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Mumbai, Twitter and live updates

Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 10:25 UK time, Thursday, 4 December 2008

There's been discussion of the role played by Twitter in the reporting of the Mumbai attacks and of the way that we made use of it on the BBC News website.

A graphic of the BBC News websiteDuring the crisis, we monitored this microblogging service, along with the material being filed by our own reporters and a wide range of other sources, and referenced or linked to all of these on a "live updates" page as the events unfolded.

Our aim with these pages (we did something similar during the US election) is to provide news, analysis, description and comment in short snippets as soon as it becomes available. It is a running account, where we are making quick judgments on and selecting what look like the most relevant and informative bits of information as they come in, rather than providing the more considered version of events we are able to give in our main news stories of the day.

These accounts move more quickly and include a wider array of perspectives and sources, not all verified by us, but all attributed, so that in effect we leave some of the weighing up of each bit of information and context to you.

Flames gush out of The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai on November 27, 2008During the Mumbai attacks, we gave prominence in our running account to the latest information from our correspondents on the ground, but we also included breaking lines from news agencies, Indian media reports, official statements, blog posts, Twitter messages ("tweets") and e-mails sent in to us, taking care to source each of these things.

Some of the many e-mails we received and the follow-up contacts contributed directly to our reporting, with first-hand accounts of the events including that of Andreas Liveras, who was, sadly, later killed in the violence.

As for the Twitter messages we were monitoring, most did not add a great amount of detail to what we knew of events, but among other things they did give a strong sense of what people connected in some way with the story were thinking and seeing. "Appalled at the foolishness of the curious onlookers who are disrupting the NSG operations," wrote one. "Our soldiers are brave but I feel we could have done better," said another. There was assessment, reaction and comment there and in blogs. One blogger's stream of photos on photosharing site Flickr was widely linked to, including by us.

All this helped to build up a rapidly evolving picture of a confusing situation.

But there are risks with running accounts that we haven't been able to check, and my colleague Rory Cellan-Jones has written about one piece of unsubstantiated information circulating on Twitter which we reported, suggesting that the Indian government had asked for an end to Twitter updates from Mumbai.

Should we have checked this before reporting it? Made it clearer that we hadn't? We certainly would have done if we'd wanted to include it in our news stories (we didn't) or to carry it without attribution. In one sense, the very fact that this report was circulating online was one small detail of the story that day. But should we have tried to check it and then reported back later, if only to say that we hadn't found any confirmation? I think in this case we should have, and we've learned a lesson. The truth is, we're still finding out how best to process and relay such information in a fast-moving account like this.

Is it confusing to have reports from our own correspondents, along with official statements, pictures, video, accounts from other media, bloggers, emails and Twitter, all together on the same page? It's true that normally we separate them out - news stories in one place, correspondents' reports in another, Have Your Say comments and links to blogs somewhere else.

But on a major unfolding story there is a case also for simply monitoring, selecting and passing on the information we are getting as quickly as we can, on the basis that many people will want to know what we know and what we are still finding out, as soon as we can tell them.

So as the story progresses, as one element of the coverage, we will select, link and label the emerging information. Further assessment, equipped with this information, is left to you. At the same time, we will continue to work on writing fuller news stories containing the most definitive and authoritative version of events we have, as established by our own correspondents and newsgathering teams who are there.


  • Comment number 1.

    Could we have a translation of this article into plain English, please?

    A glossary of the incomprehensible technical jargon used would also be helpful.


  • Comment number 2.

    I was concerned at the time, and am still concerned, at the inclusion of Twitter-sourced material in your 'main' story.

    This is, journalistically-speaking, very dangerous. The BBC has a world-renowned reputation for accuracy and balance. You risk this by including 'editorial' material from other sources in the in-line text.

    By all means have an editorially-separate section, like Have Your Say', but ensure it is clearly distinguished as being 'outside' the journalistically-sourced and editorially-verified material. Having a marginal 'Twitter' logo is not enough.

