The BBC opens its drawers

Sometime Monday morning, the BBC will open up its editors’ blog, an attempt to get the heads of its many news networks to open up and talk about the process of news.

I’ve been reading their pilot posts behind a wall for a few weeks. And it’s pretty good. I just spoke with Giles Wilson, the BBC online editor in charge of the project, who said the initial plan was to launch the blog in August but it seemed to be going well, so they decided to take the wraps off now. And, of course, a blog that no one can read is the tree that falls in the forest with no one to hear it. So the reaction to and interaction with the blog and the shows’ editors will be what really makes it.

Wilson said they had the editors of all the BBC’s major news shows signed up, except for the new chief of Today, who’s still scoping his turf.

This is another move toward transparency by another big news organization and I’m glad to see it. Considering that the BBC, like monopoly papers in the U.S., tries to insist that it is unbiased, it will be interesting to watch how these editors deal with questions about their editorial choices, which inevitably carry prejudice, presumption, and bias.

I’m hoping that once the gates come down, the editors will join in conversations not only with their audiences but with other blogging journalists.

I see that healthy rivalry already. In the latest post, Peter Barron of Newsnight complained about Guardian Unlimited editor-in-chief Emily Bell (and I sent the post to Bell, who said they’re having Barron on the Media Guardian podcast to duke it out). Barron wrote:

The estimable Emily Bell of the Guardian is always at it, complaining recently about the BBC’s digital plans and asking “is it really necessary, useful or at all enhancing to have a Newsnight podcast?”. The viewers of course have answered resoundingly by propelling our weekly offering to number three in the news podcast chart.

Having bragged about his popular podcast, the then complains he’s not No. 1. Here’s what is:

No, it’s something called Kitcast.

Kitcast is, according to the blurb, “a ten-minute weekly videoblog covering the world of sex. ” Each episode, it goes on, is “hosted by a lingerie clad (non-nude) hostess Ms Kitka” – a little red box warns of explicit content.

Does that matter? Well, consider two developments in the digital revolution this week. First, that traditional showcase of musical popularity Top of the Pops was summarily swept away. Then, the BBC’s website launched an ingenious new device which tells you at any moment of the day or night what the most popular and most emailed stories are. With every passing day, what viewers watch is being decided less by editors and more by algorithms which place one thing or another at the top of the pile. And in that world, how content is categorised is everything.

When the gate comes down, here are a few links to posts on the blog:

: Paul Brannan, deputy editor of the BCC news online, says that they’re facing a new issue: people who want their quotes from a few years ago removed because, for some reason, they’re embarrassed now.

: Kevin Marsh, of the BBC College of Journalism, wonders whether newspapers can really represent readers.

: Alistair Burnett of The World Tonight explains a decision to lead the broadcast with news in Somalia over Sri Lanka.

: Peter Rippon of PM explains the use of the F-word in the afternoon. Kevin Bakhurst of News 24 did likewise]. And in another discussion of no-no words, Kevin Marsh links to this helpful ranking of them.

: Fran Unsworth, head of newsgathering, talks about different policies regarding “user-generated content.”

: LATER: Here’s Director of News Helen Boaden’s welcome. She says: “We are committed to being impartial, fair and accurate – these are the qualities which BBC News is rightly expected to uphold. But we also want to be open and accountable….”

: See also Steve Hermann, editor of the BBC News web service, analyzing traffic to what’s popular there.