Managing user-generated content

How much attention should a news organization pay to the comments on its Web site? Should comments from users ever drive coverage? Is it ever appropriate to shut off comments altogether? BBC news manager Peter Horrocks raises these questions in a thoughtful examination of the issues surrounding user-generated content. Horrocks reveals that the BBC briefly considered turning off its comment function after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, because so many posts were anti-Muslim. In the end, the comments stayed open.

The BBC has made a commitment to listening to the views of its audience. And I have no doubt how any attempt to down-play or disregard their comments would have been seen – as censorship and a conspiracy by the BBC to prevent their strongly held views.

Horrocks says the voice of the audience has expanded the range of stories and perspectives the BBC covers. Users themselves have contributed coverage of breaking news and their comments have led to stories that network might otherwise have missed. But does that mean the users are driving the BBC’s news agenda?

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