#bbcsms - Cultural Change

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Kevin Marsh chairing

Peter Horrocks (BBC Global News) – “tweet or die” – no, “tweet or be sacked.” Serious about the message of using social media as a source and as a communication message is something they should be doing. Social media reluctantly adopted at first, now more enthusiastically. The normal Twitter = lunch tweeting. Gadaffi interview not credited to BBC because co-interviewer tweeted it, but Jeremy Bowen didn’t. You need carrots and sticks, persuasion, and a clear vision.

We have stressed insufficiently how to link ourselves together. That’s a vision.

People who criticised the BBC’s change to the comments on news stories and blogs are “zealots”. Which makes me a zealot, apparently. And zealots like me are a hinderance to change. Personally, I find that people use words like “zealot” when they don’t want to engage with criticism.

Meg Pickard (Guardian)

First issue: getting products right. Guardian comments were designed to be flexible (and are pretty good)
Second issue: providing training, finding organic grassroots activity and encouraging it. Not so much carrot and stick as telling people how delicious and crunchy carrots are. Community hosts almost, journalists who act as a bridge between the community and the newsroom. Social media is something we do with the community, not to them.
Third issue: editorial propositions – integrating it into the mix, not just employing a social media person. Where’s the value to the audience?

Mark from AudioBoo asks about tech blocking change. Meg mentions CMSes which are optimised for anything but digital. How do we make sure digital isn’t an afterthought. How do you integrate new tools with your existing one?

Raju Narisetti (Washington Post)

Numbers are everything are in our business. Part of the lesson was to tell the journalists what not to do – are the blogs growing, have they got an audience. Moving to a metrics-based newsroom was a big shift for us. Your content has to be in Facebook – people are there, you can’t expect them to come to you.


No point in trying to force anyone to do social media. Forcing people to Tweet will just make it obvious that you don’t want to. I would encourage them to do so, through showing them the consequences.

Peter Horrocks doesn’t think everybody should be tweeting, just using Twitter as a source.

Raju thinks people without experience of using Twitter and Facebook probably won’t get hired right now. Meg thinks all journalism students should be handed one.

Documentally suggests that Twitter is as much about communication as publishing. Maybe e-mail should be optional? The panel didn’t really go for that. Maybe the telephone should be optional.

Interesting discussion of the individual versus the glacial big media, and how quickly individuals can publish now. Meg makes a solid point of finding ways of integrating individual sporting with big media platforms. I’d argue that you actually need to enable your journalists to produce and publish in an individual way. Raju made comments to similar effect.

More notes from the session on the BBC College of Journalism site


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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.