FOREWORDWelcome to the latest edition of this guide for journalists working on the BBC Newswebsite.This updated version is published at a time when online journalism and on-demandproduction are moving into the very heart of BBC News.It is meant as a starting point for finding out about how the BBC News website works, whothe audience are, what formats and production systems we use, points of style and the keyprinciples of BBC journalism overall. On all these things there is also more detailedinformation elsewhere, in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines, for example, in the online styleguide and in the various guides and instructions available on our intranet.So whether you are working as a full-time member in one of the online news teams inLondon or elsewhere, or whether you are an occasional contributor working in anotherpart of the BBC, this guide contains much of the basic information you are likely to needabout producing content for the BBC News website and its related services on mobile andTV platforms.One of the challenges and attractions of working in online journalism is that the platformsand services we provide for continue to change fast.In the past couple of years, two new elements in particular have moved centre stage. Therole of user generated content, in the form of first-hand accounts, video, pictures andcomments, has become central. The other major development is the coming of age ofon-demand video as an absolutely integrated and essential part of our storytelling, nowthat we are able to embed it within our stories.But there are also some things that don’t change: • The need to be accurate, impartial, fair, informative and honest • Our goal of being first with breaking news – we have to be fast as well as accurate • The authoritative quality of our context and analysis – we explain why things have happened, what is important and why • Our remit to be original and distinctive and to showcase the best of the BBC’s journalismThis guide is the product of over 10 years of accumulated experience of journalists whohave worked on the BBC News website from its earliest days as BBC News Online,through to its place now at the heart of BBC News. It is they – and you – who continue toensure that we are the best online news operation in the business.I am hugely grateful to Dan Coles for compiling this latest edition, and to all the others whohave contributed. I hope you find it useful.Steve HerrmannEditor, BBC News websiteMay 2008
CONTENTS 1) Core values 2) Journalistic values 3) Team structure 4) The teams 5) Our audience 6) CPS overview 7) Best practice 8) Writing for the web 9) Language 10) Style 11) Breaking News 12) Sources 13) Pictures 14) Video 15) Linking 16) Researching stories 17) The law 18) Emergencies Appendix 1) FAQ Appendix 2) Jargon buster Appendix 3) Reporters in the field Appendix 4) Key links and contacts Appendix 5) Site structure diagram
(1): CORE BBC VALUESThe BBC has six core values which are central to everything the corporationproduces:TrustTrust is the foundation of the BBC. We are independent, impartial and honest.AudiencesAudiences are at the heart of everything we do.QualityWe take pride in delivering quality and value for money.CreativityCreativity is the lifeblood of the corporation.RespectWe respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give theirbest.Working togetherWe are one BBC. Great things happen when we work together.
(2): JOURNALISTIC VALUESTruth and accuracyWe will always strive to establish the truth of what has happened as best we can.BBC journalism will be rooted in the highest possible levels of accuracy andprecision of language. It will be well sourced, based on sound evidence, andthoroughly tested. Facts set in their context, rather than opinion, are the essence ofBBC journalism.We will be honest and open about what we do not know and will avoidunfounded speculation.Serving the public interestBBC journalism will prioritise and report stories of significance, striving to makethem interesting and relevant to all our audiences. We will be vigorous in tryingto drive to the heart of the story, and well informed when explaining it.Our specialist expertise will bring authority and understanding to the complexworld in which we live. We will be robust, but fair and open-minded in askingsearching questions of those who hold public office and in reporting that which it isin the public interest to reveal.The BBCs news and current affairs journalism will never campaign, but willpursue journalistically-valid issues and stories, without giving undueprominence to any one agenda. We will provide a comprehensive forum forpublic debate at all levels.Impartiality and diversity of opinionFor the BBC, impartiality is a legal requirement. BBC journalists will report the factsfirst, understand and explain their context, provide professional judgements whereappropriate, but never promote their own personal opinions.Openness and independence of mind is at the heart of practising impartiality. Wewill strive to be fair and open minded by reflecting all significant strands of opinion,and by exploring the range and conflict of views. Testing a wide range of views withthe evidence is essential if we are to give our audiences the greatest possibleopportunity to decide for themselves on the issues of the day.
