The Mid-Atlantic Blog

February 24, 2006

Newsnight And Blogs

So you come home, and do some surfing to see what's been going on. Check the Newsnight site. Notice that the Editor has his weekly column up: the graphic is Ethical Man, about which you've done a post earlier in the week, and that you know from your site logs a number of BBC people have read. Have a look... and discover that your post is one of the topics of discussion (no link though, even with the usual BBC external sites warning, which is a bit of a shame). Well well.

A few points on this.

First, it shows you the difference between the different media of blogs and broadcast. I was expecting the usual Gaian nonsense from this story, which is what you get regularly from the Beeb. The package was rather like that, the discussion wasn't. I thought there was enough of a difference from my preconceptions to post an update, which I'm glad he quoted in part. And I linked to the site. That process is common with blogs. It's not quite as common with broadcast...

Second, and leaving aside that it's a post from here being commented on it is, I think, very good news that the Editor of Newsnight is reading comments from the blogosphere - and caring about them, even if he disagrees with them. The BBC is starting to get more used to interaction both ways with blogs. Sometimes they'll be positive, sometimes negative. But they're usually not designed just to be mean - and you can tell those blogs a mile away and not read them. The rest of us, particularly those who comment on BBC News regularly, do so partially as commentary, and partially in the hope that the things that we see as errors will be corrected, or at least addressed. Sometimes we're angry, sometimes we poke fun, but underlying it is a genuine hope that BBC News will produce top quality, well thought out output. Every news editor should be running a Technorati search multiple times a day and reading the results where possible, and Peter Barron (or his colleagues) should be commended for doing so.

Third, this Ethical Man segment is the type of segment ideally designed for this new type of interaction. Sure, get inputs one way from people via blogs and email. But why not also post preliminary findings / issues for exploration on the Newsnight web site a few days before broadcast and let the blogosphere (of all opinions) stress test the ideas. Do a trawl of the web, and email 50 or so blogs that you know care about Newsnight, the BBC output, or the issues you're covering, and send them an email letting them know about the content: even give them access to a password protected mini-site for this purpose. I'll bet every time they did it they'd get at least one new avenue of thought or improvement to the story, and maybe more. This type of open ended issue is ideal for it because it's so broad, and it's an area where conventional thinking is easy to fall into. It would improve the stories, would build links for the BBC in the blogosphere, and spark discussion. Why not give it a try, chaps?

Finally, and in the spirit of the request for comments on the specific issue, when you're looking at carbon budgets and household efficiency you have to look at nuclear power - pushing for the newest type of reactor (pebble beds) to be developed, improved and installed, and recognising the many benefits that come from nuclear power in general in terms of carbon usage. It's the one technology that may have the chance to make real substantial changes in the short term, and it has been unfairly maligned, significantly by the same people that make up the "ethical" movement. The degree to which "ethical" pressure groups, by pressure against nuclear, have caused excess carbon emissions, and thereby global warming according to standard environmental theories would make a fascinating element of this investigation.

Oh, and by the way, it wasn't just Mr Rowlatt who was likeable - all of his family seemed to be, composting toilets or not.
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