Tuesday 28 September 2010

All eyes on Ed Miliband? Some thoughts on live blogging.

This is no criticism of Andrew Sparrow personally, who is an expert in the art of live blogging for The Guardian, but, if you've ever tried live blogging, you'll discover that it's pretty hard work and not without its difficulties. Even for journalists who have racked up a number of live blogging marathons like Sparrow.

During his latest effort, blogging Ed Miliband's speech at the Labour Party conference, the Guardian journalist offers some "3.40pm instant analysis". Sparrow says he found the speech "less inspiring than I expected".

But he then highlights some of the problems of making an assessment about quite how inspiring the speech was given his preoccupation with frantically tapping out a live blog:
"...although I admit, not having watched it properly (I've just had my eyes on my keyboard, for obvious reasons) I'm not necessarily. (sic)"
Which rather sums up one of the key challenges facing a live blogging journalist. (Perhaps we could finish the sentence for him " the best position to make a judgement" or "able to take in everything while trying to write everything". [In fact, the update was subsequently corrected and now reads: "...the best judge"])

Personally, whenever I've done some live blogging I've always felt it would be better if there were at least two people contributing to it to compensate for my own live blogging inadequacies. One blogger could get down the outline facts and key points, the other could provide instant analysis and comment. Perhaps even a third could pull in information from other sources.

But Sparrow told me that he writes most of the material for his live blogs himself. He says that sometimes others do contribute, particularly if a live blog lasts a long time and that a Guardian editor will actually post his copy to the blog. (Presumably the editor does some quick checks before posting.) But in terms of writing the thing, an Andrew Sparrow live blog is essentially (a rather impressive) one-man show.

The advantage of this approach is that it gives the blog a clear voice, and allows one journalist to retain control over the direction of the blog. But I would still question whether there are not occasions when it might help to have more hands on deck throughout a live blog.

Of course, there is also a question of resources here and I wonder how often The Guardian can afford to devote more than one staff member to writing lengthy live blogs especially as they seem to be running them on a regular basis and for all sorts of events.

Thursday 23 September 2010

BBC's cricket correspondent hits blog comments for six

There seems to be something of a backlash against the value of comments on blogs at the BBC. Or perhaps it might be more accurate to say that existing reservations about comments on blogs are beginning to surface.

Only last month, the BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, described them as "the biggest problem" with his Newslog blog.

Now cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew has revealed he stopped blogging at the BBC because his posts were "always full of appalling comments". Agnew now publishes a column on the BBC website instead and says he simply wouldn't write a blog open to comments any more - "even with moderation in place".

Agnew's Twitter updates about comments came in the context of an interview (BBC i-Player 7:38:30) he conducted with Pakistan's one-day cricket captain, Shahid Afridi, after yesterday's defeat to England. The interview came at the end of an acrimonious and controversial tour for the Pakistan team and was discussed on the PakPassion website after Afridi apparently became annoyed at one of the questions.

Agnew linked to a comment on PakPassion which accused him of trying "to be clever" in his questioning to incite further controversy around the use of the Decision Referral System (DRS), whereby teams can ask for television replays to overturn the decision of the onfield umpires.

Agnew maintained that he was simply asking Afridi to explain why he wanted to have the DRS in One-Day Internationals. The system was used in the Test series.

Agnew likened the comments on PakPassion to those he would receive on his BBC blog. Interestingly, despite his disillusionment with blog comments Agnew regularly replies to messages he receives via Twitter.
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