IndependenceThe BBC is independent of both state and partisan interest, and will strive tobe an independent monitor of powerful institutions and individuals.We will make our journalistic judgements for sound editorial reasons, not as theresult of improper political or commercial pressure, or personal prejudice. The BBCwill always resist undue pressure from all vested interests, and will jealouslyprotect the independence of our editorial judgments on behalf of our audiences.Whatever groups or individuals may wish us to say or do, we will make alldecisions based on the BBCs editorial values.AccountabilityOur first loyalty is to the BBCs audiences to whom we are accountable. Theircontinuing trust in the BBCs journalism is a crucial part of our contract with themas licence payers.We act in good faith at all times, by dealing fairly and openly with theaudience and contributors to our output.We will be open in admitting mistakes when they are made, unambiguous aboutapologising for them, and must encourage a culture of willingness to learn fromthem.Source: Neil report.There is more information about BBC News editorial policy in the editorialguidelines and on the internal Gateway website.
(3): TEAM STRUCTUREThe Online team consists of around 150 people - the majority of whom arejournalists based in Television Centre in West London. Formerly a stand-alonedepartment called News Interactive, the team is now fully integrated into theBBC’s new Newsroom department, which produces daily news across TV, radioand interactive platforms. Online is also supplied by specialist teams working inNewsgathering clusters (such as Business and Science), regional and nationalteams in place across the UK, and the Have Your Say area of the Mediawireteam, who manage our popular debates and distribute user-generated material.Video from around the BBC, including a growing amount of bespoke websitematerial, is supplied by the Media On Demand team, and the whole collaborationis supported by a technical development and design team working for Future,Media and Technology, and based in Broadcast Centre, also in West London.Online supplies an around-the-clock news service for the web - there is awebsite for UK-based readers, and an advertising-supported version forinternational readers – and for Ceefax, digital TV, e-mail, RSS feeds, mobilephones and PDAs. Syndication services deliver headlines and other content tothird-party sites.Online works very closely with BBC Sport and BBC News Programmes too, aswell as the TV, newsgathering and radio teams it sits alongside.The principal online teams are UK core, World core and a features and specialsteam, which is based on the 7th floor of TV Centre and includes feature writers, webgraphics specialists and a dedicated picture desk.Online uses a bespoke piece of software called the Content Production System(CPS) to publish stories across all the text platforms. The CPS is also used tomanage and publish audio and video on web pages. Journalists need to master anumber of software programs and be receptive to learning new ones.The team has pioneered new techniques and platforms. Journalists require thebasic skills to work in print or broadcasting but must also be ready to learn newways of telling the story with, for example, graphics or photo journals. The way wedeliver news is constantly evolving.Your line manager will be able to answer any questions you have about the variousteams, platforms and training.