    And to the comment that in a fast-moving situation there is not time to sort the content, I think that just illustrates the risk you are running in including unverified material which could be coming from anyone involved in the situation, with whatever motivation.

    I know you are aware that the 'bad guys' will be monitoring all your output in real time (evidenced by your care to make sure that hostages did not say exactly where they were in the hotels). My fear is that website staff back in the UK may not be as aware as journalists in the field about the significance or political/security sensitivity of material fed to you from unidentified, unverified and unaccountable sources.

    Please keep 'the brand' clean and well-separated from other material!

    Chris Haynes

  • Comment number 3.

    I remember reading the live updates. I found it to be a great service. I hope the BBC will create live updates pages in future when there are major on-going situations. It's basically the news equivalent of live text sport commentaries.

    One thing I noticed is that most the external stuff seemed to come from Twitter. There are other online platforms out there, and I don't think one should be given priority.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think this is a very important point. Until recently I found when major events are breaking that the BBC have been slow reporting the news, but that when it is reported its correct. Some of the US websites such as CNN, Fox or Reuters post the news faster but what they post is often incorrect, at least in part.

    The BBC have a reputation for accurate and truthful reporting that isn't quite so deserved these days precisely because they want to be 'first with the news' rather than 'most accurate with the news'. It is impossible to do both.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think your approach is about right. I didn't see the "live updates" page but I presume there was a statement that not all sources were trustworthy (why is it necessary to even say that? !) then it's fine. People can then judge for themselves, something which should be encouraged.

    As for "incomprehensible technical jargon" I think that's a bit of an exaggeration. If you use the Internet then you need to understand what's there to use - you don't drive a car without at least a basic understanding of "engine", "accelerator", "windscreen wiper" etc. Also, you know where the manual is and will read it when necessary.

    I assume he's referring to "blog" and "twitter" Given that bradgate2 clearly uses the Internet (he posted here :) a simple search on A Famous Search Engine would help him. Assuming he knows what s search engine is, of course.

  • Comment number 6.

    For the love of god, will BBC News staff please stop going on and on about Twitter? Congratulations, you managed to spot a fad on the internet before it was entirely passé. Rather than endless "blog" posts about it, you could devote a bit of time to making the rest of your technology-based content slightly competent so that it doesn't sound like benig told about the internet by your grandparents.

  • Comment number 7.

    "informative bits of information"

    As opposed to?

  • Comment number 8.

    I expect objective journalism not confused tittle tattle, if your '24-7 instant live news' has to resort to the latter to fill its schedule then isn't it time for a rethink of the direction you've taken

  • Comment number 9.

    Remember that the two "on the street" phrases to describe your British competitor is "Never Wrong for Long" and "First for news, First for the removal of news" - both relate to exactly what their style of journalism is: break a story, then correct it (or worse remove it as if it never occurred).

    Don't let that become the BBC way.

  • Comment number 10.

    I've posted several times about the use of twitter, and how it's unacceptable to use it in the manner you have in major news stories.

    Your piece here does nothing to convince me that it is still acceptable to use it as you did in the tragedy in India.

    Did the "Tweet" (or twit, as I prefer to call them) from some punter in Dubai about what was happening in Mumbai really add to the story?

    Did it really need to go in the Live Updates section? Not in my opinion.

    If it was to be included anywhere, its place is Have Your Say, not news, as its only opinion of the news reports that this twit(ter) has seen.

    I'm not against "Citizen Journalist" photo and video footage making the news, but with Twitter, the BBC Online team has found a new toy, and is showing off.

    Its not big, and not clever. Now grow up.

  • Comment number 11.

    I`d rather contributions from Twitterers, emailers bloggers etc were kept on a separate page away from editorial. They also need a very clear health warning that these are simply contributions from members of the public.
    As anyone who has talked to a number of witnesses to the same event will know, you`ll often get wildly differing accounts as to what happened; and someone`s opinion is just that.

