on balance I think we made the right call". Even you, Peter, shied away from admitting there were more serious failings about the Kirsty Wark interview with Alex Salmond than cutting him off too sharply at the end. And too often editors think it's enough to get gently chided by Ray Snoddy on Newswatch, and then not do anything about the concerns. At the Guardian, where I work, we admit our mistakes in a daily column. Why does the BBC not have a web page where mistakes are speedily corrected? Having said all that, this is a great site and it's good to see licence-fee funded editors discussing their daily dilemmas in public.

  • 11.
  • At 04:51 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Oz Ayub wrote:

I agree with Katie, have you guys have nothing better to do than response to everything written about yourselves.

The only decent blog is Nick Robinson's.

Posts by yourself seem very much like self pleasure of the sordid type.

  • 12.
  • At 04:53 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Ewan Mac Mahon wrote:

It's a great idea, it just needs the resources spending on it to do it better. we need more feedback from posters responding to comments (Steve Herrmann and Tim Levell are better than most at this) rather than a one way drop of an article, and most importantly we need comments to appear on the site /much/ faster.

Essentially, like it is now, but with more real interaction.

I must admit that I never even noticed the blog existed until I saw that it was one year old today. I think the concept is great, and that it is done in work time very justified. If the aim is to connect with the reader on a more personal level, then it certainly succeeds and will definitely bring me back every day to see what's being discussed. Blogs are also about connecting the dots of information scattered across the internet, so I think it important that the Blog also refer to and link to related articles and news from other news papers and stations.

  • 14.
  • At 06:51 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Dougthedug wrote:

"A few of the memorable moments for us:"

Where's Kirsty Wark in this list? The only program this year that the BBC has had to apologise for.

  • 15.
  • At 07:18 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Andrew Pointer wrote:

Congratulations Peter. Glad you mentioned the 9/11 Conspiracy blogs - as Richard Porter is still refusing to answer what should be a very simple question could you have a go? In case you need reminding - who/what organisation was the source of the news which prompted the BBC to broadcast (on BBC World and News 24) that WTC7 had collapsed 25 minutes before it actually did? Until the BBC gives an answer to this question, the BBC's commendable new spirit of openness is unproven. The evidence for the towers to have been brought down by explosives is now very strong. Maybe Kate Adie has a point, and you are all too busy blogging to to notice that you are letting the biggest story of the 21st century pass you by. William Rodriguez (the last man out who witness basement bombs) is in the UK just now, why can't Newsnight interview him, and/or do a video link with Prof. Steven Jones or David Ray Griffin? If these people are so wrong about what happened at the WTC then the BBC has nothing to fear. Surely Kirsty's capable of handling them?

  • 16.
  • At 07:29 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Simon Geary wrote:

Please change the RSS feed so it includes the full content of each post. Including only a summery forces the reader to visit the BBC website to read your posts which defeats the whole purpose of RSS.

  • 17.
  • At 07:30 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Greg S wrote:

I like the fact that BBC has a blog were one can comment on BBC's under -coverage, coverage & over coverage of events (of course under heavy cencorship). But I think all of the editorials should have a blog attach to them so people comment on them if people agree with what being said.

  • 18.
  • At 08:54 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • alex wrote:

Honestly i think your blog makes propaganda, like BBC website itself

  • 19.
  • At 09:24 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • Eamonn wrote:

Personally I find it a bit disconcerting to open up BBC News web pages and find content written in the first person with personal opinions included. I expect a bit of neutrality and the writers to concentrate on delivering the information. Maybe I've been reading too much of The Economist, to which any writing is going to seem sub-standard by comparison, but even their leading articles are written in a non-personal style. I just don't think the BBC should be in the business of writing editorials.

  • 20.
  • At 10:48 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • John Fitzpatrick wrote:

Blog? Surely you mean Smug?

  • 21.
  • At 11:06 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • John Airey wrote:

In defence of the editors (and not just because I would like to work for the BBC one day!) they turn off comments on controversial issues as they don't wish to be dragged into court for contempt or defamation. Which leads me to a handy hint - if you post comments online you should find out about these legal niceties first.

To Matt Wells (post #10): in the NewsWatch section, there did indeed used to be a page of 'Notes and Corrections'; but no longer. Given the number of grammatical errors that appear, plus the odd factual error or contradictory statement/page, perhaps Kate Adie has a point? If a journalist can't tell the difference between 'muted' and 'mooted' (one of the many examples I complained about), one is left to assume that the editors are spending too much time blogging and not enough time actually editing!

