Saturday, April 29, 2006

UK - BBC: Bloggers 'Digital Assassins'

In an attempt to "stage" a conference about bloggers to fit their agenda, the BBC sent out an interesting questionaire. Despite the £50 pounds to attend the conference, it seems few are taking up the offer. No wonder. Look at the title of the conference.

'Digital Assassins'

And the questionaire?

In other words, the BBC wants as many people as it can find who play with gadgets, can't follow a linear narrative, don't have any friends, have a weird authority complex, and who would never listen or respect anything put out by the BBC in the first place.

So, does the BBC see us bloggers as "Digital Assassins"? Paul Reynolds must have rung some alarm bells with this BBC article.

For many in the "mainstream media", as bloggers call us, weblogs are at best a nuisance and at worst dangerous.

They are seen as the rantings and ravings either of the unbalanced or the tedious.

So dangerous in fact that, "many" at the BBC must feel we're "Digital Assassins". Paul, it would seem, is not part of that group.

My experience over the past few months has led me to an opposite conclusion.

I regard the blogosphere as a source of criticism that must be listened to and as a source of information that can be used.

The mainstream media (MSM in the jargon) has to sit up and take notice and develop some policies to meet this challenge.

Instead of meeting the challenge it would appear the BBC, acting out of fear for its monopoly of the megaphone, want to portray bloggers as "Digital Assassins". As Paul reports, the BBC have no clue about blogs and he gives us a clue to what this conference is really all about.

They might, as the BBC has, develop a policy towards their own employees setting up such sites (no political opinions etc), but they have nobody monitoring the main blogs and have little idea how to respond to any criticism on them.

Since the BBC consider us "Digital Assassins", it's clear this conference is about how to defend themselves rather than how to incoporate bloggers into their reporting as Paul occassionally does. It seems the BBC listented to only half of what Paul had to say. This half.

The other role of the blogs is to criticise and attack.

And here they have shown their power in a way that ought to make big media organisations also take notice.

Paul goes on to discuss how bloggers exposed and brought down Dan Rather and Eason Jordon. Both deservedly so.

But in reporting and quoting me, Paul shows something else the BBC fears from bloggers - the truth.

Of course, one has to remember that most blogs have political agendas. Many of them are on the right of the spectrum. But it is not that hard to discount the opinionating and pick out the facts.

The photo of the unused school buses in New Orleans came by way of a site called the USS Neverdock, so-called because it is always in action, I suppose.

It is run from Scotland by Marc Landers, who once served in US Naval Intelligence. He still fires with all guns.

"My motivation is to expose the bias in the BBC's reporting," he told me. "We are at war unlike any we've been in before and facing an enemy who wants one thing - to wipe out western civilization. The BBC, through its biased reporting, has sided with the enemy."

The school buses Paul is talking about were the flooded and unused buses the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, failed to evacuate citizens with as his disaster plan called for. Up till then the BBC had hailed Nagin as a hero. The BBC's reporting on Katrina was so anti-American that even the Prime Minister was moved to criticize it.

Paul goes on to give us a further glimpse into the mindset of the BBC as regards to blogs. Make no mistake, the BBC is definitely afraid of bloggers and considers us the enemy.

And with the growth of blogs, such detailed criticism is being made more and more often as the sniper fire from the bloggers targets individual stories and interpretations.

If the MSM does not respond, it will suffer. The same is even truer of businesses, whose products can be disastrously damaged by web-based attacks.

If the criticism is fair it must be answered, directly to those making it. Remote, computer-generated responses are counter-productive.

And mistakes must be quickly corrected. If the criticism is unfair, then the MSM has to know about it early on and develop defensive tactics.

Then there's this:

Richard Sambrook, head of the BBC World Service and Global News Division (who runs a blog himself) accepts that the BBC needs to do more.

"The BBC should proactively engage with bloggers. This is a new issue for us.

"Sniper fire", "defensive tactics", "proactively engage" "Digital assassins" - sounds like war to me.

I prefer Glenn Reynolds Army of Davids.

Either way, it's a war MSM are losing.

Here are some links to the questionaire. Note this:

"As I am looking for a large number of Digital Assassins ...

The conference is on the 3rd of May. Call it a mercenary recruitment drive for BBC "Digital Assassins".

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