Tag Archives: comment is free

Twitter, comments, and the reaction to Rowenna Davis’ NHS surgery liveblog


Last week, Guardian journalist and newly-elected Labour councillor for Southwark Rowenna Davis used Twitter to liveblog the heart operation of a two-week-old girl at Great Ormond Street hospital.

Her updates were also posted on the Guardian’s NHS liveblog alongside photos she took during the surgery (see above) and tweets from followers.

Going through Davis’ @ messages and tweets that used the #nhsblog hashtag shows the response on Twitter was, as she said, “overwhelmingly positive”. The Media Blog called it “A perfect use of Twitter“.

But interestingly, the response on the Guardian’s Comment is free site, where Davis blogged about the reaction to her coverage, was almost completely the opposite.

The comments that follow the CiF post are almost overwhelmingly negative, with Davis’ live coverage of the surgery called, “mawkish”, “ghoulish”, “a stunt”, “revolting sensationalism”, and more.

An interesting point of comparison for the coverage, which has been raised in the CiF comment thread, is broadcast, but it is hard to see people reacting quite the same way about a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

A few commenters suggested the problem with Davis’ liveblog was that it was live, and that the risk to the girl’s life made that inappropriate (according to Davis the operation carried a 1 or 2 per cent risk). Whereas a documentary, commenter davidabsalom said, would be recorded in advance.

But Channel 4 screened a series of programmes in 2009 that showed live surgery, during which viewers were invited to interact with the surgeons using Twitter, email and the telephone.

Channel 4’s David Glover said at the time that the programme was designed to “demystify surgery, encourage discussion and help viewers to understand their own bodies, as well as showing the care, dedication and skill that goes into modern surgery”.

Ofcom archives show no record of any complaints about the programme (less than 10 complaints are not recorded).

The Surgery Live patients were adults, rather than children as in this case, but Davis obtained consent from the girl’s parents. And the operations – brain, heart, and stomach surgery – seem no less risky than the one in this case.

So I can’t help but wonder whether the discrepancy between the responses on Twitter and on CiF stems from the medium itself, with those who use Twitter – and so responded via the network – much more likely to see the coverage in a positive light, and those on Comment is Free more likely to construe it negatively. (I can’t assess how many of those who commented on the CiF post use Twitter, so this is something of a shot in the dark).

Davis has responded several times in the comment thread to defend the journalistic value of her coverage, including this post:

I think one key dividing line about whether this is defensible is intention. If you’re just blindly seeking ratings for entertainment value, that’s pretty grim. But if your aim is to offer some kind of insight into the reality of the job surgeons face and the trials families have to go through, that seems quite different. Especially when it helps bring to light the importance of the health service, and how vital it is that we get the reforms right.

That said, I think the points you are raising are valid, and it’s important to raise them. There are certainly ways in which I could see this being done insensitively.

You can follow the full debate here.

Guardian launches Comment Network on Comment is free

The Guardian today announced the launch of the Guardian Comment Network on Comment is free. The site says it has partnered with a range of websites which they will curate content from and cross-post, in a bid to break down “barriers between us and them”.

We hope to act as curators for the best of this content, while acknowledging that we as editors are not the only ones who can or should decide on the direction of Comment is free on any given day. We already draw on the inspiration and insights of our users through series such as You told us, the People’s panel and Anywhere but Westminster. We want to extend that to the many bloggers out there who are often just as good as Guardian journalists – if not better – at spotting stories and responding quickly and imaginatively to them.

This follows similar developments in content curation across other areas of the site, as outlined by Dan Sabbagh to Journalism.co.uk when he joined the Guardian last year as its new head of media and technology.

Comment is Free: Panel debate on web moderation for news sites

As part of its Talking Shop series, editors, moderators and Comment is Free users are debating how moderation should be handled and what could improve the quality of comments and debate on news websites. More than 500 comments on the debate so far flag some interesting suggestions from readers on how moderation should be handled – a useful read for anyone working on a moderation and interaction policy for their site.

Full debate on Guardian.co.uk at this link…

Users commission Guardian’s Comment is Free for the day

The Guardian’s online discussion site, Comment is Free, has turned four, and to celebrate the occasion it has opened up its commissioning process to the users, the results of which can be seen at this link.

