Tag Archives: the BBC News

@StephenFry on journalists’ own ‘venal and disgusting’ use of expenses

Via @LouiseBolotin: The transcript of comments made by Stephen Fry in an interview on the BBC News site:

“Although, of course, anybody can talk about snouts in troughs, and go on about it, for journalists to do so is almost beyond belief, beyond belief.

I know lots of journalists; I know more journalists than I know politicians.

And I’ve never met a more venal and disgusting crowd of people when it comes to expenses and allowances.

[Interviewer: “Not all of us surely?”]

Not all, but then not all human beings are either. I’ve cheated expenses. I’ve fiddled things. You have. ‘Course you have.

Let’s not confuse what politicians get really wrong. Things like wars, things where people die, with the rather tedious bourgeois obsession with whether or not they’ve charged for their wisteria.

It’s not that important. It really isn’t. It isn’t what we’re fighting for. It isn’t what voting is about.

And the idea that ‘oh we’ve all lost faith in politics, because’… it’s nonsense. It’s a journalistic made-up frenzy.”

Louise Bolotin, a freelance journalist, has written a response on her blog – she says Fry has got it badly wrong. Here’s an extract:

“I have news for Stephen. The expenses culture for journalists ended a long time ago – at least 10 years ago – when the accountants moved in and put an end to it. The scandal at the Houses of Parliament, however, has been going on a long time – only MPs can vote on their expense allowances and they just keep voting to continue.”

‘BBC refused Guardian G20 protest vid’ – too much of a London story?

Interesting footnote to Duncan Campbell’s piece on Comment Is Free (‘De Menezes taught the Met nothing’) on the death of a G20 protestor last week from Guardian contributor Stephen Moss.

Apparently the Guardian’s footage of Ian Tomlinson being knocked down by police officers (as was seen repeatedly on broadcast news bulletins last night) was rejected by BBC News at 6, who said it was seen as ‘just a London story’.

Was this the reason? Some viewers would argue this is valid and part of the BBC’s remit to better represent the whole of the UK. Or was it, as Campbell suggests in the piece, an unwillingness to implicate the police:

“Although the Guardian reported the death on its front page, almost all the coverage elsewhere ignored it completely or concentrated on a version of events that suggested that the police’s only connection with Tomlinson had been to try to rescue him from a baying mob of anarchists.”

Update: A BBC spokesman has told Journalism.co.uk:

“It’s simply not true to say the BBC News at Six turned down the footage. We didn’t run it on the Six O’Clock bulletin as we didn’t receive the footage until 7pm.  We verified it and ran an extensive piece at Ten O Clock. It’s also been shown extensively across our outlets today.”

The video is now available to embed (HT @janinegibson):

BBC Radio 4 Feedback looks at the BBC News blogs (audio)

When they started, the BBC didn’t know why or what it was for: Nick Robinson tried out one for the General Election in 2001.

Now Robert Peston is getting a half million hits per day.

Here Louise Adamson from Radio 4’s Feedback programme looks at the role of the BBC’s News blogs.

The BBC journalists interviewed stress that the BBC voice has to be considered, and that blogs still go through careful checks.

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Webby success for FT.com and BBC News

image of webby awards logo

The Financial Times and the BBC have reason to celebrate after they both won Webby Awards – considered by many as the Oscars of online publishing.

With nominations in over 70 categories FT.com’s Alphaville blog and the BBC News site were amongst a crowded field of winners as they picked up gongs earlier this week.

The Webbys are selected by a group made up of web, business and celebrity figures selected by the awarding body, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, with the people’s voice awards voted on by web-using members of the public.

Alphaville won the best business blog category, also picking up the people’s voice award in that category.

BBC News was the people’s voice winner in the news category (it also won the main award in the radio category) with the main prize going to NYTimes.com – one of a total of six awards for the publication.

Two of those successes came in the online newspaper section where NYTimes.com won both the main award and the people’s voice award, in the process beating of competition from Guardian.co.uk, Independent.co.uk, the Wall Street Journal Online and Variety.com.

BBC introduces registration scheme for blog comments

The BBC has opted for a registration system for comments on blogs and forum areas citing protection against spam as a deciding factor in making the change.
“It [registration] seems to be an effective balance between maintaining access to the blog and the standard of debate,” Giles Wilson, editor of the BBC News blogs, wrote in a blog post.

Wilson said similar systems implemented by The Guardian, Telegraph and Boing Boing had been taken into consideration by the corporation.

“…we’ve thought long and hard about the best thing to do, and believe that this is likely to be the most effective and efficient way of publishing as many comments as possible.”

Registration will be common across the site, said Wilson: once users have signed into one community area they will not have to repeat the process in separate sections.

BBC News and Sport websites show off new looks

The BBC News and Sport websites have today launched their revamped websites. Both editors admit the sites, which are the results of months of development in response to reader feedback, are works in progress.