    I`d prefer your reports to be accurate; even if it means there is a time lapse while you try to verify information. If in doubt leave it out; or report it but make it clear it is unverified or just speculation.
    As for pages that update live, I would assume that they are being produced by journalists that bring to bear their expertise as to what to include/exclude, how to phrase etc.
    I`ve only really used them for sporting events and I`d much rather they were produced by a reporter, not by the spectators. The same goes for events such as Mumbai or elections etc.

  • Comment number 12.

    Surely using twitter for news is misleading. Any one can post any thing and the BBC will assume it's news and post it on there live update??

    I thought I paid a TV license so the BBC could afford to pay for Journalists????

  • Comment number 13.

    Hey BBC

    Don't become to much of an aggregator. I think genuine reporting should be foremost.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think it's absolutely right that you should use twitter and other live community services as one of the tools at your disposal. They are always the early-warning canaries and will break any major story first.

    I remember in 1989, long before the web, let alone twitter, sitting next to someone at Uni who was on an internet chat room (or what served for one then) when one of the other users in the chat room said they were experiencing a major earthquake. It turned out to be the San Fransisco earthquake which was the headline story for the week.

    Earlier this year I was woken by the earthquake in Lincolnshire and was surprised how slow the TV news was to report it - and whilst it broke on the BBC website first, there had already been much discussion on twitter and elsewhere before your story went up.

    Yes, the quality of unedited journalism from the general public can be pretty poor, but for responiveness and detail, you can't beat the bloggers.

  • Comment number 15.

    If we wanted a publicly funded search engine, message board or blog, presumably we could have had one. The BBC is becoming increasingly lazy and reports what other reporters and miscellaneous vox pop are saying rather than relying on its own considerable resources to publish the facts after checking them.

    Phone-ins have replaced informed analysis, blogs replaced thought pieces and balance is defined as allowing anybody who has anything to say a platform to say it (including me!) rather than giving those with considered views on both sides of a debate a level playing field.

    Thank God for the continued conservatism of the BBC Radio world service.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think that use of external sources such as twitter is a great idea. If there are worries about reliability then surely the best solution is to just show more and make it clear that this is a selection of what is available and that to a large extent it will be correct.
    As long as the tweets are not integrated too deeply into the main article and are kept clearly separate so that they are seen for what they are (these are not reporters, they are real people, they may not provide all the facts, but they will bring some emotion and extra detail to the situation)
    Im very happy to read tweets and use them to further my own understanding of a news event, and even happier if the relevant tweets are shown picked out for me by the BBC team and delivered to me asap and I am confident that the reporters understand the fact that a single tweet cannot be seen as a wholly reliable source.
    Bring on the tweets!! (who says it stops at twitter?)

  • Comment number 17.

    The use of new media - at the very least as a trial - is good.

    I think it needs careful handling.

    I can remember getting a very false idea of the Menezes incident based on the 'eye witness' accounts - some of which was just plain untrue ( and then not corrected by the police)

    Yes - Unconfirmed material should be clearly identified as such.

    Another issue - I think it would be particularly important not to mix confirmed material from your correspondents or trusted sources with the unconfirmed stuff, such that people can't distinguish the two. We could all end up very confused by that.

  • Comment number 18.

    #14 "Earlier this year I was woken by the earthquake in Lincolnshire and was surprised how slow the TV news was to report it "

    Mainly because it happened at 4:30 in the morning when most BBC staff were asleep. I was asleep until the bed started shaking and my wife started screaming the house was falling down... having been in proper grown up earthquakes in Greece and California I just grunted and went back to sleep. It was interesting for its rarity value but on a global scale it was a pretty pathetic quake. I certainly didn't need to leap out of bed and fire up the internet to confirm it was a small earthquake. I'm sure if it had been an atom bomb going off in Lincolnshire the BBC would have moved a bit quicker.

