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Last Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
From the editor's desktop
Another of Pete's alter egos
Pete Clifton, editor of the BBC News website, answers criticism of a disturbing image published on the site, reveals why a hosepipe ban may be a good idea, and faces up to the most off-the-wall email to date.


A memorial to Jean Charles de Menezes outside Stockwell Tube
A difficult decision this week over the image of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes lying dead on the Tube after being mistaken for a suicide bomber by police on 22 July.

Papers leaked to ITV News suggested some of the original information about Mr Menezes, how he behaved and what he was wearing, was incorrect. The picture of his body was also leaked.

We used the picture on the site and a number of you were angered by this decision.

One person wrote: "I cannot convey how disappointed I was to find that the BBC website saw fit to display a picture of a blood-surrounded Jean Charles de Menezes on its News front page. I would have expected such crass coverage from ITV or the Sun but had hoped that the BBC would be above using such an image. It adds nothing to the comment provided and I can assure you that I would never want children to see such an image. I do not believe in censorship but equally expect my news provider to demonstrate better judgement. My estimation of the BBC News site has sadly deteriorated."

I'm sorry about that, but I believe we were right to use the image. We are a grown-up site and we must beware sanitising the news. That said, we don't publish images of bodies lightly, and we are always mindful of how graphic the picture is.

On this occasion, the image was key to the story. It clearly showed Mr Menezes was not wearing the bulky jacket that initial reports said had raised police suspicions. For that reason I felt it was right to publish the picture, a decision mirrored by many other media outlets apart from ITV and the Sun.


I've probably mentioned before I'm working in a group at the BBC looking at the future of BBC journalism. By the end of the year we will come up with some sensible proposals looking at six key themes - trust, reach, participation, impact, convenience, relevance.

Sounds a bit mind-boggling, and the group has been charged with talking to the great and the good inside and outside the BBC to find out what they think of BBC journalism.

Occurs to me, it would also be interesting to find out from you. So what do you think BBC journalism does well? What does it do badly? What should it be doing more of and what are the biggest challenges? I'm all ears - we'll publish the pick of your thoughts next week, and they'll all get thrown into the mix. Click here for the form.


'Err, a dog (with sunglasses) on a motorised scooter ran over it'
One of the slightly odd pleasures in this job is being told why members of staff have lost one of our mobile phones and need another one. "Put it down by a swimming pool and then kicked it in by mistake", and "put down in car park and then drove over it" are a couple of my favourites.

Both, I think, were trumped this week. The following explanation could be heard in the newsroom. "I was watering the garden with the hosepipe, the nozzle came off and the hosepipe whirled round and went in my trouser pocket, submerging my mobile phone. Now it switches off constantly and won't take or make calls."

Given the BBC's elaborate recruiting procedures, it's hard to imagine how we could come to employ quite such a dullard. Especially when he's the Editor.


Hold on a minute, while I was away on one of my many holidays, the site changed. Take a look now at the front page or any other page come to that, and spot the difference.

Struggling? All the index links at the foot of the page have disappeared! Not everyone is happy. One observed: "I notice that the menu of categories at the bottom of each page has disappeared. I personally think is a pity, because I work my way down a news index page and then click on the next category I want to go to. Now I have to scroll back to the top to get to the links on the left. I agree that the pages look neater, and I don't suppose you'll reinstate the menu, so I guess I'll have to change my habits."

I fear so. We did some research recently that showed us exactly where people were clicking on our pages, and how often. Amid all the things that enjoyed multi-clicks, the footers attracted close to zero traffic.

So a reasonably straightforward decision - dump the footers, de-clutter the page and get them to load quicker. This small move was part of a range of changes to the site we are planning over the next six months, so keep your eyes peeled.


Action Network
A new home for iCan
Have you caught up with the relaunched Action Network site yet? The site formerly known as iCan, it is a fantastic resource that allows people to discuss issues important to them in their area, learn more about them and to organise campaigns if they wish.

It's very impressive, and if you live in the UK you should slap in your postcode right away and find out what is going on in your area. Giving people out there the tools to get on and do things for themselves is a great idea, and it is good to see some successes coming through. Anita Gregory and her fellow campaigners have successfully saved a school in Lincolnshire from closure. She chronicled the campaign on her Action Network page, and now she's written a case study outlining how it all happened .

Top stuff. Now go on, you have to type in your postcode...


Another good month for our RSS feeds in July. I know it sounds a bit pointy-headed, but getting your favourite chunks of the News website delivered by an RSS feed to your desktop is so easy even I can do it. Take a look at the help page for more info. In July, with all the major news events that went with it, the RSS feeds of our news indices delivered 26.7 million click-throughs to the site, a 30% increase on the previous month.

This is big business for us, and the momentum continues to gather. The Welsh, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Chinese language sites all now have RSS feeds on offer, as you can see, for example, by taking a detailed look here.


My deputy Paul Brannan took over the column last week as I took another much-needed rest, and there were plenty of people applauding his sharp put down of Alan from New York, who had suggested the BBC was preoccupied with advertising revenues.

Bryan from Florida, USA, observed: "As an American let me apologise for Alan from New York. He is obviously a Republican and assumes that money is the only motivation for anything. It has been a few decades since I paid the licence fee while at RAF Upper Heyford, but I don't remember commercials then, and there are certainly no advertisements on the site. Thank you for the news. It's hard to come by in the States."

The fact I was off on holiday to recharge my overworked batteries did not go unnoticed by Mr Modha in the UK. "So, Pete's away for two weeks, comes back for two more, then disappears again? Is the pressure of answering a few comments each week getting to him? What are you hiding from Pete, acceptance is the first step to recovery!"

Yes, I'm hiding from my inbox, the pressure is significant and life is not just a bed of roses (the one I was watering). And I can't even call the BBC counselling hotline on my mobile.

Chris from Glasgow, UK, writes in praise of our "newstrackers", the boxes on the right hand side of numerous news reports on the site, linking off to other news sites outside the BBC. "I know the links to other news outlets that sometimes appear on stories are something of an imposition for competition reasons. However I actually find them very useful for getting some 'triangulation' on a story. It would be good if they appeared more regularly and predictably. Don't worry - this website will always be my first port of call!"

I have no problem using newstrackers on plenty of stories, and have reminded our journalists again this week to use them as often as they can. Linking out to other sites is fine by me. If it helps someone triangulate in the privacy of their own room, that's fine by me, and we should always be confident that people will want to return to us. Last month, incidentally, newstrackers prompted 1,487,860 click-throughs to outside news sites, up from 847,816 in June.

Last week, deputy Brannan tried to give the impression he reads books by quoting Dickens. "The one great principle of English law is to make business for itself." Which prompted Forbes from Glasgow, UK, to pull on the Frank Carson hat and try this rib-tickler. "What do you call 100 lawyers up to their necks in sand? Not enough sand."

Yes, well, I can see what you're getting at Forbes, but it's not exactly a name, is it? But hey, if there is anyone else out there with a topical joke to raise a smile, drop me a line.

Finally, and most gratifyingly, another person has realised that the editor is a fount of wisdom no matter what the subject, and that nothing is beyond his influence.

In response to our call for your comments last week, Katy Austin from Manchester, UK hurried this to the inbox. "I think that Leo and Demi are really lucky to have a baby together because people would wish to have a baby with Leo and I dont think they should have run away just yet. I think they should have told their parents they are with each other and there's nothing they can do and they shouldn't do anything stupid because they have a baby to think about now not just themselves."

I'll look into it right away.

You can send me your comment using the form below.

Don't forget, though, that if you want to point out an error or have a complaint you want dealt with, the best place to go will normally be our Feedback page.

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