Archive for the 'Networked Journalism' Category

Wikipedia’s Values Are The BBC’s Values

June 5, 2008

Over the past few days I’ve read both the BBC Trust’s Service Licence Review of bbc.co.uk and the BBC’s management’s submission.

It feels like the BBC is hovering on the edge of a conceptual leap forwards, scared about making the leap.

I quote (management submission p.98):

The BBC grew up in and often shaped the age of broadcasting. Over the last 10 years, it has been thrust into the age of computers where it has made important but fewer defining contributions. It has been a rapidly-evolving age, in which many of the truths of the broadcasting age have been contested. These are the truths on which the BBC has built its global stature – that professionals know best, that control is the way to ensure quality, that audience contributions are valuable but must be crafted or editorialised to release that value, that the audience must only be given the finished product, that professionals will create more content than the audience.

To fit itself for the future, the BBC must demonstrate a willingness and an ability to engage in the discussion about the new world. The internet will help it to do so by enabling a direct dialogue by which it can be held to account and develop greater responsiveness.

The BBc has to do a lot more than just “enter a dialogue”.

From the BBC Trust’s review (p. 31):

“The encouragement of user participation by means of user-generated content (UGC) will need to be managed carefully so that BBC news’ brand values of impartiality, accuracy and independence (which we have found to be particularly strong online) are not challenged.”

There’s an underlying anxiety that if we collaberate with licence fee payers in places not controlled by the BBC, or allow them to help make or influence BBC content it will somehow damage BBC values and traditional strengths.

It may be true that there are some places which the BBC should not go.

But to choose an example Wikipedia is not one of them.

Wikipedia’s values are almost exactly the same as the BBC’s.

What’s the difference between Wikipedia’s value of neutrality:

“Neutral point of view is a fundamental Wikimedia principle and a cornerstone of Wikipedia. All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.”

and the BBC’s value of impartiality including this:

  • we strive to reflect a wide range of opinion and explore a range and conflict of views so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under represented. “
  • The difference is not in values or principles but in how you do it.

    Wikipedia says “we want to search for the truth. And we want everyone to help us find it”

    The BBC says “we want to search for the truth. But ONLY professional BBC people are allowed to do it.”

    We’re wrong.

    In practice there is at least one recent example of where the BBC used the wisdom of the crowd to change and improve its journalism. Last year the Newsround webpages about 9/11 were changed after some concerted lobbying from various bloggers. Here’s what Sinead Rocks said on the Editors blog. Here’s what I said at the time on my internal BBC blog. You won’t be able to see my blog outside the firewall so here’s a quote:

    “Is (this) an organised lobby of people with an axe to grind about the BBC’s output? Is it a example of “networked journalism”? Or perhaps both? …

    Has the conversation made what’s on Newsround’s website better? On balance I think yes, although I would be interested to know what others think.”

    This was an uncomfortable experience for the BBC. But how practically was it any different from the kind of often fractious debates and editing that go on in Wikipedia?

    We have to come down off our pedestals and realise that some licence fee payers are cleverer than we are. Anyone who shares the BBC values should be welcome to make or help make BBC content whether they are professional and paid by us or whether they are not.

    Doing this does not undermine BBC values. It strengthens them.

    What would it be like if licence fee payers not only understood and believed in impartiality (which they do), but also actively helped make the BBC’s content more impartial?

    Isn’t that an exciting prospect? Let’s jump!

    More Whys

    February 12, 2008

    Blackwater over at Roy Greenslade’s blog has disagreed with this previous post from me.

    So I thought I would explain further.

    1. Steve Rubell has a better idea of what’s going on in new media than the average journalist. Most importantly he understands the value of the link. There are still too many journalists who think a story ends when they publish it on the web and don’t bother to link. A story without links on the web is dead (see this). Bloggers always link, which gives them an advantage.

    Steve Rubell has also said “transparency is critical”. This is an unusual thing for someone working in PR to say. How many journalists would be prepared to say it, not just about the subjects of their stories but their own working practices?

    2. I don’t think “the pursuit of truth” is a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing. Working for the BBC I abide by the BBC’s values of impartiality.

    But journalists need to come off their high horses and accept that they are not the only people with a committment to the truth.

    Blackwater asks: “Do journalists and PR folk really inhabit the same moral sphere? I mean, traditionally or ideally, at least?”

