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Last Updated: Friday, 4 March, 2005, 11:56 GMT
From the editor's desktop
Pete Clifton, editor of the BBC News website, looks back at the week in the newsroom - and tackles some of your questions.


Another election must be close, this time in the UK... so off I go to a meeting of the great and the good in BBC News to discuss how plans are shaping up.

It starts with a sobering reminder from the audience research people about what the public thinks of politicians, parties and the issues.

The headlines are clear - not much faith in politicians, a difficulty understanding the differences between parties on the main issues, and plenty who want a refresher on the real basics - how do you vote, where do you vote, what does an MP do...

Whether the public's faith in politicians in the UK will be restored by the current row over "Margaret's shoulder" must be open to some debate. (Row deepens in delayed ops case, 4 March.)

It's impossible to ignore this sort of story - and they come round quite often (Dixon case only the latest) - when party leaders lock horns over them, but it is important we try to put it into some context and represent the views of all involved.

This piece - Does Dixon case represent wider problem - helped, I think, and to find out what the public really make of the politics row I decided we should open a discussion about this on our Have Your Say pages. I suspect a lot of people will be cheesed off with the campaigning already... Is political campaigning too negative?

Anyhow, with our noses pressed up against the daily news agenda it is easy to forget what the public really make of the political circus, and it presents quite a challenge for the UK election website we are likely to be launching before too long.

Fast, balanced news coverage, explain the issues, look at the basics, quick access to results, plenty of user comments, and maybe a bit of fun thrown in for good measure (Peter Snow like you've never seen him before).

That's the plan, but getting it wrong could be a career-limiting moment, so we're working hard on the mix - but what if you were doing it? Drop me a line...


Oscars coverage is top of the shop in the statistics on Monday, with the top three items about the Hollywood bonanza bringing in more than 1m of your clicks.
( Eastwood's baby scoops top Oscar
In pictures: Oscar glamour
Full list of winners)

I'm slightly irritated at the morning editorial meeting that our vote on "who looked the best on Oscars night" only features women. Clint would have got my vote every time.

The "In pictures" at the Oscars drew 366,000 page impressions, again underlining the power of still pictures on the site.

There are plenty of people, some of them in the BBC, who see video as the future for news on the web. Sorry, not convinced - broadband is a fantastic shot in the arm for video for sure, but well-written text and quality pictures still have a lot going for them.

On a couple of these themes, Jamie Adams asked why it isn't possible to see the result of a vote on our site without voting. You can, though it's not exactly obvious. If you click on "Vote!" even if you haven't voted, it will show you the result. But you'd need to be Sherlock Holmes to discover that, so we must do something about it.

And James L Boyd dropped a line to say our interesting pictures were "rendered almost useless by their minuscule size".

Still pictures, sometimes combined with a little text for a photo journal, are an excellent way to tell a story. I think we used this device well in some of our tsunami coverage, like this journal from Sri Lanka: Photo journal: Sri Lankan tsunami survivor.

But most of our galleries have smaller images than this, and there are some great examples of the impact you make with a more ambitious approach. The Washington Post is worth a look if you have a click around. (See internet links.)

I think we have been too hung up about big pictures taking ages to download - we shouldn't be basing everything we do on the smallest pipe to the dodgiest old PC... so time to take a look at some templates that allow for bigger pictures.

And send me some links if you have examples of impressive use of pictures on other sites.


The talk last week about Beckham coming top of our page impressions prompted a number of people to bemoan the site going "down market". Bill Laurence from Japan, MB in Scotland and Jez from Nottinghamshire, to name three.

There's a tricky balance to strike here and clearly some people think we are keeling over. Before our redesign a couple of years ago, our site had a much narrower look - the front page, for example, gave you three stories in the first screenful and not much else. And they were often about heavy duty conflicts, political disputes, disasters and the like.

A lot of the feedback we received in those days was that the news site was far too serious, dominated by stories about men fighting, and quite a turn-off for large swathes of the potential audience.