(4): THE TEAMSUK CoreThe UK team is a 24/7 operation based in the heart of the multimedia newsroom onthe 1st floor of TV Centre. It produces major stories of pan-UK interest and in-depthsidebars on domestic issues. It can produce quick takes of breaking news,correspondent-led colour and analysis, and original features. The UK-facing frontpage and UK index are run from here. The team consists daily of a front pageassistant editor, a duty editor leading a small team of BJs, an index manager and asubbing desk.The UK team is also the home of the Ceefax analogue TV text service and newerdigital text services. Both are run and monitored from here by the index manager.The UK team is also increasingly involved in mobile platforms as these developrapidly. Because many of the specialist clusters are not staffed 24 hours, UK corejournalists write and edit material across the website for much of the week.Complaints from readers are also monitored and quickly addressed by the team,giving us a very close and instant relationship with our audience.World CoreThe World team is UK’s sister service – running the international version of the site24 hours a day. It also responds to breaking news, and will commission analysisand colour using the best of the BBC resources. The team has small specialistdesks for each of the world’s regions – all working closely with their newsgathering,World Service and World TV colleagues.The team consists daily of a front page assistant editor, a duty editor leading asmall team of BJs, and a sub. The world team is situated on the 2nd floor of themultimedia newsroom.Features and SpecialsRoom 7540, on the 7th floor of TV Centre, is home to a new hub for “added-value”web teams.The UK and World features desk has a broad remit, tackling both daily andlong-term projects. Its writers may be asked to produce sidebars to accompanymajor news stories but they also work on more time-consuming articles whichprovide context on an issue, or help broaden our agenda. Its members areexpected to produce high-quality, original journalism and to provide guidance for
others in this respect.The UK features team is often called Magazine, after the features index it runs. Italso supplies features to be promoted around the site, and runs a light-heartedblog called the Magazine Monitor. The world features team is particularly focusedon planning coverage of special events, or long-running news stories. This meansworking closely with other parts of the BBC. The features teams are always happyto receive ideas.The specials team is made up of journalists, designers and web producers whowork together to expand and enhance our original journalism.It has several roles: • Producing information graphics to visually explain our stories. These include events (how a building under siege was stormed), processes (a medical procedure), objects (spacecraft), or concepts (the business model of a company). • Producing other types of added value content including background and explanatory guides, and data-led journalism. • Developing new formats. These have included photo journals, audio slideshows, ways of displaying data and dynamic maps. • Working on special in-depth reports. The team works with other desks to produce special indexes for major stories such as elections, wars, natural disasters or series focusing on a specific topic.From time-to-time core journalists are attached to the specials team to exploittheir specialist knowledge and increase their range of skills.Also part of this hub are two other desks. The picture desk is a centre of excellencefor images on the site and can help with any technical or copyright query. Itproduces some of our best galleries, go out to cover stories, and run the In Picturesindex.The Blogs team is a new unit dedicated to updating and promoting our range ofcorrespondent and specialist blogs. Some of our best analysis material, andstrongest user feedback, is to be found here.Specialist teamsNewsgathering organises the central pool of journalistic resource for BBC News. It
runs teams for specialist areas, such as politics, business, health andentertainments news, and within these there are online journalists running thecorresponding indexes of the News website. These teams are editoriallyaccountable to the Online desks, but are also tightly integrated with theirnewsgathering colleagues.Newsgathering is also the central point of contact for anyone seeking tocommission anything from a correspondent for the website, and needs to beinformed about all deployments for operational, health and safety reasons.Audio and Video On DemandThe Media On Demand team is responsible for commissioning and creating videoand audio material for the website and other on demand platforms. It also takesthe best radio and television material from BBC News and makes it available tothe audience via a range of devices, from the PC to mobile phones and interactiveTV.As the audience appetite grows for watching and listening to BBC News viameans other than TV and radio, its role is changing. On Demand iscommissioning audio and video material that is more suited to an online audienceand this, in turn, is informing the newsgathering process.The website now uses Flash technology to embed video and audio into webpages rather then relying on a pop-up player. This approach has increased theprominence of audio and video and ensured that BBC News website pages makethe best use of the storytelling devices available.Have Your Say and the UGC hubWe have a duty to seek out all shades of opinion, and contact with our readers isa vital part of the feedback process.The interactivity section (known as Have Your Say and part of the Mediawireteam) husbands all the content from our audience and seeks to promote thisvaluable resource across the BBC.The team looks after the daily debates on both the UK site and the Internationalsite, including moderating controversial topics and eliminating offensivecomments.Have Your Say encourages further dialogue with our readers by putting e-mailforms on stories, making it easier for them to send in their comments.