  • 23.
  • At 12:14 AM on 16 Jun 2007,
  • pvdl wrote:

You have a blog? Wow! Where???

All snark aside, my point is that you could promote it better. I read the BBC News site several times a day, and I never read the blog because I simply forget that you have one.

You need to promote it better. Use a snappy graphic. Something. Anything.

  • 24.
  • At 12:53 AM on 16 Jun 2007,
  • Steven Martin wrote:

Kate Adie is completely wrong. One-way non-interactive journalism belongs in the 20th Century. People want to put their point of view across these days.

When people read a news article they will naturally have a point of view. If that point of view is strong enough, they may want to comment.

Sadly such interaction is current not implemented anywhere I know of on a mainstream news site. We'll that's not quite true. The Today Message board used to allow this kind of free discussion but the BBC locked it down like "Have Your Say" so you can only discuss a few topics now (like today's riveting "Sale of Land Rover and Jaguar" topic).


"Have Your Say" provides limited interaction, where the user is presented with a very restricted subset of news topics to discuss. The insistence on "Full Moderation" is also crippling it though since often more than half of the users comments are never moderated before the topic closes and are trashed.

  • 25.
  • At 12:58 AM on 16 Jun 2007,
  • Graham wrote:

I'm with Simon Geary on this, RSS feeds should be completely expanded. Not just on the editors' blog but across the whole BBC network.

  • 26.
  • At 04:17 PM on 16 Jun 2007,
  • r.muggeridge wrote:

Well, of course, it could just be one of those coincidental famous BBC 'Info. Technical Glitches', but, my recent attempts to Comment on 4 topics on these Blogs have all somehow just disappeared in the vapour!
Hey, you know what Mr Editor: Next time you write about how the BBC is always having discussions about "balance" & "correct language", why not slip in to your "agenda" the idea that people who do NOT like the BBC do pay their LICENSE FEE like anyone else and are just as entitled to be heard/read!?

  • 27.
  • At 07:17 PM on 16 Jun 2007,
  • Marie Zarankevich wrote:

In America, our news has a US-centric style which can become rather tedious. I often go to your BBC website to obtain news reports with a different point of view. Personally, I think that your editorial blogging is a wonderful tool, giving the reader some of the why's and wherefore's of individuals and their reports, thus leaving us with more real information. Your efforts are appreciated, in this corner of America. (Ithaca, NY)

I think y'all do pretty well. I endorse the comments that moderation could be more consistent, comments could appear more quickly, there could be more response in comment form from the blog-owner/principal, e.g. Eddie Mair's example. The insight gained into the whole business is well worth the effort.

Of course it's appropriate to paid time, and I expect most of y'all work more hours than paid anyway.

All in all, I reckon the BBC is the world's best communications organisation, though of course there's always room for improvement.

Here's to at least another year of blogging / frogging

https://home.btconnect.com/tipiglen/loveandpeace3.gif
xx
ed

  • 29.
  • At 02:29 PM on 17 Jun 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Not much seems to have changed in the last year at BBC. It is as arrogant as ever in its biased reporting of the news, its incompetent interviews (just review the latest with Anwar Ibrahim), its fluff fill in pieces like The Ticket, its pandering to junk pop culture, its shallow superficial analysis of the news (remember when I pointed out how a half hour post mortem of Tony Blair's stewardship discussed by 4 so called journalists on Politics UK some months ago failed to make even a single mention of the UK's economic performance?) and its continued intertwining of reporting with opinions to try to skew its audience's views adds up to a very shabby news organization, especially for one so lavishly funded.

The popularity of BBC around the world and in Britain has many historical and cultural reasons especially in nations where there is little or no access to alternatives but if BBC attempts to make major inroads into the US market, it had better straighten up its act and fly right or it will get shot down again and again by its competitors and audience alike.

  • 30.
  • At 08:44 PM on 17 Jun 2007,
  • Shocker wrote:

I note that the BBC has been (unsurprisingly) lambasted for having jaundiced liberal views which adversely affect content, in a report commissioned by itself.

Similarly, I note that this was reported in another source rather than on this, the BBC website.

No change there then.

A little mia bloody culpa wouldnt harm you every now and again, as self-righteous as you believe you are.

