David Wilcox has written about plans for the BBC in Manchester to begin extending its news gathering to include local bloggers.
So who are the contributors? They have gone into the local community (This is regional BBC) and found the best bloggers. They have met with them several times. Beer has been drunk. They have an offer for them. If they want to be picked up in this space by the host, they have access to a wide range of training – first of all about what is the BBC way for journalism ethics etc and secondly they offer all sorts of technical training. If you want to make a better video – we will help you etc.
For me a core part of the future of the BBC will revolve around encouraging others to find their voice and shape news. In some ways it is an extension of the American concept of Open Newsroom where the public is invited to join in editorial decision making.
From my experience of BBC editorial meetings this would require a culture shift. The discussion has traditionally been rather cynical – based on traditional journalistic instinct about what makes a good story. This will often require conflict, criticism and celebrity (or prominence) as a core part of the story. News is made or broken by whether those things exist or can be readily conjured up. (If you look at my post on David Cameron and Netiquette you’ll see how I still find myself exercising these muscles.)
With an open newsroom the public is potentially there to re-educate the reporter and editor about what is really interesting, rather than what hacks think the public wants.
This culture shift will also need to come as part of the BBC experiment. If the local bloggers are throwing up innovative fare while the BBC journalists who decide which story to follow and which to kill harbour traditional values, it will fail.
Of course a good story is always a good story and experienced journalists have considerable expertise in spotting and telling stories. But in essence the BBC needs to find a way to short circuit in-house editorial values whilst preserving the best of in-house editorial ethics. Perhaps they need a combination of the open newsroom, local bloggers and the way in which Digg equips real people to decide what is and isn’t interesting.