The team also gathers, collates and distributes BBC News’s readercontributions, known as User Generated Content, or UGC. This material hasbecome an absolutely integral part of our site over recent years and provides inparticular some of our best eyewitness and case study material.Readers send huge amounts of text, images and video from breaking newsevents, though the team takes care to verify the validity of content from readersbefore publication.Have Your Say is also seeking to engage with our audience in different ways -using their blogs, social networking sites and videos to provide a differentperspective on events.The team will be based, from October 2008, in the heart of the multimedianewsroom, and is available 24 hours a day.ProgrammesThe interactive programmes team supports a number of major BBC Newsprogrammes. These include Question Time and Panorama.It is responsible for producing, building and maintaining programme websites,working closely with the programme production team and designers.Staff also identify upcoming programmes with news interest and commission textand video pieces written by the programme makers for the main News website.Nations and RegionsJournalists based in the BBCs 11 English regional centres and three nationaloffices produce content for the BBC News website and Ceefax. They use theCPS to publish stories on a variety of indexes which dovetail with the coreoperation in London.The regional output for the web and Ceefax is co-ordinated from Birminghamand the nations teams are based in Belfast, Cardiff and Glasgow.The division of duties and how best to cover stories which span the UK arediscussed at SBJ level, but for UK stories you should check before starting a storythat it is not already being covered by one of these teams.
SportThe interactive team in BBC Sport produces the BBC Sport website. We oftenwork closely with them on sports news stories, and their material is prominent onour front pages. We were once part of the same team and we still share ourtechnical and production technology.They are largely based on the 5th floor of Television Centre, along with theTV/radio production teams who look after BBC Sports live coverage and otherprogrammes.Some of the team also works directly alongside the rest of the TV/radio sportsnews operation in the main newsroom, with the aim of making sure coverage of thebig stories is joined up and material shared effectively.AdminThe admin team can offer advice and assistance to Online staff on all non-editorialissues. They will be able to help with matters ranging from contract or recruitmentqueries, training requirements or simply how to find your way around TelevisionCentre.They are based in room 7540 Television Centre and can be contacted on 58096,69819 or 61550.
(5): OUR AUDIENCEThe potential audience for anything you write or produce is huge. Total pageimpressions on the BBC News website have grown substantially each yearsince launch – it is currently growing at more than 20% annually. It is the mostvisited news site in the world outside the US, and we are continually looking atways of increasing the number of people we reach, particularly in the UK.An average day sees more than six million readers come to the site, with a record20 million people estimated to have visited during the July 7 attacks in 2005. Overthe course of a week more than 17 million people visit us at least once. About halfare from the UK, and the rest are worldwide. The US is our second-biggest market.A major breaking story can hit two or three million page views, and even the mostspecialised sidebar or feature can reach half a million page views if it’s writtenaccessibly and promoted intelligently.Text on TV also attracts a large number of users. It is estimated that the BBCreaches 18 to 20 million people on a weekly basis across Ceefax and our textservices on all three main versions of digital TV: Dsat - Digital satellite (Sky),Dcable - Digital cable (Virgin Media), DTT - Digital Terrestrial Television(Freeview).The mobile version of the website attracts more than half a million people per week,and a similar number receive email news updates.The internet populationHundreds of millions of people across the world now have access to the internetand the numbers are growing all the time. The speed of their connections is alsoimproving with broadband and wi-fi developments. Around 30 million people in theUK have access to the internet – almost all of them on fast broadband connections.Who is using the website?The BBC News website retains a traditional internet audience profile – most likelyyoung, professional and male, but many developments on the site are aimed atbroadening the audience base. Within the BBC, only Radio 1 and Newsround haveyounger audience profiles for news than Online.
Popular web pagesOn a typical day, the most viewed pages are the UK front page and theInternational front page. UK news and World news are the two busiest areas,followed by the Business and Entertainment sections.Website statistics are available in real-time on a dedicated page. Studying thesewill give you a picture of our reader profile. It also shows that our peak time fortraffic on a weekday is between Midday and 2pm, coinciding with the lunch-breakof millions of UK workers, and the start of the day for readers on the East coast ofthe US.
