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:
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:
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.]