    Sadly with 24hr news they need to hype up everything that happens just to fill the slots. 'MAN STUBS TOE IN BATH! UPDATE EVERY TEN MINUTES. TOE IS STILL A BIT SORE' isn't much of an exageration.

  • Comment number 19.

    There is an arguement here over what is preferable, to be first or accurate. You can see this distinction on the UK's news channels, I personally prefer Sky News' "this is what we've just heard on the wires, we'll find out later how correct it is" approach, while I can see why others prefer the BBC News channel's "wait-and-see" way of dealing with breaking news.

    The good thing about the website is that there's room for you to do both, with verified and checked information in the main reports themselves, and the more unfiltered lines appearing as they come in on the live update page. The important thing is that the appropriate caveats are given on that page to showthat the information is single-sourced etc.

  • Comment number 20.

    You are using a news source that is not verifiable. Someone could be sitting in a wine bar in Kent and send a Tweet alleging he just witnessed something that is happening on the other side of the world. The use of such unreliable (to put it mildly) information is only acceptable on the BBC Sports website in their live ticker on the day the transfer deadline closes. At least we know that "information" such as "Just seen Cristiano Ronaldo being given a tour of the Hull City's training ground" might not necessarily be true (but usually very funny). On its news website, the BBC must not be allowed to use unverifiable information at all.

  • Comment number 21.

    I think you're battling against two separate cultures. Regardless of the context, it's going to take time for the use of these tools to formalise and for people to recognise conventions.

    Those more comfortable with traditional media will inevitably be able to point to weaknesses in the employment of new technology and they will raise points worth taking on board. Those aware of the the power of these tools should support you in your efforts to use them and collaborate with you on getting it right.

    As new media channels and novel mediums develop, mistakes will be made but that is not an argument for shying away. Keep working, keep learning and eventually we'll come to be as comfortable with this media arena as any other.

    Innovation requires committment, failure and success. Only those who don't innovate don't recognise this.

    (At no point did I find this article or your coverage incomprehensible.)

  • Comment number 22.

    Better to be accurate than first.

    I don't care who is first with a scoop or who 'broke a story' (endlessly repeated on the News these days).

    I'm not interested in what people think about a story as part of the story itself.

    I just want to be reliably informed.

  • Comment number 23.

    Please tell me Mr Herrmann, where does this obsession with "on the fly" newscasting come from?

    BBC's radio coverage of Mumbai can be looked at from many standpoints. From the standpoint of blind terror and confusion, the coverage I heard conveyed this quite intensely. But from the standpoint of coherent and accurate revelation of fact then the BBC had many unforgivable failures.

    In the first standpoint above the BBC was not delivering news - it as covering an "event", or, more accurately, discovering an "event" - and it made an editorial decision to do so in a muddled and piecemeal fashion leading to its failures from the second viewpoint.

    If the BBC's justification for these failures is the need to be "first" then clearly the Corporation has learned nothing from 9/11.

    What of your coverage of a live "event" whereby a man is carrying a suspicious object in the dark surrounded by armed police. Your man on the scene reports "well, it looks like a table leg to me" and then, several seconds later, "no, it is a gun and the police have shot him", etc.

    If your intention is to prove how vulnerable you are to reporting inaccurately then we know that already. If however you wish to inform then please drop the need to be "first" from your agenda.

  • Comment number 24.

    This is an editorial in Indian newspaper about BBC’s reporting of the Mumbai attacks.

  • Comment number 25.

    What happened tonight with your reporting of Delhi airport ? Within the last hour - it's now 2130 GMT on Thursday evening - you seemed to be reporting a serious shooting incident. Now it seems nothing much happened and airport officials are being blamed for the inaccurate reporting. I flipped to a range of online global news channels using a UK satellite provider because of your webpage ticker and didn't find anything being reported. Please would you outline the sequence of events (in terms of news reporting) and what verification took place at what points. Thanks.

  • Comment number 26.

