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Last Updated: Friday, 7 October 2005, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
From the editor's desktop
Another of Pete's doubles
Pete Clifton, editor of the BBC News website, hails a ground-breaking moment for debate on the site, wakes up to a nasty surprise, reveals what you think about expletives in news reports - and tries to really annoy someone from Cumbria.


The moment is almost upon us. After months of planning, we are ready to unleash our new approach to handling your comments to debates on the site. And we're relying on you to make it a success.

Over the next few weeks you will see a number of our Have Your Say pages take on a completely fresh look, and with it a radical change in the way comments are processed.

They'll look a bit like this (see right).

See a sample of how Have Your Say will look

For a long time now we have struggled to cope with the sheer volume of responses we get to debates on the Have Your Say index - around 10,000 e-mails a day. Up until now, each comment we publish has been selected by a member of our team, and had its spelling and punctuation polished if necessary.

Two things happen as a result. Your thoughts on the site look in good order, but because this is an entirely manual process, many of your well-written, carefully considered submissions never make it to the site.

And judging by the feedback we receive, that goes down badly. "I spend time putting together a comment and you never publish it. Why does the BBC decide what should be published?"... That kind of thing.

So what will the new approach mean? In the Have Your Say section, readers will have the chance to go through a quick registration process. At the same time, we will have decided what level of moderation a debate is going to have. We can still check every comment before publication if we wish, but in the spirit of this new approach I expect more debates to be free-flowing, and only moderated if an inappropriate comment is posted.

If you have gone through the registration process, your posts will be published straight to the site if we are in that more relaxed "reactive moderation" mode. And you will also have the ability to grade comments, rating the good ones and helping them move up the list so more people read them.

And if you don't want to register, fine. It just means your comments will never have the chance to appear without prior checking, and you won't get the chance to do the grading. You can raise the alarm if you see an objectionable comment, and we'll have clear guidelines for deciding if it should be removed.

But it will mean some comments may appear with incorrect spelling, dodgy grammar, and poor punctuation. And some offensive observations will have to be removed.

I think that is a small price to pay if overall more of your comments make it to the site. And I'm trusting readers to get involved and help make this a busy, vibrant, responsible, engaging forum for debate.

If not, Have Your Say could turn into "Have Your P45" for whoever gave this the go-ahead... In the meantime, I'd be interested to hear your views on the initiative.


In my mission to keep pushing the boundaries of citizen photography, this week I offer up this image captured on my phone and e-mailed back to the office from New York.

This was one of the smallest hotel bedrooms I have stayed in, complemented by unquestionably the largest picture. I've woken up next to some strange things in my time, but stirring with this staring at me was a genuinely disturbing moment before I got my glasses on.


How our 'splash' front page might look

Lots of you e-mailed after I revealed our plans to use a "splash front page" the next time a really big story breaks. The new template will allow us break from our traditional format and devote more space to the event.

Many of you wanted a sneak preview of what it would look like. So here is one example (right). And don't worry. To answer your other concerns, we won't be using it that often and it won't mean we stop pointing to other stories on those days.


We've been having a think about the next places to send a reporter with a laptop and a satellite dish after our successful trip to Afghanistan.

Many of your suggestions were excellent, and a few unprintable - though very cheering for me to read on the train home.

The next outing will be with one of our Africa journalists, Jo Winter, who will be taking the laptop to start a global discussion in Liberia ahead of elections there. Next on our list are a mosque in the UK and, hopefully, a trip back to Ukraine.


A bumper crop of e-mails this week from you about our use of an expletive in a report on Tony Blair and a comment he allegedly made about the Welsh.

The vast majority of you were in favour of using the word in full, in fact only one person was against.

James Sweet, of Rochester, US, said: "I applaud your decision to reveal the full expletive used by Mr Blair in describing the Welsh in the recent controversy. Those readers who disagree perhaps should be sent back to grade school where juvenile substitutions like "the F-word" don't seem so silly and asinine. Meanwhile, I hope the BBC will continue to write for reasonable adults who have the basic maturity required to handle an honest and straightforward news report."

The dissenter was Steve Renshaw, from London, who admitted he was torn. Many people were adult enough to cope with it, but he added: "For a lot of people it's still very offensive. Add to this the possibility of children looking at the article, plus the fact that you're a publicly funded, upstanding national institution, and I think it's inappropriate to use such language regardless of whether or not you're striving for unabashed accuracy in your reporting."


Plenty of you agreed that the party conference season has turned into a jumbo snooze. Some of you blamed the media for not being challenging enough, and being content to stick with the meticulously crafted agenda in the main auditorium.

Others suggested this site, and other journalists, should spend more time at the fringe meetings to find the genuine debates. There's a balance to be struck here. It is impossible to send a couple of journalists to a conference and not cover the main speeches, but we should strive to find the alternative voices around the place.

John Davey from Edinburgh, summed up the feelings of many. "As usual, to some extent you can only report what is presented to you by the party. And so with no debate on Iraq, no focus on climate change, no consideration of the breakdown of the G8 agreements, we are left with school dinners and respect within society. There are many more important things to talk about than whether Brown will be the next Prime Minister; indeed, his recent speeches suggest it won't make a blind bit of difference. So perhaps the focus should be elsewhere. If you'll allow me a little grumbling proverb to finish - if the Labour Party falls over and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Bryan Scott from Hove was clear about the benefits of the party conference roadshow arriving in town. "At last I will be able to walk on the pavements, use the road and even have to look for a police officer once more in the town where I live. Please BBC, tell your managers and the politicians that you were not welcome this year and I don't want you to come back. Let New Labour, the Tories and LibDems go and spend other people's money somewhere else and not disrupt the lives of the people of this town ever again."

Sticking with politics briefly, thanks to Simon Coultas, from Durham, who took the trouble to explain another aspect of Labour policy. "Tony Blair is a dangerous man! He wants the Queen rid of so he can be King."

And it was a mixed week on the herogram front. The splendid Violet Lavendar of Oregon, US, wrote: "Your column of 30 September was astute, articulate, wry, encompassing and altogether a joy to read - the icing on the cake following a full, well-balanced meal of accurate information and thorough reporting on the BBC. This sort of thing simply can't be found in America, so you will understand why the BBC is my home page and why the BBC is my choice for news purveyor."

But then along comes "TT" (I have my own idea what it stands for) from Cumbria, to wreck the feeling of well being. "At last, at last, at long long last. This week, no smug, self-promoting full-of-himself Peter Clifton picture flagging. Unbelievable! What a relief. Have actually read the column for first time ever."

I hope this is the second time TT. If so, click here

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