(6): CPS OVERVIEWWeb pages are constructed in Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML). It lookslike this:<td><b><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/"class="tbwl"><fontsize="1">News</font></a></b></td>A lot of complex code is needed to generate one page so it is impractical forjournalists who need to make regular changes and publish quickly. For a rollingnews service we need a simpler system of publishing.The Content Production System (CPS) allows journalists to concentrate onwriting their stories, add media and links, and order the pages without using muchHTML. This code is automatically added after the necessary templates havebeen filled in and published. The CPS is also used to write and deliver content toCeefax, digital text and other platforms such as mobile phones and personaldigital assistants (PDAs), and to publish video content.The CPS is constantly evolving to meet new requirements.Site structure and CPSThe website has two distinct front pages - the International Facing Site(sometimes referred to as the world edition) and the UK Facing Site (or the UKedition).The majority of the content is the same but the split editions enable us toshowcase different stories. The UKFS front page will contain the news agendafor a domestic audience but will contain international stories. The execution ofSaddam Hussein was the UKFS splash story just as it was on domestic TV andradio bulletins.The IFS runs a global news agenda for an international audience - it maycontain UK-based stories but they have to compete with the best stories fromacross the world. A good UK angle on the Iraq war would sit in IFS because itwas a key partner in the invasion.The strategy is very similar to a newspaper with change pages for differentregions. In addition to the front pages, some sections such as Business andEntertainment also have IFS and UKFS indexes.
News and sport were once integrated and, although sport is now run as aseparate department, sport journalists use CPS to publish web pages on the BBCSport website. The systems are seamless and stories can be shared betweendepartments. In addition, some World Service foreign language sites use theCPS to produce their web content.CeefaxThe CPS story template enables content to be published on the website andCeefax. Ceefax stories are always four paragraphs long on one screen andconsist of 16 lines - 13 of text and three line spaces between paragraphs. Thereare no five-line sentences, no one-liners and no widows (a word on its own on aline). The template displays these top lines of text exactly as they render on theTV screen. It is vital that you adhere to this format.The top four paragraphs are delivered to Ceefax and form the top of the web story.The design of CPS allows us to write a single story for the web, Ceefax and otherplatforms. You will often hear people refer to this multi-platform authoring (MPA).The software also allows us to manage Ceefax indexes from within the CPS - justas we control web indexes. Page 101 and the 150 flash are exceptions to this andare hand-crafted on Plasma software.CPS functionsThe CPS contains story templates and index builders.Search facilityEvery story constructed in the CPS template has its own unique identifyingnumber. Stories can be found and worked on using these numbers or by doing asimple word search. Some features such as clickable maps are constructed byother means and, although still an integral part of the site, do not have ID numbersand cannot be altered via the CPS story template. The CPS search tool allowsjournalists to find pictures, audio and video as well as individual stories.Story templateThis is the building block of the website and Ceefax. It allows the journalist towrite the story, add media and links, and control its publication. Story templatesvary with function so it is important that you choose the right one.Index builderThis controls the running order of stories in any section. Each web page is split into
cells that we call slots. The properties of each slot can be varied to change the waythe index looks and the content it displaysIndex managementEven though you may not be an index manager it is important you appreciate thatyour efforts in the story template have a direct bearing on the design of the webindexes.It is especially important that you write a tight summary (to sell the story in fourconcise lines), add good index links, and that you provide both sizes of indexpictures in good quality. Failure to do this will slow up the production time, lookawful and may even break the index template.When adding an index picture make sure it is not the same one that has beenused on another related story. Monitor the output to avoid clashing headlines.Updating storiesWe offer a swift, rolling news service so it is imperative to have a system thatallows constant change. But it is also important that we preserve the integrity of theonline archive and avoid overwriting key events. To enable us to do both we haveseveral different ways of updating live stories.Each story goes through a common evolution:Not ready - story is being written · Check - story is written and is ready for thesub-editing process · Live - story is signed off and ready for the web andCeefax · Archived - the story has been taken off all the live indexes and will not beupdated again. It is still available on the web via the search facility.There are two other publication states for a story:Second check - used to hold stories back. For example it has beenwritten and edited but is embargoed or waiting for a legalcheck · Removed - the story is no longer available to the public but canbe found in our database .The public should only ever be able to find one live or one archivedversion of a particular story. As a general rule we begin a fresh story whenthere is a significant shift in angle, archiving the old story in the process.