    #2 The BBC has a world-renowned what? It is riddled with left wing bias, suppresses important news stories and confuses its own campaigns, speculation and gossip as news. It has a distorting affect on politics that results in BBC-friendly political parties that are indistinct from each other. It is bloated with too many staff and too much of our money.

    I’d rather have the twitter stuff, even with its imperfections. At least of it is real and not passed through the BBC machine.

  • Comment number 27.

    When you say Twitter, all I can think of as birds and the old ladies Agatha Chritie wrote about. To me Mumbai deserves more than an instant analysis.

    I read in a BBC News Channel posting that Condoleezza Rice "has been trying to defuse tensions. Wasn't she the one who said something about a "mushroom shaped cloud," when Iraq was in the wind. As far as I'm concerned nothing she says is valid because she is George W. Bush's mouth piece. He has a speech impediment and does not speak English. So she always goes out acting as his inforcer and translates to the unwashed masses.

    Examine what happened in Mumbai and who was murdered and why. Like the Mufia, these Commandos were sent to give a message. Now who sent them is still in question. Automatically, the Indians say Pakistan.

    But think, if Pakistan could produce an army of Commandos of the Mumbai quality, why haven't they conquered the Tribal Lands. No the answer is not Pakistan or any of the "Stans."

    Pakistan is being taught a lesson "COOPERATE OR DIE." This is how the International Military Mofia opperates. If you won't help us kill the Taliban then we will make arrangements for India to kill you. In other words, there is a Third Party involved in the terrorism that overcame Mumbai.

    This terrorism was what gripped the American people and was fostered by Mr. Bush, the Neocons, and Condoleezza Rice, as their ambassador to the world. Colin Powell disgraced himself by going to the UN in defense of this terror, and Tony Blair worked on the British people sanctifying the Invasion of Iraq. But Saddam and the Iraqi people were innocent.

    The US and the Coalition have murdered over 100,000 innocent Iraqis in the name of democracy, while at the same time leaving NATO and the Warlord to fight our war in Afghanistan.

    Now Pakistan is next on the list.

    The Mumbai Commandos were sent by a Third Party with intent to put Pakistan in a situation of a two front war: One with India and the other with the US, NATO, and the Coalition.

    Think and analyize. Don't be bird brains twittering. Like Orwell intimated in 1984, war has become a permanant state imposed on the Third World.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hey beebees, what was that today?

    You're opening with the smashing title.

    Reuters is pinpointing you as a source.

    You have dead people, guns and fireworks.

    Reuters call's a shot and states there was nothing to report?

    Blunder or what?

    Repression>Resistance>Existence, eh?

  • Comment number 29.

    I am no expert nor do I have enough knowledge of the international affairs - but -

    I know what is a criminal force - the terrorist
    I know what is just - punish them
    I know the value of life - but they don't
    I know pain and suffering - they cause it
    I know bullies - The countries that support terrorist.
    I know selfishness - the Americans
    I know religious bigots - the guys who hijack religion for their ends


    I know that the unjust must be punished and justice delayed is justice denied and so lets stop pussyfooting and tackle the terrorist before they get the Bomb, which at this rate is just a matter of time.

    If you don't take it to them they will deliver it to you with impunity. As with all bullies, you have to stand upto them - as any school child can tell you.

    If UN can say use force against pirates - then why not against terrorist and their helpers.

    It may lead to 'unintentional consequences' (Rice) - but they do it intentionally - so let there be consequences, when do you say its enough? It may not be for the Americans - but we must say 'ENOUGH AND DAMN THE CONSEQUENCES'.

  • Comment number 30.

    You know Herrmann, the least BBC could have done was to have had its Taleban friends comment from the other side of the issue. They do talk to you so why didn't you broadcast their side of the story? And then there is one of your reporters whose name shall go unmentioned who was reportedly "a friend to the Palestinian People." Surely he could have gotten them to talk about why the terrorists targeted Jews in Mumbai. Where is your sense of obligation to inform the public on all points of view in a crisis?