It’s not a complete redesign, says Steve Herrmann, editor of the BBC News website, on his blog, but more of a ‘site refresh’. Here’s what has changed on both sites according to blog posts from Herrmann and Ben Gallop, head of BBC Sport Interactive:

BBC News

Screenshot of new look BBC News website

  • Wider page layout
  • More open design
  • New masthead
  • Centred pages
  • Use of larger images – enabled by the wider page design
  • Better incorporation of advertising in international version of the site
  • Introduction of embedded audio and video within news pages, with links to this content placed higher on the page
  • Cross-platform content – an area of the BBC News site will be created featuring highlights from TV and radio news programmes

BBC Sport

Screenshot of new look BBC Sport website

  • Wider page layout
  • Use of larger images
  • Introduction of embedded audio and video within sports pages, with links to this content placed higher on the page
  • More prominence for feature content – ‘high profile’ section for original sports journalism content now in middle of the page
  • Better incorporation of advertising in international version of site

Why the front page is still relevant

When the incremental overhaul of the Guardian.co.uk enveloped the site’s homepage earlier this year there was much talk of the growing irrelevance of newspaper websites having a ‘front’.

Why a front when so many readers/users/visitors/viewers come in though the side door of search and RSS feeds?

Jeff Jarvis quoted figures that as few as 20 per cent of daily visitors get to see it.

Search engine optimisation – that’s the key isn’t it? With ubiquitous navigation from all parts of the site? Yes, truly it’s important. But is that the case for every user of a newspaper website?

Well, up to a point, Sir – as Mr Salter might say.

Let’s take that magic 20 per cent (I have to apologise for not knowing what this figure actually relates to, but I’ll use it as a starting point rather than a crux). Why would a fifth of daily users want to go in via the front door?

Perhaps they’re not fans of the Google hegemony, so avoid its referrals like the plague? Or not tech-savvy enough to master RSS feeds? Or pretty-much only want news from a single perspective, so rely on just one site as ‘the news’?

But what if accessing the news for them wasn’t as simple as scanning NewsFire or banging a search term into Google and quickly scanning a dozen or so relevant links?

What if navigating all the non-uniform sites linked to from Google News was a cripplingly slow nightmare?

What if the architecture of the sites they visit is as relevant – if not more relevant – than the slant those sites put on the news?

Well, if you’re a blind or partially sighted internet user that’s pretty much how it works.

Over the course of this week Journalism.co.uk is running a series of reports looking at difficulties blind and partially sighted users have accessing leading UK national newspaper websites.

To this end we asked a number of volunteers to show us, first-hand, the common problems they face. During our assessments the value of a homepage became strikingly obvious.

Our volunteers tended to start their internet news searches from the homepage of a favoured news site, rather than a search engine.

Our principal volunteer John Allnutt told us that he tended to glean his news from the BBC News site as it had simple navigation that he was used to using and its accessibility information was easily available.

Nothing so strange in that. Most people have favourites. But the tendency to surf differing sources of news isn’t common, we found, amongst those with visual impairment.

It became clear that once a user had got used to the unique and sometimes esoteric navigation of a news site, using screen reading technology, then logic prevailed. It’s easier and quicker to just go to the site where you know all the idiosyncrasies and curios, rather than getting stuck in the frustrating hamster-wheel of figuring out the complexities of other sites.

Furthermore, many news sites don’t have standardised design throughout, making it harder still to jump into a certain section and expect it to be laid out and navigable in the same way as the rest of the site. Easier then just to enter through the home page and to use that as the fulcrum to all your movements around the site.

Our observation isn’t just limited to the individuals we worked with on the project.

Trenton Moss, director of Web Credible, a web usability and accessibility consultancy that helped us in the early part of the project, told us that this is a common phenomenon.

Blind and visually impaired individuals will continue to use these sites in spite of their flaws he told us, perfecting use of the imperfect navigation of a single or a few sites from the homepage to access news online.

There is no ubiquity of design that would allow the blind and visually impaired user to easily float between news sites and utilise search engines as the easy and quick route to news they want.

Ubiquitous design across a range of news websites isn’t something that’s likely to happen soon, if ever.

It’s because of this that front pages remain important as a point of entry for navigation and an easily accessible summation of all that is important.

Breaking news coverage on Twitter of fire in East London

London-based twitterers have broken the news of a huge fire in East London.

Tweets describing the spread of a black cloud of smoke in the Stratford area of the city are the first reports of the incident – before any accounts online from the mainstream media.

The first tweet Journalism.co.uk saw on the fire came from the Guardian’s head of blogging Kevin Anderson shortly before 12:30pm. Anderson has also posted pictures to Flickr and at 12:45pm posted an entry on the events to his Guardian blog.

Again according to Twitter The Press Association has now put up pictures of fire.

Sky News are now showing live coverage on the site and a quick search on Google News suggests Sky was the first mainstream media to file on the story at 12:34pm. Sky seem to have been the first news organisation on the scene and are now providing regular updates and a map pinpointing the location of the fire.

A ticker across the top of the BBC News site promises “more soon” reporting a “large plume of smoke” rising from a fire in East London”.

A brief report on Reuters also appeared at 12:39pm.

Tweets from Martin Stabe, new media correspondent with the Press Gazette, say the smoke cloud is now covering PG’s offices based in Underwood Street. (As Martin points out in a comment below, the cloud appeared to be covering the PG’s offices, but was actually further away. Still, he updated his Twitter accordingly and very quickly.)

Was anyone covering it earlier than the Twitter correspondents mentioned here?

UPDATE: reports are that the fire began in a disused bus depot – here’s a view of what the site looked like before it started.