Ah, that's better: off the bus, in a coffee shop at Gloucester Green, sipping a decaf cappuccino and about to join some fellow Fellows for a pint. Perhaps it isn't norovirus after all, just a bad bus driver. (He was the sort, and I've known them before, who can't keep a constant speed. He liked to speed up then slooooooow down, thenspeedup, then sloooooow down. I'm getting sick just typing that.)
I was in London yesterday to talk about my study topic with a few smart people. One was Martin Moore, the director of the Media Standards Trust. (Their web site appears to be down right this moment.) The MST is a relatively new outfit that is doing lots of things, but the most interesting to me is a project to come up with what amount to ingredients labels for news or comment web pages. They're working with Tim Berners-Lee to develop a system where users could search for information based on various criteria, ie: Show me news stories about the unrest in Kenya that rely on two or more named sources, utilize reports that are funded by impartial observers and include links to original source material. Or if you'd rather have first-person commentary, you could set your filter for that, too. I don't know much more than that, but it's an interesting approach, one that attempts to help deal with the avalanche of information that is being uploaded to the web every day.
I also met with Vin Ray at the BBC. He's director of the Beeb's College of Journalism, an outfit started in the wake of the Hutton Report. Vin's shop has prepared hundreds of pages of material--both technical, nuts-and-bolts, how-tos and more reflective material meant to touch on journalistic ethics--to help improve the quality of BBC journalism. There's a robust section on user-generated content, which is what I'm interested in.
Then I spoke with Vicky Taylor, czarina of UGC at the Beeb. The BBC is among the most active media outlets in requesting content--comments, photos, videos--from users, harvesting it for the web site and passing it on to BBC reporters as possible source material. This is the sort of thing--user-generated content, citizen journalism--that drives some journalists crazy, akin to letting the inmates run the asylum. Best not to think about comparing my profession to the madhouse.
My friend Richard (and former fellow Fellow) showed me around his shop. It was nice to be back in a newsroom again: the energy, the intelligence, the gallows humor.
Most exciting of all, during my stint in White City (the name of the multi-building compound that the BBC calls home) was a glimpse of a couple pooches being walked out back by a minder. A gaggle of schoolchildren were taking a tour and almost as one they screamed out "The 'Blue Peter' dogs!" Ah, celebrity.