  • Comment number 31.

    Five Live Controller, Adrian Van-Klaveren, is keen to inject humour into the channel's output. Is that why the BBC's output on Mumbai (and now Delhi Airport) resembles the journalistic equivalent of the keystone kops?

  • Comment number 32.

    Mr. Herrmann,

    From your link:

    Witnesses tell of Mumbai violence


    …caught up in the Mumbai attacks

    To put this in the mildest way possible, violence is not only an inadequate way to describe terror, it is also inaccurate, putting a false neutral connotation on acts of cold-blooded mass murder. And surely BBC journalists know that the terrorists tortured their hostages before killing them? Why was this not reported?

    The World Service initially followed its journalistic instincts and rightly reported the attacks as terrorism but quickly backtracked and started describing the terrorists as young men and, incredibly, determined gunmen. And the BBC website had a caption to a photograph describing the attacks as audacious, in other words, daring.

    Following the BBC's reporting on Mumbai was like being exposed to PR from the terrorists' side.

    So your description of the way the BBC went about collecting information has its place, but it is irrelevant in view of the gross distortions in your reporting. You should be concentrating on the substance, not on the shadow. Why does the BBC continually go through extraordinary contortions to minimise and whitewash despicable acts of Islamic terrorism?

    You have a responsibility to report events accurately, not mangle the English language and mislead the public by using inaccurate terms to describe those events.

  • Comment number 33.

    27. marygrav,

    Mumbai Commandos, with a capital 'C', is how you describe the terrorists? You've obviously been exposed to too much lefty media like Reuters, CNN and the BBC.

    This is hearsay, but a reliable blogger wrote that BBC World used the term commandos when mentioning the terrorists.

    You are simply helping people lose their moral compass, BBC, having lost yours.

  • Comment number 34.

    #33. I quite agree. Commando's would imply that they are like British Royal Marine commandos or Soviet Spetnatz or US Navy SEALS: highly trained, regular soldiers in the pay of a recognised & legal government.

    So far there is zero proof that these guys served in anyones army and if they WERE soldiers by fighting in civilians clothes and specifically targetting civillians they violate the geneva convention at least twice.

    if they are soldiers in the pay of Pakistan or anyone else the correct word would be WAR CRIMINAL

    If they are as they seem to be fantaical civillians the correct choice of word is MURDERER, TERRORIST, or KILLERS

    Insurgents, gunmen, militia etc dignify them too much.

  • Comment number 35.

    The BBC is known for it's accuracy and balance. And I believe twitter gives the BBC more balance.

    I have total faith in how the BBC picks 'twits' from Twitter. It would be very useful for the BBC to explain how they pick a feed, and display it on the site.

    I found the inclusion of twitter and live updates, without the need to refresh very useful with the Olympics, US08 elections, and the events in Mumbai.

    I do hope the BBC carry on trying out this new technology, and hope to see it used more with the BBC.

  • Comment number 36.

    Your coverage of Mumbai happenings were excellent.As an Indian I have access to the numerous news channels India is having.

    I have never used twitter and dont know much about it.We have great faith in BBC and the way it reports events around the world.

    Eventhough I was watching the Indian channels interchangeably, I always switched to BBC to get an accurate and credible account of events.

    By no means I am suggesting that the Indian channels are unreliable, but for years to come we are so used to watching the BBC and to get to know the latest happenings around the world and within India as well.

  • Comment number 37.

    Thanks to all who have commented here. A whole range of points brought up so here are some responses:

    grasman, SheffTim, da5nsy, jon112uk, bluejam: the importance of distinguishing types of content very clearly and of making that distinction completely obvious to anyone coming to our pages is indeed I think the key thing. To what degree we keep them completely separate or not is still something to consider.

    bradgate2: I tried to avoid "incomprehensible technical jargon" – not sure which terms you meant, but others seem to have understood it and if you didn't I'm sorry.

    rjmghome: many, though not all, of the thought pieces and much of the informed analysis you mention are now in the BBC reporters' blogs.

