I was privileged to be asked to speak at the BBC’s Future of Journalism conference last week. A largely internal event organised by the BBC College of Journalism, the event had little outside publicity and consequently very few people from outside the corporation attending. This was a shame, as not only were there some fascinating contributions from speakers both inside and outside of the BBC, but it also meant no one could contribute to the discussion via email unless they were watching the intranet video stream.
I had hoped to liveblog it, but the wifi signal was too weak – instead you can find some coverage from the time on my Twitter account and those of Daniel Bennett and Jon Jacob. Below are some of the reflections from the first day’s events.
I arrived too late to catch the first panel on Multiplatform Reporting from the Field – but you can find a roundup on Charlie Beckett’s blog.
Instead, I went straight into the panel on ‘The Newsroom of the Future‘, where I spoke about the News Diamond model. This was reasonably well received, with one particularly interesting question which I’ve blogged about separately.
Fellow panelist BBC Head of Editorial Development, Multimedia Journalism, Pete Clifton spoke about the changes the BBC newsrooms have been through (from platform-based to programme-based) and those they can expect. In addition to a planned move to a new content management system, Pete was clearly concerned about how the BBC had fallen behind in the search engine optimisation stakes, and talked of a future emphasis on tagging and metadata. He showed an overview of the metadata on New York Times stories – dozens of categories ranging from byline and title through to location, organisations, and image size (clearly much of it automated).
Blogging and the BBC – having it both ways
Robert Peston was clearly the star guest in the panel on blogging. Joined by Paul Fletcher, Giles Wilson and Alex Trickett, this was an all-BBC affair.
Giles Wilson emphasised the value of blogs in making the BBC accountable and transparent, and listed 7 ‘golden rules’ of blogging: having a single author; being authentic; responding to comments; being impartial; obeying the laws of the blogosphere; not expecting blogs to do everything; and providing support for blogging.
Peston was a great champion of blogging, claiming that his blog (which, it appears, began as an internal email) was “the cornerstone” of everything that he did – although this didn’t stop him holding back publishing stories online until the same time as, or just after, they were broadcast.
But then he did a strange thing: he claimed his blog wasn’t really a blog on the basis that he only published solid news, and no opinion or rumour.
Clearly there remains some suspicion of blogs in the BBC. The corporation, it appears, don’t call their blogs ‘blogs’ because of a belief that the audience don’t like the term (although as Jason Cobb pointed out in a tweet, “BBC radio loves to promote blogs (5Live) – why does TV shy away from the dirty B word?”). At the same time, they are clearly designed to look like blogs for those who know what they are. It seems they want to have it both ways.
Further, while the BBC innovated in journalism blogging in the days when individuals such as Nick Robinson and Robert Peston could start up a blog, now staff have to gain the approval of a social media panel before they can start a blog.
And clearly, that need for impartiality, and a very palpable fear that something said on a BBC blog will be used against them by the press, are real handicaps in the ability of the BBC to join the conversation. Alex Trickett of BBC Sport spoke of his envy of blogs who don’t have the constraints of “the BBC way”. “We are still quite corporate.”