Thursday 19 March 2009

BBC's blogs: opinion or judgement?

The BBC have updated their blogs. They're wider, neater and have a few extra features. (Not everyone is happy about the wider columns, mind).

Aaaron Scullion, who is the Senior Product Manager for the blogs, reckons that:
"In design terms, I think they feel like a core part of the BBC website now (maybe for the first time)"
Meanwhile, Newswatch debated the role of the BBC's blogs. They got hold of the Daily Mail's Stephen Glover who recently criticised the BBC's bloggers.

In this video below (just take a moment to bask in the knowledge that, finally, we can embed BBC content), Glover reiterates his line that BBC journalists can't write blogs without including their opinion.

Another Stephen, Mr Mitchell, the deputy director of BBC News says this is not the case. He says that blogs go through the same editorial process as any other content and insists that BBC journalists offer their analysis and judgement not their opinion.

He admitted that the informality of the blog style did mean the line between the two was finer than on a news bulletin. I would like to know just what the difference between personal opinion and professional judgement is.

(In my personal opinion, the new BBC blogs are much better. Based on 18 months researching blogs my professional judgement is that the BBC blogs are much better. Maybe that's the difference there - evidence. But I've selected the evidence and maybe I've just been looking at the wrong blogs all this time and I've missed some of the better designs. What if my professional judgement is an elaborately constructed personal opinion...anyway I could go on with this 'off the top of my head' rambling but need to dash. But I'll be thinking about all that).


Steve Jackson said...

I think blogging is difficult for the BBC for a number of reasons.

Firstly, at the outset, the whole point of blogging was to give individuals a platform for their views. It means that the person on the sreet no longer had to resort to "a letter to The Times" which may or may not be published.

But the BBC always had that platform so there was a danger that their blogs were seen merely as a fashion addition.

Now you can argue that blogs at least come with a comment box and the public can be engaged in this way and their views heard - but you can put a comment box on a straight news story.

So you are left with various correspondents being able to add a little more background to stories via the blog pages. However, these are not opinions as you might see them elsewhere. Largely because BBC doesn't deal in opinions it, hopefully, deals with balance. Or, at least what is perceived to be balance from its point of view.

So, while blogs may touch on the personal and while they may give more background - both on the subject matter and the news gathering process - they are still not blogs as we know them.

To increase their "blogness" it would be highly desireable for them to include many more links - not just to other organisations but to individual bloggers too. In addition, the writers actually taking part in the comment box debate would be welcomed.

Finally, blogging used to be the be all and end all of social media but we all know it goes way beyond that now. So I'd like to see the blog writers with a wider SM presence. A Twitter feed would help - not just as a way of publicising their posts but also as a way of engaging them in wider posts and making their arguments answerable.

That said...the new design looks fine to me.

Unknown said...

"What if my professional judgement is an elaborately constructed personal opinion"

That would make you pretty unprofessional! ;-)

Daniel Bennett said...

Ourman: Thanks for your comment. I think you raise some interesting points about the purpose of BBC blogs. And pretty sure a lot of what you say gets discussed within the BBC as well.

I often talk to BBC types who use a number of caveats when describing the BBC's "blogs" indicating an awareness that they don't quite fit with what blogging is perceived to be.

I particularly like your point about a more wide-ranging approach to social media, but this is one step further than blogging from an editorial point of view. (And as we can see, that in itself remains a challenge.)

Robert Peston simply can't keep up with his hundreds of commenters and do the rest of his job. While Twitter is a fast conversational tool that is difficult for the BBC to control for the balance you talk about. Having said that there are a number of BBC journalists on Twitter already.

Steve O: Is that your personal opinion or your profe....sorry, I'm being ridiculous ;)

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