    Think4Yourself: I thought you summed things up well and I agree.

    Some have raised the terminology we used in reporting the Mumbai attacks – BBC guidelines on use of the word "terrorist" are set out here, and we aim to follow this across our coverage.

    Some have raised here separate questions about our coverage of a security scare overnight at Delhi airport. This is addressed here.

  • Comment number 38.

    Mr. Herrmann,

    Thanks for getting back to us. This has become an extremely rare phenomenon among the editors here.

    You may aim to follow your own guidelines on the use of the 'T' word, but your journalists continually fail to do so. One of the most glaring examples of this deficiency is the failure to use the dreaded word even when quoting others who have used it.

    For example, the BBC does this time and time again when quoting IDF spokespeople, putting the word 'militant' in their mouth when they have clearly said 'terrorist' to refer to a Palestinian attack. This is dishonest, misleading and unprofessional.

    And why did the World Service clam up and not use the word again after having used it frequently the day after the attack? If a memo didn't go out, I'll eat my monitor. Well, I guess at least the World Service recognised briefly that a terrorist attack had taken place.

    The terrorists were quickly transformed into gunmen>, and as I said, even determined gunmen. Why was this the case if the BBC is really so keen to avoid value judgements, as stated in the guidelines?

    In any event, 'gunmen' is inadequate and inaccurate, not only because they were terrorists, but because they used grenades and explosives as well as guns.

    A few years ago, the panel on the BBC's Impartiality Review of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict concluded that the BBC should re-assess its stand on the use of the 'T' word. The BBC ignored that advice, even though the panel had been appointed by the BBC itself.

    The BBC has backed itself into a corner with its stubborn refusal to use the only word that adequately describes these atrocities. In so doing it has opened itself to the accusation that it is in sympathy with the aims of the terrorists.

  • Comment number 39.

    Thanks Steve:
    For answering my questions....Also, for the resources that the BBC gave to the story!

  • Comment number 40.

    I think some of the comments here are naive. I assume any competent newsroom will be using all the resources they could afford including twitter. In the old days we had 'unconfirmed reports suggest that' Now it is possible to see what the sources say... the crude news. My own view is that 'link out' from the BBC stories is the way to do it. There are already these for press sources (from google news?) Link outs are needed in more conventional stories: for example those which report a 'report' source should always link to the 'text' of the resource.
    Link outs are discussed somewhere on the BBC Internet Blog. Every story should consider a general link out (read more here!) with all the health warnings necessary for the posters here who need guidance of the risk of taking anything as true.
    Incidentally maybe the Magazine site on bbc online news should run a series like the excellent one on statistics to help people evaluate the news. including the BBC's output.

  • Comment number 41.

    i m the Indian security did let these heavilly loaded men go into the hotels as shown in bbc news lwtters the picture of the last survived man.He seems to be carring a huge gun and loads on his back and front.Did not any body whom he passed by think what the guy is upto.I think even a layman can see what type of guy he is..or they were..if they were ten how come they fought an army for three days..really a suspence.Can't see reallity in this..If real then again the upper mentioned question rises in every bodies mind in rest of the world..

  • Comment number 42.

    From the BBC's own guidlines:

    "We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as "bomber", "attacker", "gunman", "kidnapper", "insurgent, and "militant" "

    Can you explain what the difference between a 'terrorist' an 'insurgent' and a 'militant' is exactly? To me they're all people who fight in civillian clothes with no legal connection to a soveriegn power which is totally contrary to the geneva convention.

    The geneva convention is very particular about people who fight in civillian clothes. It uses the term 'partisan' and partisans can be shot on the spot as they are not considered illegal combatants and are not protected by the rules of law.

  • Comment number 43.

    #41 "if they were ten how come they fought an army for three days."

