Last year, Iain Dale brought us the news that government blogs were costing tax payers many thousands of pounds a month to run. David Milliband’s blog, for example, apparently costs over £40,000 a year and the Welfare Reform and Child Poverty blog was revealed, in response to a parliamentary question, to cost nearly £1500 per month to run – equivalent to around £2 per visitor.
For a second or two, when I read the headline "BBC Blog That Cost our Banks £17 Billion" in Metro last week, I thought a journalist had got the wrong end of the stick – afterall, I used to run the BBC’s blogs and they didn’t cost anything like £17 billion…
Thankfully, that’s not what the article was getting at. Instead, it was blaming BBC Journalist Robert Peston, who blogged about the near collapse of a major British bank and a government brokered merger in the hours before the markets opened, leading – some say – to even greater losses in the financial markets.
"In recent weeks, as capitalism itself has seemed in peril,, the BBC business editor has hardly been off duty, whether reporting for Radio 4’s Today programme, for rolling news and the bulletins, or posting on Peston’s Picks, his influential blog.
On 17 September, at exactly 9am, a new entry on that blog opened with the simple but remarkable sentence: "Lloyds is in advanced merger talks with HBOS to create a giant UK super retail bank, I have learned."
Within seconds of posting the story from the PC in his office at home in Muswell Hill, north London, Peston, 48, had walked to the spare room and, via a specially-installed ISDN line, was broadcasting his scoop live on the BBC News channel. In the words of this newspaper, Peston’s influence meant that he was "one of the few men with the power to dam the floodwaters heading HBOS’s way". This was the same reporter who had already won the Royal Television Society’s "Scoop of the Year" award for his coverage of the collapse of the Northern Rock building society.
Peston is perhaps the first senior journalist to publish a major, breaking story on their blog as the first available outlet. My guess is we’re going to see a lot more unmediated, unedited journalism like this in the future although there are, it should be said, major risks involved. It’s not just Andrew Gilligan who can make a mistake.