CiF editor Matt Seaton writes today:

It seems a good moment then, this fourth birthday, to mark the evolution of Cif in this direction by having thrown open the commissioning of articles to you, our users. Obviously, it’s our selection of your ideas – not easy, as there were multitudes to pick from – and depending on what happens news-wise today, we may feel compelled to add a few pieces of our own devising. But essentially, we’re celebrating today by having you guys guest-edit the site. It’s a way of saying thank you, as the commissioning we do based on suggestions in the You tell us threads is really helping Cif- bringing a freshness and diversity to the site.

Marc Vallée: The Met’s new photography guidelines

Photojournalist Marc Vallée comments on the new guidelines issued by the Metropolitan police service (MPS) for the public and the media on photography in public places, over at the Guardian’s Comment is Free. Full post at this link. He writes:

“It details the Met’s interpretation of anti-terrorism legislation, and how these laws should be used against photographers. Professional photographers such as myself view it as part of an ongoing campaign to create a hostile environment for photography in the public sphere.”

One area highlighted by Vallée:

The advice covers section 44, section 43 and section 58a of the Terrorism Act 2000 (58a is more commonly known as section 76). On sections 44 and 43, the MPS say that “officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched”.

Vallée says that guidance for section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008, which came into force at the beginning of this year, is key.

“It amends the Terrorism Act 2000 to make it an offence to elicit or attempt to elicit information about an individual who is or has been a member of the armed forces, intelligence services, or a police officer in Great Britain – this has been an offence in Northern Ireland since 2000.”

What does the guidance say?

The MPS advice says that section 76 (58a) “should ordinarily be considered inappropriate to use… to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities, including protests”.

What does Vallée say?

“Section 76 should be scrapped.”

Guidelines at this link…

Vallée spoke about these issues at the Frontline Club this week. Video below:

Background on Journalism.co.uk Editors’ blog:

Guardian implements Pluck on Comment Is Free platform

The Guardian has redesigned its Comment Is Free (CiF) section as part of a new online community platform for the paper.

It has been integrated with the paper’s main site eradicating the divide between online and print comment, Georgina Henry, head of comment, has written in a blog post.

Changes to the design include:

  • A longer front page – so articles are present for longer
  • Print and web comment will be published side-by-side
  • Features for recommending posts, seeing what others are reading and offering feedback on the section, have been introduced
  • Sub-sites, which bring comments on topics together, have been added, with plans to develop these into individually edited areas
  • The implementation of Pluck’s social media technology has added:

  • More access to writers’ profiles and an archive of their comments – this archive will eventually be extended to comments left on any part of Guardian.co.uk
  • Improved signing in process for leaving comments
  • Moderators or Guardian staff participating in a comment thread will be highlighted with an M or G symbol
  • Comments will now be shown in pages of 50 not 10 with the time limit for leaving comments extended to 48 hours
  • The redesign is part of the paper’s ongoing overhaul of its website.

    Guardian review of MyTelegraph is ‘out of touch with internet age’

    Speaking in a blog post of Friday, Shane Richmond, communities editor of Telegraph.co.uk, explained that staff from the Guardian had been putting questions to users of MyTelegraph in preparation for an article about the blogging site.

    To pre-empt the attack article, Richmond posted the answers to the questions asked of the site, which covered alleged links between MyT and BNP propaganda and Enoch Powell, while also asking for examples of the best blog posts contributed.

    “To me, the tone they strike is politically correct and out of touch with the internet age. The internet encourages free speech, has lower barriers to entry and places greater onus on individuals to decide for themselves what is acceptable. Is it the case that Comment Is Free only within Guardian-approved limitations?” wrote Richmond.

    The aforementioned article, published today by MediaGuardian, compares and contrasts MyT with the Guardian’s own Comment Is Free platform and the Sun’s MySun.

    “A cursory glance reveals that while it has some powerful and well-written blogs, My Telegraph is also inhabited by some very unsavoury characters. . . Such comments appear on all websites, the Guardian included. The difference with My Telegraph and similar sites overseas is that the newspaper is providing the platform for others to start the debate. On most comment sites, bloggers sanctioned by the newspaper group typically do so,” it reads.

    While it’s interesting to consider the different approaches taken to moderation and user-generated content by the Telegraph and the Guardian, in the spirit of open debate on the subject, wouldn’t it be worth mentioning the Guardian’s recent debacle with one of its ‘sanctioned’ bloggers? The debate started by this blogger, wasn’t allowed to continue – I wonder if this would have been the case if the post had appeared on MyT.