For small alterations such as the correction of a typing error, change to acaption or updating figures we can republish the story very quickly, entirelyreplacing the original. Often, we need a third alternative which is to makesubstantial changes to a running story where the top line is unchanged.The template also allows us to update Ceefax text as often as we require. Moststories are begun by selecting “New Story”, but if you are editing an existing one,you’ll come across these options.Minor change - Choosing this option after making a change to a live storyrepublishes the story straight away. The original is lost, the identity numberremains the same and the time stamp is unchanged. This is only to be used forminor alteration, ie typos or rewording. For more substantial changes affecting themeaning of a piece or introducing a significant update, a news update should beused.News update - If the journalist chooses this button and saves it as “check” beforemaking a change, a temporary copy is created and it is this which is updated. Theoriginal story remains live on the site. When the new version is subbed andpublished it has a different identity number and a new publication time.The original story goes into removed status. The public can no longer find thisstory on the web – though it can be found in the CPS database. Journalistsoccasionally need to refer to a removed story to retrieve a quote or check whatwas published in an earlier version.Importantly, the CPS recognises that any story updated in this way is still part ofthe same “family” as the original. All these updates can be found again via any ofthe individual numbers. A crude analogy would be to think of the original story to bean ancestor and all the updates as the children - they have individual identities butthe same family name.Major rewriteThis is used to update a story with a new angle. The original is archived andthe new version has a new time stamp, fresh identity number and, crucially, thefamily is changed. In this instance the original story is replaced across allindices where it appeared.CloningA quick way to start a brand new story with a fresh angle is to clone an existingstory. This creates an exact replica but starts a fresh family. This is a useful featurebecause it allows existing background material, media and links to be retained.However, there are inherent dangers. You MUST make sure all parts of the storyand media are still relevant, accurate and contemporaneous. If you clone a story,you are responsible for the whole item and not just your fresh material. It isespecially important to refresh the top picture otherwise any reader following thelinks will repeatedly see the same image through the archive.
(7): BEST PRACTICEAccuracyBe pro-active. If you are not certain of a fact, then get on the phone and check, andif you are still in doubt - leave it out. There are plenty of experts within thedepartment and the wider BBC. Make a point of finding out who they are.All headlines, summaries and copy must be spell-checked and sub-edited by asecond person before going live.NEVER publish anything that you do not understand, that is speculation orinadequately sourced.ImpartialityThe BBCs reputation is built on authority and impartiality. But for the BBC,impartiality is also a legal requirement. BBC journalists must be open-minded,independent and fair. The views of the writer must not influence the story and anyopinion should be clearly labelled as such (eg. quotes and correspondentscomments). Where possible we should aim to balance the story by seeking out avariety of views.Avoid loaded language and colourful adjectives. eg. The governments loftyideals. The insertion of the word lofty suggests that these targets were notachievable.If your story includes a critical comment or accusation you MUST make aconcerted effort to give the opportunity for reply.SpeedWe must be fast. Breaking news stories must be published immediately asone-liners on Ceefax and on the website ticker. A story of four paragraphs shouldbe up in five minutes and a fuller version within 20. Speed is very important butmust not compromise accuracy.IdeasYou are encouraged to bring story ideas to the editorial meetings - original
journalism is a major strength of the department. Please think about the way wetreat a story too. It could be a factfile, Q&A, have-your-say debate, video package,infographic, an animation or clickable map. Nurture a specialism or geographicalexpertise which helps give us an edge on the competition.RecordsYou must take an accurate short-hand or long-hand note of any interview. This isespecially important with contentious issues where facts or comments may bedisputed. Many journalists from a print background use short-hand already butrefresher courses are available. Your notebooks must be kept. Alternatively, youcan record your conversations either in one of the studios or at your desk usingequipment provided. Guidance on using recording equipment can be given.OwnershipWriting or updating a story means taking responsibility for the whole thing. It isnever adequate to say of part of a story that you "inherited it". If material you addmakes down-page material irrelevant, remove it. Check that captions, video, andquoteboxes are still valid and contemporaneous. Do not be tempted to leave thesub-editor to do the cleaning up - you must be happy that your story is ready to bepublished when it leaves your hands.Watch the oppositionOur material is published across a range of platforms and we have competition onevery one. Newcomers tend to monitor the opposition in their own field -broadcasters keep an eye on Sky and ITV and press journalists read the onlinenewspapers. Become familiar with all of them. Our competitors range from TheGuardian to al-Jazeera TV. Observe the way these organisations treat a storyand the techniques they use to tell it.
