In a recent interview, Martin Fewell, the assistant editor of Channel 4 News, told Journalism.co.uk’s Oliver Luft that:

Blogs by journalistic organisations are an opportunity to add value to our core products, television news. We gather a lot more information and learn a hell of a lot more during the course of our journalism than we can ever put on the television.

Referring to Channel 4′s NewsRoom blog, he went on to highlight one of the other benefits of the blog – the networked journalism or crowdsourcing affect of involving the audience in the creation of the news coverage:

The blog also has value in allowing users to engage with the journalists, so it stops it being a single, top-down process. I’m hoping the blog we have launched will be a source, not just of comment, but also of news angles and ideas from our viewers.

This follows nicely on the heals of my (2000+ word) post on the purpose of tv and radio blogs where I argue that, amongst other things, blogs can help news and media organisations to engage with audiences and learn from them.

That is, that blogs – both those authored and published by news and media organisations as well as those authored and published by others, are a great source of what I’ve called the 3Cs:

Contacts
Context
Content

Yesterday, in a presentation I gave to a group of BBC people in Bristol, I added another C to the list – Comment. This is especially important in a BBC context because the BBC is bound by it’s Royal Charter to maintain accuracy, fairness and impartiality. Whilst it might not be appropriate, under current the BBC’s current producer’s guidelines, for BBC presenters, journalists and other editorial staff to express anything less than an partial viewpoint, it is exactly that – opinion – which is the key to the popularity of many commercial propositions online, in print, or on air.

Like radio phone-ins, long the staple of BBC local radio, members of the audience can voice their opinions through a comment on a BBC blog or, indeed, any other blog. It probably seems odd to those outside the BBC, but enabling comments on a news story or other online content, or using message boards to help online communities grow around broadcast brands, interests, or issues wasn’t always something we were able to do lightly.

I recall one meeting nearly ten years ago where, over an hour or two, my editor at the time and I argued that people should be allowed to post using a the username of their making rather than their own full name and location. I can also recall, even more recently, having numerous discussions around the issue of maintaining balance in online discussions, something that is not only difficult but often impossible without falling back upon the power of the delete post button.

Thankfully, things have changed and it feels like the BBC, along with other broadcasting and news organisations, has become much more relaxed about, and transparent when, hosting online discussions and debate, even where that debate becomes unbalanced.

But I think (this is my personal opinion – not that of my employer) there is room for even more comment – not necessarily hosted by the BBC or other news organisation itself, but simply linked to. People know they can come to the BBC for accurate, impartial journalism they can trust. But, let’s face it, sometimes that’s a bit boring. Adding links to a few external blogs containing strong opinions achieves a few things:

  • it better reflects the opinions of the audience out there

  • it allows people to, once armed with the facts, go out and explore the opinions
  • it helps the BBC to keep the audiences who seek out and enjoy strong opinionated journalism and debate

    I think the best way to experiment with opening up like this is for news and media organisations, whether their business is in print or broadcasting, to start blogging. Afterall, how can we possible understand this world without being a part of it?

    [Update: If you don't believe me when I say that blogs are changing the way news organisations engage with their audiences, check out comment #23 on this post where Peter Barron, editor of Newsnight, agrees to the idea of letting a critical audience member do a video interview with him.]

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  • Cybersoc by Robin Hamman
    With over 13 years of professional experience in the digital and social media industry, and a client portfolio that includes some of the World's most recognisable brands and organisations, I've built a reputation internationally as a leading practitioner in the industry.

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    About Robin Hamman

    I've been helping some of the World's most widely recognised brands and organisations devise and implement strategic digital and social media programmes since 1999.

    I'm currently the EMEA Digital Network Lead at Fleishman Hillard. I've previously held a variety of roles including Managing Director of Dachis Group Europe, Director of Digital at Edelman, Head of Social Media at Headshift, Acting Editor of the BBC Blogs and Executive Producer at ITV.

    In addition to my day job, I help my wife run an online retail business selling wool blankets - if you're feeling chilly, check out JustSheep.co.uk

    I hold a BA in Education, MA in Sociology, MPhil in Communication Studies and a PgDip in Law. I've also been a Non-Residential Fellow at Stanford University Law School and a Visiting Fellow of Journalism at City University, London.

    Why cybersoc.com? In 1995, I tried to register, for the purposes of researching "ordinary users", the username Cybersociologist on AOL. They truncated my name and I stuck with it....

    Published Under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License