Blognitive dissonance

So. I’m to take part in an internal BBC discussion tomorrow morning. The “100 top editors and managers of BBC global news” apparently get together for a monthly breakfast meeting to discuss… stuff. Tomorrow the topic is defined by two questions – “what is the best journalism in the world?” and “what will journalism look like in 2012?” Also on the panel will be Professor Stewart Purvis and Glen Drury of Yahoo!

Without further ado herewith reproduced are the biog and summary of what I think the best journalism is, both of which I was requested to supply.


R- R- lives on the net and feels naked without her computer, but a wap-enabled mobile is a good substitute.

When she started a year’s stint as managing editor of the international citizens’ media portal, Global Voices Online ( she was welcomed to “the light side”. Presumably her career as a journalist, predominantly for the BBC World Service, was regarded as “the dark side”.

She has taught journalism for both the BBC and the UN and media skills – aka how to deal with journalists – to groups including human rights workers and academics.

She started her blog four years ago whilst suffering from a major depressive disorder. These days she writes far less about suicide and much more about her cat. She has never, as far as she can recollect, mentioned having a cheese sandwich for lunch.

The best journalism in the word? (I’m assuming a global audience and BBC core values of independence, impartiality and truth):

offers illumination rather than strobe effect; is collaboration not commandment; is genuinely global and above all harnesses the potential of digital collection and distribution.

The last point first – it’s easy to underestimate global connectivity. Individual desktop computers are predominantly a western phenomenon. Cheap yet sophisticated mobile handsets are the most common modes of access to generating and consuming digital content in the developing world, as well as shared resources such as internet cafés.

This means information from individuals across the globe is easier to access in addition to already established interest groups, governments and media. Individuals increasingly become stakeholders in stories. Information becomes more a collaborative process between sources and moderator (journalist).

Finally, in an increasing culture of instantaneous-info-consumption, the best journalism in the world steps back and gives the bigger picture. Info-nuggets without compelling background and context are analogous to the reports given by a group of blind men about an elephant. Not necessarily inaccurate but (potentially dangerously) incomplete.

Now interestingly (or not) I appear to have been billed as “R- R- who blogs at”. Which is why I’m putting the above information in this post. Because I’ve noticed the odd BBC link trail meandering this way and I’m assuming anyone who might be described as a “top 100 editor [or] manager” is probably thinking wtf? Or even WTF!

Hence the blognitive dissonance. Here’s a small, utterly insignificant and rather shy blog way, way out in the hinter-of-blog-land which has that most egregious example of a cliché of blogger inanity – pictures of cats (even worse, perhaps, a personalised lolcat), but which happens to be tended by someone who knows quite a bit about citizen media, mainstream journalism, social networks and global news. Who doesn’t tend to blog about it.

Robin Hamman has the sort of blog one might expect a social media person to have. (Hi Robin – I hope I get to meet you tomorrow.) Full of great stuff, thinky thoughts and linky links. From this useful source of information I learn – and am rather puzzled by – the fact that the BBC held an “Internal Management Conference, The Future of News” less than a fortnight ago. Addressed by, among others, Stewart Purves. Yes, the same Stewart Purves.

I am attempting to quell as cynical and without evidence my suspicion that “news” (aka domestic TV followed by domestic radio) gets a day-long conference with lunch etc while “global news” (aka the World Service radio and possibly TV) gets an early-morning hour of time which is in addition to most people’s already probably long working day.

Oh, and I’m looking enviously at Robin’s picture of his podium complete with laptop etc which was no doubt connected to both the internet and a projector. I checked, as one does, to see if the internet connection in the meeting room tomorrow would be cable or wifi… there isn’t either. There’s going to be a single slide with the BBC Global News brand projected behind the panel.

Le sigh.

At least the cards arrived in time, for what it’s worth.

9 Replies to “Blognitive dissonance”

  1. Hi Rachel. Actually, the future of news thing was for around 80 – 100 top managers who don’t normally work in journalism. They were mostly marketing, PR, HR (or whatever we call them now), finance, etc.

    You’re talking now… better stop commenting on your blog, via 3g because, as you say, there’s no wifi.


  2. For what it’s worth, thank goodness the cards arrived in time. *worries about messing with anyone called Rachel who blogs at frizzylogic*

  3. > She has taught journalism for both the BBC and the UN
    > and media skills – aka how to deal with journalists –
    > to groups including human rights workers and academics.

    Do you have a cheat sheet for Vicars?

  4. Robin – thanks for the clarification about the conference. I also checked with Vin Ray and Stewart Purvis who said the same. Does this mean that the BBC’s journalists know what the future of news is? How wonderful!

    Annabel – did you ask my permission to take and publicly display that picture? 😉 I’m so glad the “don’t mess with me” card hadn’t already been taken, I can think of nobody I’d rather have it.

    Andrew – I might do. Why do you ask?

  5. Oops — that said, I think the fair dealing clause applies — I mean, it was carefully displayed in context for goodness sake.

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