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.
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.