Now, with the benefit of a wider front page, we are striving to provide a mixture. The serious reporting still gets done, and we offer Q&As, analysis, explainers and backgrounders galore.

But beyond that, we are producing a range of local, national and international stories that are offbeat, amusing, amazing or a mixture of all three - and is there really anything wrong with putting some of that in the shop window? If they are properly flagged up as "also in the news" and don't influence our main news agenda, I'm content.


Bob the Killer Whale (a new audience opens up to us) asks: "Do all extra documents have to be in PDF? With the 'rogue foods' list, could a simple html page suffice?"

Yes, you are probably right. We tend to use them for very large documents, but it may not have been necessary here.

Richard Moore, Watford: "Care to explain why the BBC needs non-exclusive 'world' rights to use in 'any media' when submitting pictures of the snow in Watford? Surely this is just plain exploitation and stock photography for free?"

People like sending us pictures, and we like using them. And if a good one came in it is possible we'd share it with another BBC service. So the standard terms and conditions cover that - at the end of the day, people don't have to send a picture if they are bothered by the terms.

David Andrews-Brown, France: "Has your excellent site changed its name from BBC News Online to the BBC News website?"

Well spotted, it has. I wouldn't say it was a universally popular move (not least with some of the team here). But we work for BBC News, it says BBC News on our banner, and we felt it was time to use the same approach when describing ourselves on the site - so the online bit got axed.

David Ward, London: "This is daft - you're meant to be a news organisation, not a blogger. What possible public interest is there in running a weblog all about what wonderful news stories you have run this week (along with a cherry-picked bunch of comments from agreeable viewers)? This seems to be a complete waste of time and money - a poor attempt to compete with the "blogosphere", which has been providing a genuinely independent alternative to the mainstream media."

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time... I thought it would be interesting to kick around a few of the things we were up to, but I could be wrong. What do you think?

Some more of your comments:

I think this column's a great idea - stick with it! I liked the different picture style used with the news that Steve Fossett had successfully landed. Really appropriate use of a wider image that filled the screen widthways. Glad to see the site can adapt that easily - should be used more often!
Chris, Leamington Spa

I enjoy your blogging. The New York Times has a nice template. There are small pictures, but if you click on them, a larger version pops up. The people with more bandwidth can use this feature and those with slower connections are not affected.
Adrian Parsons, Austin, Texas, US

One last thing about blogging, why not have a weekly feature that provides reviews of relevant blogs out there? A blog of blogs, basically!
L, Marysville, United States

Well, proof, if any were needed - from the comments already provided - that you can't please all of the people all of the time. Personally I appreciated this page. I've used the Beeb News site as my homepage for the last couple of years. I think it's an excellent site.
Lee Gallaher, Grantham, UK

I'd like to make a really simple suggestion which would improve your site dramatically... when there are external links could you please make it so they pop up in a separate browser window? Every day I 'x' out of a link you've provided and every day I utter a curse that I forgot to click on the back button to get to your site again. It must be the world's simplest bit of coding... I for one would be over the moon if you did this. Thanks in advance!
Sam Leader, Sydney, Australia

David Ward is spot on. The BBC website's good reputation is a mystery to me. I use it occasionally to find reading texts for my intermediate level Englsih students, as the form and content of your articles are suitable for learners of this ability. I would never visit this site as a matter of personal choice. It very concept is amateurish when compared to diversified and niche marketed nature of the online independent media, and as broad based, news realted web pages go, even the santimonioius Guardian's effort kicks yours into touch, although I cannot give their articles to my students. I fear you're simply trading on an established brand name. Boring.
Henry Pfister, Bangkok, Thailand

Re: David Ward, London saying that From the editor's desktop is a "complete waste of time and money". I think it's great - it gives insight into the presentation of the news and the comments seem very honest, even acknowledging errors or regrettable decisions. I say keep it up!
CRS, Oxford

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