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BBC succumbs to the Twitter chatter of shiny Tweets

A fascinating debate is raging over on the BBC Editor’s Blog. Photo from www.freefoto.com

And, for a change, it doesn’t involve anybody’s salaries/jokes/genitals/grandfathers.

No, it’s about the BBC’s use of Twitter messages (or ‘tweets’) in its live update reporting of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Accuracy v Speed

The comments seem to fall into two camps:

1. Those that love the excitement of news updates

2. Those who want accuracy, not speed 

The first group (who are much smaller in number on the messageboard) feel that it is just a case of embracing new technology into traditional forms of reporting.

The second maintain that the BBC has founded its reputation on accuracy and that is where its focus should remain.


I think I largely agree with the second group.

Obviously, as someone training to be a journalist, I love the excitement of breaking news.

The thrill of trying to puzzle out what is going on from hundreds of sources is immense.

But I also admire the BBC – and aspire to work there- primarily for its reputation for being fair and correct. Without it, the Beeb becomes just another news outlet.


The thing I love about breaking news is line after line of ‘facts’ or presumed events.

And the BBC’s line by line updates from other agencies and from their own correspondents provided that very well.

The tweets on the other hand didn’t really add a huge amount.

Take these, for example:

0424:harshender tweets: We as common man should create a memorial right near Gateway to show respect and honor to all who died in this attack.


0404:angsuman tweets: “nothing is hard for us” says a commando. Same hold true for India. Bravo

To me, it’s just a bit of mindless chatter – the textual equivalent of listening to a TalkSport phone-in.

So yes, the BBC should be doing live updates with their own reporters. It should include agencies. It should even include tweets if they are a) accurate and b) add something to the development of the story.

But it shouldn’t do it just because it can, even if just for self-preservation.

After all, if news is simply becoming a stream of unanalysed sources delivered to the public, what is the point of the journalist?


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