BBC News editor starts some conversations, but it isn’t blogging

Peter Clifton, editor of the BBC News website, has started writing commentaries that “looks back at the week in the newsroom – and tackles some of your questions.”

I’ve seen a couple of blog posts about this, which talk about it as blogging. Well, by any stretch of the imagination, blogging it certainly isn’t. This is just a website with a facility for comments that get emailed in. Someone at the other end looks at those comments and decides which ones to publish as a sort of appendage to the page.

Others think it’s a blog, too. One site visitor comments:

This is daft – you’re meant to be a news organisation, not a blogger. What possible public interest is there in running a weblog all about what wonderful news stories you have run this week (along with a cherry-picked bunch of comments from agreeable viewers)? This seems to be a complete waste of time and money – a poor attempt to compete with the “blogosphere”, which has been providing a genuinely independent alternative to the mainstream media.”

Peter replies:

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time… I thought it would be interesting to kick around a few of the things we were up to, but I could be wrong. What do you think?

Peter, it’s a very good idea! It’s a great initiative, reaching out in this way to visitors to BBC News. It adds a human face to what can seem a faceless corporation and gives some insight into the people behind the news.

But why not do it properly and give your section the attributes that would make it a far more realistic interactive experience between you and site visitors and enable you to develop some actual relationships with those visitors? Make it like a real blog!

For instance, why not enable commenting directly with each of your commentaries, rather than filling out the email form at the bottom of the page? You can still have a comment monitoring system in place so you can weed out those that you, or whoever polices the comments, decide not to publish.

What about an RSS feed for your section so that we can see what you write as soon as you publish it? That would help drive visitors to your section than otherwise would be the case where you have to manually keep returning to it to see if there’s anything new. You have RSS feeds elsewhere on the site – why not for your section?

Take a look at the new Observer blog to get an idea of how a news organization can develop an interactive, personal channel with readers. Or see what’s going on in France with newspapers like Le Monde. If you want to see how that works with regard to reader involvement with editorial planning, then the Ventura County Star in the US is a good example to see.

The BBC could be a true leader among broadcast organizations in embracing open communication channels for real transparency. That could even be a big driver in democratizing news production, as your colleague Pat Loughrey advocated this week.

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