    Traditionally they don’t. But the internet is changing all that. Ideally, they should. Indeed this may become essential.

    I trust Steve Rubell even though he works in PR. I trust James Cridland and Hilary Perkins – not journalists, bloggers. I trust Jemima Kiss and Nick Robinson (journalists who use blogging tools). I trust them all not because of what they are called, or because I agree with them all the time but because of how they behave.

    Can PR be done openly and honestly? I suspect like journalism, it will only survive if concentrates on building openness and trust.

    3. Blackwater says:

    “The lines between journalism and PR have been purposely blurred by those in the PR industry, carelessly mistaking a writer’s remit for the PR man’s brief. One manipulates a story to sell something and one manipulates something to tell a story. There is a subtle but meaningful difference.”

    Blackwater should read today’s Daily Mail. The Daily Mail has a particular view of the world, a line like most newspapers. Does today’s Mail contain examples of stories “manipulated to sell something” i.e. The Mail?

    Doesn’t the Independent do something similar? Aren’t both looking for stories and angles that support their readers’ world view and emotional preferences, and is “the truth” always revealed or does it sometimes get lost?

    Bloggers, journalists, marketeers and PR people are a network, even a community who rely on each other and increasingly use the same tools and techniques.

    They all need to be truthful and honest. The internet is forcing them to be.

    Why Oh Why Oh Why?

    February 6, 2008

    Why is Alistair Campbell shocked when a journalist tells him he wrote a story about him which was completely untrue? Hasn’t journalism always been a strange mix of fearless seekers after truth and people happy to make things up for a living?

    Why do commentators like Madeline Bunting still write “why oh why” pieces about people being rude online?  Haven’t people always been rude to each other both behind their backs and to their faces?

    Why, if Comment is Free is worried about people being nasty  about scousers, don’t they just moderate their comments harder? Why don’t they realise that they are responsible for the comments they publish?

    Why don’t people think about Jeff Jarvis’s view that social networking will make people more civil and polite not less?

    Why if, according to Nick Davies, rewriting press releases is such a terrible thing, do journalists keep on doing it? Why don’t they just link to the press release instead?

    Why don’t journalists understand that when they rewrite a press release to make it suitable for their particular readership they are doing exactly the same thing as the PR and marketing people they despise?

    Why do journalists and bloggers despise PR and marketing people? Especially when some of them (e.g. Steve Rubell )have a darn sight better idea of what’s going on than your average journalist?

    Why can’t people like Madeline Bunting read this excellent column from Jemima Kiss and realise that “participation” is the key (“our front of house task is to get stuck in… tokenism won’t do”)? Internet conversation won’t get any better unless people participate.

    Why don’t more people understand (like Hilary Perkins does) that this is all just communication? Marketing and PR people, bloggers and journalists are all using the same tools. It’s not what you’re called that counts, or even whether you are paid for it, but how you use the tools, how you behave and whether people trust you to tell the truth.

    N.B. Answer to question 2. Because it’s easier to write a “why oh why” column and get paid for it than to actually do some work to understand how all this stuff actually works.

    Just as it’s easier to rewrite a press release than to do some work and find some new facts.

    ABC News Using Facebook

    November 27, 2007

    An intriguing example of “networked journalism“. (Via Richard Sambrook)

    Web 2.0 Debate – Strange Attractor

    November 1, 2007

    Good post from Kevin Anderson and Suw Charman. Plus a comment from me.

    Strange Practices and Other Opinions

    October 31, 2007

    One thing often said by Biased BBC commentators when I describe something the BBC has done as a “mistake” is to say “funny how the mistakes are only in one direction”.

    So here’s a reminder that there are people who think that the BBC has a bias towards the right.

    I’ve posted on Biased BBC what I think about the mistake (see very bottom of page) in rewriting p.a. copy with an error in, based on a blog.

    “Not being a journalist by training this is the kind of strange practice that I find hard to understand.”

    Bias is a red herring here. 

    But it shows that the old newspaper model doesn’t work on the internet. Three people were being paid, one to blog, one to produce agency copy, one to rewrite copy into a news story. Is this the best way to spend money on news? Do you need this if you can just link to the blog? Why doesn’t the agency turn its copy into freely available feeds so you can read the copy direct, or turn the feeds into a website? If they did that, would others need to rewrite it?

    It is true that people still want news delivered to them in a packaged way. But I wonder if the balance is quite right.

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