How the BBC uses UGC to its full advantage: Part One


Fellow journalists. To what extent is is okay to use information provided from Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites? Your editor asks you to find some information on a specific topic and you find yourself flicking through thousands of tweets by the normal people instead of a verified source. Should you use citizen created journalism that you cannot 100% verfiy?

We are in an age of ‘internet’ where lots of information is sourced from the web and normal people like to contribute to the ongoing news and travel in particular via tweets and phone calls to radio stations.


Also, in bigger situations like Tunisia and Libya, citizens are sending in videos and photographs. But how do we trust this information and can we use it?

Matthew Eltringham, the Assistant Editor of Interactivity for BBC News, has tried for years to combine the BBC’s impartiality with the flood of user-generated content and social media communication whilst newsgathering for a particular story. Because the BBC wants to use all the information it can get from Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, emails, texts etc, Matthew has been working to combine UGC with other information.

So, comes the classification of the Light Side and the Dark Side. The ‘Light Side’ of the Line of Verification is something the BBC regards as ‘true.’ The ‘Dark side’ is not considered true. In the past, the BBC just wouldn’t have broadcast it if it hadn’t been verified by two sources, but times are changing. The rest of society, the public, already know what’s going on on the dark side because we live it; we see and hear it from first hand sources on Facebook and the like and experience it daily before big news organisations have time to verify it (mumsnet is a good recent example).

Using these dark sources is invaluable because not only is it coming from an online source, but it’s the best way to find and connect with your news! It’s more than just rumours, it is an informal narrative of the story you are trying to write. But just make sure you present it in that way and be clear to express it as a non-validated source. Of course, there are fuzzy or wobbly lines of verification, because information you find will have elements of truth in it. As Matthew says,
“We need to change our reporting activity to engage with ‘stuff’ on the dark side of the line 
as part and parcel of our daily journalism. Social media unleashes the capacity of people to publish and share rumour, lies, facts and factoids. We – as a trusted broadcaster (along with other journalists of course) – become increasingly significant as a reference or clearing house, filtering fact from fiction.”

We need it in this modern age and there is nothing wrong with using it. This distinction between what is produced by journalists and the public shows that even big corporations like the BBC are striving to incorporate UGC into their reporting so there’s nothing wrong with us doing it. On work experience at the BBC over the Christmas holidays, I was using Twitter and Hootsuite in the search of new and original stories. Perhaps this will be of help to you.

One response to “How the BBC uses UGC to its full advantage: Part One

  1. Pingback: How the BBC uses UGC: part Two. An interview with Matthew Eltringham « generated by users

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