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Last Updated: Friday, 13 May, 2005, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
From the editor's desktop

Pete Clifton, editor of the BBC News website, takes a look at the rest of the year, examines some of your election thoughts - and refuses to say much more about Jarrod's e-mail.


In a strange way it feels like the start of the year. After the extraordinary story of the tsunami, then the planning and execution of Election 2005, there has hardly been a moment to think.

That's probably my natural state of mind, but you have to make an effort when you are the editor. So next Friday I am getting together with my senior editorial colleagues to ponder the rest of 2005.

I'll want to know what their thoughts are on the big stories for the remainder of the year and how we plan to cover them.

Iraq pic
Daily life in Iraq - we're going to keep on top of this
Staying close to the Iraq story is very important to me. We get plenty of stick from people who don't think our journalism has been challenging enough on this. It is an incredibly hard nut to crack when moving around the country is still so dangerous, but we will keep at this - starting with our day in Iraq.

We must keep going back to the aftermath of the tsunami. We did a fair bit around "three months on", but this is a story that will need telling for many years to come.

The EU constitution has to be a big deal for us, and not just because of the Independent Panel report that recently criticised the BBC for its coverage of the European Union.

Actually, I'm not sure the panel spent much time on the new-fangled interweb because we hardly merited a mention. Shame, because I think we have already done an awful lot to explain the workings of the EU - Inside Europe and The UK and the EU.

We need to build on this with referendums fast approaching in France and the Netherlands, and maybe the UK next year. More reporting trips, more viewpoints, more debates, more interactive guides to help bewildered people understand exactly what is at stake.

And it looks like we'll be going nuclear. Iran threatening to defy the international community with its nuclear programme, North Korea's brinkmanship and the threat of a nuclear test.

What about nuclear power? It was an issue that was uncomfortably parked during the UK election campaign, but there'll have to be a debate before long. What are the choices, will there be another nuclear power programme as the threat of climate changes increases. This is another subject where I think we can make a real difference by investing time in explaining the issue in detail and letting people form an opinion based on knowledge, not ignorance.

So there are a few quick thoughts from me. And it would be great to go to next Friday's meeting with some from you. So drop me a line.


If you are reading this column, you are a...
little bored
5903 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Stacks of suggestions for what you would like to be called, after someone wrote in last week to say "user" was a bit of a derogatory term. No, I don't know either.

Dick Balaska of Guilford, US, backs "users", and suggests a French sounding "l'user" for people who keep clicking on dead links. Paul Greggor of London, UK is definitely a "reader", while Stephen Turner of Cambridge, UK wants to be a "visitor". Makes me feel like a museum curator.

You'd better decide. Start voting...


I asked for your thoughts on our election coverage. There was much praise, plenty of it for the maps, and a fair chunk accusing us of left-wing bias - either the site or BBC News generally.

Election site
The Election 2005 site
Alex Swanson of Milton Keynes, UK said: "The problem with BBC coverage isn't that you wake up in the morning and think 'how can we make Tony Blair look good today?' The problem is that the BBC has an inherently left-wing culture which you don't even recognise because you are so used to it."

Simon Ellis of Bradford, UK congratulated us on promoting Labour to their third win, while Paul Howard-Jones of Pontypridd, Wales, UK, said it was "the most singularly biased reporting" he had experienced in his election-watching lifetime.

But at least some balance was provided by LA Dissado of Leicester, UK: "I see that the BBC has again shown its political bias, particularly Radio 4, even to the extent of reporting the third biggest majority since the war as a massive political rebuff." He added that some of the soundbites would leave people thinking Labour had lost.

Speaking for the election site, and flying in the face (or confirming) Alex's comment, I am really struggling to recognise bias in our reporting over the campaign. I think we reported the parties fairly, tried to answer difficult questions in our fact checks, offered frank analysis from a range of correspondents and encouraged a free-ranging debate in the Have Your Say area.

But if you have evidence, send it to me and we can talk about it some more.

That said, the culture point is an interesting one. I don't think left-wing quite describes it, but do we draw staff from a diverse enough range of places to bring fresh ideas, have challenging views about the big issues, and provide dissenting voices when we plan our output? No, we don't, and I think it's one of our biggest challenges as we strive to stay relevant in the 21st Century.

