Broadcasters, trust, and the web

Some time ago, before I left the BBC, I took part in a meeting about blogging with Mark Byford, the BBC’s Deputy Director General and the executive with primary responsibility for news and editorial standards. During the meeting he raised the familiar question about whether you could trust bloggers. In response I said that trusting individual bloggers on the first reading would be foolish but that over time one built up patterns, connections and associations that I did believe meant that you could trust bloggers – certainly when seen as a network. I also said that I increasingly didn’t “trust” BBC news in the sense that I found their coverage to be sensationalistic and focussed on the negatives in the world and that I and others were increasingly choosing not to “consume” it.

Any time I have been involved in, or close to, anything that became a news story I have been struck by how far from the truth most of the coverage has been. Extrapolate this to all the other stories covered in your average news day and you start to get worried.

Since leaving the BBC I have been asked to appear on a few news programmes on both radio and TV to comment on some story about the web. Each time I have been mildly disconcerted at the apparent lack of concern about my credibility as an expert. A couple of times the people involved already knew me, but the others have mostly got my name from a list and, apart from a phone call to check I am able to speak on the topic without being a complete arse, they seemed casual about putting me on air.

It would appear that this same casualness has been behind Alessio Rastani’s recent appearance on BBC News …

Thanks to the web I was able to do something about my instinct that this story wasn’t what it appeared to be and track the various attempts to dig into it. If I was just sitting passively consuming the news and trusting broadcasters to get it right, I would be none the wiser.

5 thoughts on “Broadcasters, trust, and the web

  1. It's a shame. It used to be that the BBC could not keep up with the speed of other news services – because it took time to check its sources. Now it still cannot keep up with trending news on Twitter and the like and is lax on attributing sources (see link below). As usual the underlying issue is trust. Maybe it is good that there is no source that you can automatically trust?http://pigsonthewing.org.uk/bbc-fundamental-misunderstanding-copyright/

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  2. Not sure I didn't know better:-)I guess my experience of the BBC as a consumer goes back further than yours. And your experience of the BBC is tempered by having worked there, which probably made you realise that when they got it right luck was involved as well as judgement.I never thought of the BBC as perfect, and their editorial line sometimes grated, but you knew where they were coming from and could make allowances. (Same with the Telegraph in the 70's. I bought it from time to time because it's foreign news coverage was superb and almost always accurate. But as a student, I'd have to sneak it out of a newsagent's under the Mirror, or the Beano).I don't look for perfection from my news sources, the occasional lapse is useful in reminding me not to rely wholly on them. But I would like consistency and lack of gullibility.

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  3. Hi Euan,Thanks for this post, I'm just getting into blogging I had never really considered the 'honesty' factor behind bloggers…why would they not be honest? I agree about what you said about the news though, it does feel sensationalist most of the time and has turned me off.However, (although I'm sure I don't have anything like your experience in this) my experience of the BBC has been very positive. I have always (bar one radio experience) felt the interviewer knew me and my background, asked appropriate questions and reported in a very honest and accurate way. I did however, occasionally feel consumers doubted the authenticity of the report. Maybe this is a side effect of a bad reputation in the media. But how can you exude honesty? Is it possible or is it just no longer part of our culture?Hmm…Mel

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