    For the simple reason that the Indian army weren't fighting them for three days they were containing them.... had they wanted to they could have taken out these guys in a few hours but at a massive loss of civilian life. You should look at Beslan school or the Russian theatre tragedy for what happens when hostage rescue goes wrong.

  • Comment number 44.

    I raised this whole topic the day after the US elections (and blogged about it myself: By all means QUOTE twitters and other user-generated material. Some of these may be directly useful in the telling of the story - though you MUST have checked them first.

    BUT...if you insist on including "ordinary" twitters, as was the case on US election night, PLEASE put them on their own "Have your say" page and do not dilute your own superlative coverage by interspersing your own accurate, well-researched news, comment and analysis with axe-grinding, hidden or not so hidden agenda-wielding and plain downright boring, tedious and super-opinionated nonsense. I find the practice extremely distracting and disruptive and much as I support the BBC and use a great many of its services and am more than happy to pay the licence fee for them, I will simply go elsewhere.

  • Comment number 45.

    42 Peter_Sym

    Dunno about insurgent but to me the difference between terrorist and militant is quite clear if one considers that a militant is someone aggressively involved in a cause - and that cause does not necessarily have to be one you bear arms for. A confrontational trade unionist is a militant. So is a bunch of radical university students demonstrating against the government.

    But you obviously couldn't call either of these terrorists.

    The use by the media of non-controversial and neutral terms to describe terrorists is the mother of all cop outs.

  • Comment number 46.

    But dont the media always use such terms in disguise?

    A lineta; in America is viewed in the same way as a Communist in Essex, such is the way they use words.

    Militant, Terrorist and Anarchist are just words ..except that anarchists are just plain stupid. :-)

    To educate the brainwashed uneducared is a humungous task but one should not lose heart.

  • Comment number 47.

    When a major news story such as this breaks, it is inevitable that there will be rumours and unsubstantiated gossip posing as the latest news.

    I could get these from just about any source on the internet, but when I want to know what is actually happening and what has been substantiated, I rely on the BBC to have fully authenticated the story before it is published.

  • Comment number 48.

    it is verry simple to understand what is the news!! just change your view . then you will see the deffrence.their is no twister or other else!!

  • Comment number 49.

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

  • Comment number 50.

    I found the BBC coverage of both the Mumbai attacks and the US elections excellent. I certainly hope you continue the use of twitter and similar new technologies to give your audience a broader on the ground perspective.

    As long as the information source is clearly labelled as unverified, readers should use their common sense to reading that section to establish context. No doubt, the BBC and other major news agencies will use twitter and similar sources as news leads, publishing data as official news only after verifying the content of the posts.

  • Comment number 51.

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

  • Comment number 52.

    Twitter was an excellent way of distributing the news on these attacks, its exactly what twitter should be used for, and i couldnt think of a better use for it.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 53.

    Justasoul published a great comment and we all should look at it and think about it:

    I know what is a criminal force - the terrorist
    I know what is just - punish them
    I know the value of life - but they don't
    I know pain and suffering - they cause it
    I know bullies - The countries that support terrorist.
    I know selfishness - the Americans
    I know religious bigots - the guys who hijack religion for their ends

    Terrorist attacks are the worst form of aggression because so many innocent people will die and I am afraid that it wont change the current situation. I pray for that area so there will be no more bloodshed. Tom

  • Comment number 54.

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

  • Comment number 55.

    The BBC did a great job utilizing Twitter as a reference for up to the minute information. Compiling mass messages of 140 characters or less and presenting an accurate story would be a nightmare, but they have done well. Walter

  • Comment number 56.

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

  • Comment number 57.

    Justasoul published a great comment and we all should look at it and think about it:

    I know what is a criminal force - the terrorist
    I know what is just - punish them
    I know the value of life - but they don't
    I know pain and suffering - they cause it
    I know bullies - The countries that support terrorist.
    I know selfishness - the Americans
    I know religious bigots - the guys who hijack religion for their ends
    I agree and hope there will be no more bloodshed.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]


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