Other quick election feedback, with a few names:

  • The Magazine Monitor should not have stopped during the election. Dom M of London, UK, suggested a member of the public could have looked after it.
    Maybe, and it's given us an idea we are working on now.
  • Jo Edkins of Cambridge, UK: your results weren't up to date and where was the coverage of the local elections?
    Had somebody pulled out your cable? I reckon our results were up to the second throughout the night. As for local elections, they were all listed in good order here.
  • Several said it would have been helpful to have a "live analysis" facility, giving an up-to-the-minute assessment of what was happening.
    Good idea, we'll bank that one.
  • The polltracker was hard to locate, and Alan Bridgewater of Oxford, UK, played "hunt the polltracker" to ease his election boredom.
    Fair point. It was a very popular facility and it was sometimes a bit hidden.


I know you've had enough crowing on this, but I haven't. The News website picked up nearly five million unique users on 6 May, the day after the UK election, beating the previous record 4.5 million after the US election last year.

About 2.5 million users accessed our interactive maps while our postcode results search had 2.4 million requests on the day, peaking at 160 per second.

Useless facts? Most popular constituency for requests was Bethnal Green and Bow (George Galloway's seat), closely followed by Croydon Central (recounts), Wirral West, Cambridge and Reading East.

Least popular? Bottom of the list was Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (massive Labour majority, result not in doubt), followed by Cynon Valley, Walsall North, Workington and Scunthorpe.


Eek! I've spotted dodgy stock picture of the week
Some more decent stock pictures from you this week following my request for your images of transport. You can see the best of them here.

Not quite so much abuse from professional photographers, maybe they were peeved by the vote rejecting the assertion that I am a balding moron. More than 44.27% voted against, though two of my children now have RSI.

Andy C of Cambridge, UK took a look at the animal picture gallery and was clear none of them matched up to our often-used, existing stock picture of a labrador. "That's one cool hound in the original photo, none of the new bunch match up. Keep the original labrador and boot the pretenders." OK, OK, we'll find somewhere sensible to use it.

And Rachael, from Birmingham, UK, provides the next idea for your stock pictures. "I don't see why people shouldn't send in photos if they want to. It helps us to feel involved, which can only be a good thing. But how about some new photos for your Technology pages? Great stories, shame about the stock pictures."

You mean like this one (above right)?

Go on then, that's the challenge, send them in if you wish. Details here.


Plans for our "One day in Iraq" special, described last week, are coming along nicely. Looks like our friends at the BBC World Service will also be involved, so watch out for more details soon. And thanks to Marion Burkimsher of Chevry, France, for some more blogs worth checking out - Hammorabi, A family in Baghdad, The Mesopotamian and Free Iraqi.


Alex in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Ian Ratcliffe, Walsall, UK, are just two of the people threatening to spearhead a campaign to get me to reproduce in full the excessively complimentary message I got from Jarrod in Hobart, Australia last week.

Look. I've checked with the sub-editor and it's just not possible. If I told you the note included a line about an intimate part of a former Prime Minister's anatomy, you might start to understand. But I'm keeping a copy of it in my pocket to cheer me up, and if any of you bump into me, anywhere, anytime, I'll give you a sneaky look. OK?


Adrian Tan of Singapore (Jarrod, can you pop over and sort it) said: "The BBC website is tops. But the editor's column is tosh! I've given up reading or even glancing at it, except now and then, to see if it has improved. It gets crappier and crappier. Conclusion: the editor needs an editor; his work as editor leaves him little energy to do a good job on his column; or the website succeeds inspite of him."

Thanks Adrian - really decent of you to keep checking, just in case.

Chris McKay in San Francisco, US, joins the bandwagon. "As an ex-pat living in the US, I am usually so proud and grateful for the BBC. So much so that I have converted all my American friends and they now rely on the BBC as the only reliable source of info in this messed up world. I have to say though, that the "From the editor's desktop" is so trite and trivial that it is embarrassing to read. Come on BBC, you've got to find someone better than that."

Impossible, and for the sake of balance, there were plenty in favour of the ramblings, from Scotland, Germany, India, New York, Australia (not Jarrod), and around the UK, including Northampton of course.

Aaron Agien Nyangkwe from Douala-Cameroon wrote: "This column is my best after-lunch-item on the agenda. Clifton has the pill, why bother then!"

Why indeed. And if that isn't a sufficient tonic for you, Paul Hensby of London, UK, added: "Can I recommend that whenever you are feeling stressed you listen to Prayer Meetin' by Jimmy Smith. Jazz organ doesn't get better than this. No you are not a balding moron. You understand the medium you work in... and human nature."

You can send me your comments 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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The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.



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