  • 31.
  • At 10:10 AM on 18 Jun 2007,
  • Jeanette London wrote:

The Guardian is the best blog and it's superb that Micahel White,Emily,Janine,Busfield and all the others take the time to reply and engage in debate.
The Newsnight blog is dull by comparison, not one of the Newsnight staffers ever make a comment a good example being Kirsty Wark should have been made to print some sort of response to her dreadful treatment towards Alex Salmond..but no nothing.

It needs to talk to us not at us.

  • 32.
  • At 01:15 PM on 18 Jun 2007,
  • r.muggeridge wrote:

Couldn't agree more with Shocker in his suggestion of a 'little mea bloody culpa wouldn't harm you (BBC)'.
As this BBC Internal Report claims that the BBC must try to become "more impartial" the hollow laugh from the general License Fee payer becomes ever thinner!
E.g. How is it possible for the BBC to become even more impartial in its coverage of GB Public opposition to the European Union? Every Poll suggest 75%+ Britons don't want to be a member never mind have a Constitition & yet the BBC News coverage gives more air/tv time to pro-EU debaters than any other group. DON'T TRY TO DENY IT: Every check of the Programme content & Time-span for such issues reveals the BBC is TOTALLY pro-EU in its Journalism. The same can be said for BBC coverage of BRITISH interests in Immigration Policy, Human Rights legislation, rising Crime, Islamic fundamentalism, even Paedophilia... the BBC simply DOES NOT in any way, shape or form REFLECT/CONSIDER the MAJORITY BRITISH PUBLIC'S views on these critical issues. It is one thing for the BBC to report all sides of an issue, it is quite another (& utterly out of order) for the BBC to project its liberal-elitist-establishment bias onto every topic as if that is fair & balanced reporting of Britain & Britons. If the BBC becomes any more 'impartial' it may as well remove the B=British & simply stand as it is regularly perceived by the Public... the Broadcasting Corporation.

  • 33.
  • At 01:35 PM on 18 Jun 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

I'm a great fan of your blog and think it's a very positive development. It's great that you solicit feedback from your viewers in response to your editorial decisions in such a direct way.

However, something which I haven't seen yet, despite being a regular visitor to your blog, is any evidence that you've changed the way you do things in response to user feedback. If you have such evidence, please share it with us!

If you don't have such evidence, you might want to reflect on what the point of the blog is.

  • 34.
  • At 03:23 PM on 18 Jun 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

The blog is splendid. But I agree - full content in the RSS feed please.

I think that the blogging is perhaps a bit too modern for Kate. Those of us who blog know the full value of them. And what better for the BBC to lead the way? I wouldn't be without mine now!

  • 36.
  • At 08:30 AM on 20 Jun 2007,
  • Bryan wrote:

Mr. Barron,

While I have had comments rejected (that didn't break any rules), I find this blog generally fair in its posting of comments that don't follow the BBC agenda. (Yes, guys, you have an agenda. Why not just admit it?!)

Problem is, the editors seem to mostly shy away from actively engaging with those who write in. How many come back and comment on the responses to their own articles? If you scan the articles on this page, for example, you will find that not one editor has commented on the comments.

Which makes me echo Adam's comment (no.33): Do you really take into account what is said here and does it make the slightest difference to your approach and your output?

And if you don't, and it doesn't, what's the point? To provide a forum for people to get things off their chest?

Can you think of one example where input from the public has had an impact on the way the BBC operates? If you can, would you share it with us?

  • 37.
  • At 04:25 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Paul D wrote:

It is appropriate that those of us who have moved on to pastures new but still are concerned about what happens back in the UK and have the freedom to comment on it. Our only route for doing so in a timely way is the blog. If our views are not welcome, perhaps we should no longer be thought of as ex-pats but rather as ex Brits. My passport and my contributions records say otherwise.

I'm more than happy, as a licence fee payer, for BBC people to contribute to blogs as part of their daily activities.

I consume more BBC media through these sites, at my own schedule, than I do through traditional scheduled broadcasts.

I do wish the blogs/entries were more prominent, linked from news.co.uk story bylines etc.

It will be interesting to see the Hammersley experiments over the next few weeks...

I personally get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the 'whole' story, including preparations and observations outside of the actual final, produced segment/story,

The obvious expertise and humanisation of those involved behind the scenes really enhances the value of the story for me.

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