Why Robert Peston blogs

A blurry picture of Robert Peston and other BBC bloggers
Photo of Robert Peston, Giles Wilson, Alex Trickett and Paul Fletcher at the BBC’s Future of Journalism Conference, November 2008 by Jem Stone.

Just back from the rather excellent internal Future of Journalism conference organised by the BBC’s College of Journalism. Several panels, presentations and discussions. Tweeting away were Paul Bradshaw and Dan Bennett and i lurked at the back typing very furiously. The session badly photographed above was one devoted to the BBC  blogging. Having had a small hand in their birth many years ago I was proud to see how integral they now were to BBC journalism. Giles Wilson who has been key to the success of News blogs outlined the history behind The Editors and the now extremely successful Reporters  (Nick Robinson, Justin Webb et al) stable of news blogs. Alex Trickett talked World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Olympics. Paul Fletcher talked football but of course the star of the show was Peston himself who was swept to his seat half way through the session.  I was just incredibly impressed at how important blogging now is to Robert Peston’s journalism and how passionately he talked about it.  Here are my notes from his speech/answers to questions..

Robert Peston on why he blogs:

  • I do see the blog as the absolute cornerstone of the way that i work. It’s central to everything that i do at the BBC.
  • When i joined the BBC i thought that business news was a bit of a ghetto so a few months later i thought i would send a daily email to people in the business unit , editors of various progs, who i thought would need to know what is going on. The point of it was to get people into the big stories and help them get a sense of why this stuff mattered.
  • But then I’d seen the success of blogs like Nick Robinson and I thought i’d share with a wider audience It seemed to make sense to convert internally for something everybody to see.
  • It still works as a tool to gets information out to people in the BBC bloody quickly. Getting out information to all the relevant correspondents and editors is still very useful.
  • The enormous personal benefits are you get to know a load of stuff that you can’t use in a 2-3 minute package on the Ten. Getting out detail that you can’t get into anywhere else is fantastic.
  • It also reasserts your ownership and authority when it comes to a story.
  • The comments are quite challenging and interesting and often generate ideas about where to go with a story. Its a shop window for people….”I know a lot about this stuff . come and talk to me”…sometimes they are anonymous but sometimes people prefer to respond by  email or they ring me up as a result of the blog.
  • It’s a fantastic discipline. You feel a personal obligation to continue. It forces you to stay ahead of the story. You’re not necessarly on the Ten or Today in the morning but you have to get “todays issue” out there and thats quite useful.
  • The classic case  was Northern Rock. All sorts of people ; shareholders, people in the civil service, people in the city. They all regarded the blog as *the* source of information about Northern Rock. There was a Northern Rock community in that sense.
  • I absolutely don’t mind rude comments. If they want to say horrible things about me then fine. I can’t go through every comment.I scan through, i will look for things where this is an obvious point that needs dealing with. i don’t have the time to respond directly to many.
  • All the standards i apply to my blog are the standards I apply to any other bit of my broadcasting.
  • The great thing about being at the BBC is that we have all the tools for getting stuff out. We are incredibly priveliged. We have to have access to all of them. all the platforms and they are all up and running and attract massive audiences.
  • If i was talking to young journalists i’d say you need as many of these skills as possible and they expect individuals to be delivering it all.i would want to learn all the skills from the word go.
  • People might have noticed that I’m a bit of an obsessive. This was a personal choice. Nobody at the BBC came to me and said i want you to *do* a blog.
  • I wouldn’t overstate the risks with blogs. Any time a reporter goes on the BBC News Channel or Today programme, there is a huge risk in a two way. At least with the written word you will read it over a few times.At least you get a second pair of eyes.  I assume there are many more checks and balances than with most “lives”. I think the repuational risks are diminished.
  • We are having a conversations with the people who think that they employ us and its a pretty rich conversation. I get a lot out of it and i think they get a lot out of it”
  • I’ve taken some complicated stuff and described it in language that isn’t dumbing down. When you get feedback that people say they understand the world a bit better from reading the blog ; that is what I mostly get pleasure about. Generating excitement amongst people that didn’t realise they were interested.

8 responses to “Why Robert Peston blogs

  1. Thanks for the notes, Jem. Wish I could have been there. Do you know if any video or audio from the event will be made available?

  2. Pingback: Insights into why BBC journalists blog « Reportr.net

  3. Pingback: Wortfeld » Eckstein | Der BBC-Finanzblogger Robert Peston.

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  5. I especially liked this bullet… “We are having a conversations with the people who think that they employ us and its a pretty rich conversation. I get a lot out of it and i think they get a lot out of it”

    A blog is really an opportunity for the common folks to have a voice. It is a community that they now feel entitled too. It does not surprise me that they feel like they “employ” you. In a way, they do.

    Thanks Dosh Dosh for putting this link up on your Twitter.

  6. Pingback: Robert Peston « citizenjourno

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  8. Pingback: links for 2009-02-19 | I’ve Said Too Much

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