(8): WRITING FOR THE WEBYour copy has a potential audience of millions across a range of platforms. It isvital that the headline and first four paragraphs of a news story serve all thesereaders by telling the story accurately and impartially. Writing text quickly and atlength is an acquired skill.HeadlinesHeadlines must tell the story.They also need to stand alone, avoid jargon or being too cryptic, and fit our pages.Headlines are a key element on all platforms. We know from research thataudiences skim through content and a good headline makes the differencebetween them reading the story or moving on.Headlines should come from the intro on the story. As a general rule, the intro willbe the first angle that grabs your attention. Keep it simple.Our headlines are extracted and sent to other outlets, sometimes standing alonewithout a summary. Cryptic headlines which look fine accompanied by a summarymay make no sense in isolation. Make them clever and enticing but also make surethey are intelligible when they stand alone.The headline on news stories must be between 31 and 33 characters to serve allplatforms. It should not include contractions, long words, double speech marks, orexclamation marks.Do not use the same form of words for the headline and the intro - it will jar with thereader. An active headline is better than the passive one.Four-paragraph ruleIt has always been our policy to make the top four paragraphs self-containedbecause this is the material made available to other platforms. Each story iswritten once for all platforms, so it is crucial this short-form text can stand alone.Ceefax pages are only four paragraphs long so they must tell the whole story.Writing short-form text is a particular skill and can pose challenges even forseasoned journalists. With a limit of about 75 words you will have to focus onthe most important information.
A guide to what must be included is encapsulated in the five Ws - Who, What,When, Where, Why.When you have written the story ask yourself this: Does it contain the keyinformation? Is it fair, balanced and accurate? Have we properly attributed claimsand allegations? Do these four paragraphs adequately tell the story to someonereading this for the first time?This applies particularly to running stories when there is a danger of assumingthat the reader knows all the facts.It is often useful to summarise the background in the last of the four paragraphs. Ifyou do not understand a story, neither will your readers.Avoid unnecessary geography or clauses in your intros. For example, whenwriting a UK story:A 22-year-old Redditch man, who runs his own ferret breeding business, has set arecord …Does it really matter that he comes from Redditch? If not, include this furtherdown the story. It slows down the intro and introduces a secondary thought forthe reader.Of course, the reverse is true when writing an international story wheregeography may be a vital element.Tedious attribution should also be simplified:Britains cowboy builders need to be reined in, says the National Federationof Small Builders, Plumbers and Bricklayers…says a watchdog body would be a better option in the intro but it is stillnecessary to give the attribution later in the four pars.We never start a story with It has been suggested that… or The BBC has learnedthat…Turn it round: The man at the centre of the MI5 mole-hunt scandal has beennamed as Boris Bregovic, the BBC has learned.Never put crossheads or HTML tags in the top four paragraphs as these willappear on the screens of other platforms. You can use a quote but it must beself-contained. Do not leave the key quote until the fifth paragraph - a largeproportion of your audience will never see it.
Summaries and IntrosSummaries should always be a single sentence, in the present tense and set outthe most important facts of the story. They should tell the story in a wider senseand perhaps even stretch to hinting at other elements further down. It has toappear timeless and, in keeping with our remit, leave the impression of news onthe move.Remember that the reader may never read your summary if it is not in the topthree of an index or if they are reading your copy on Ceefax or another platform.The link between headline and intro must therefore be seamless. The BBC WorldNews channel takes our summaries so they have to be self-contained.Here is an acceptable example:New Zealand jails Israeli spiesNew Zealand imposes diplomatic sanctions on Israel after jailing two allegedintelligence agents.Intros should be more specific and focused on the main angle of the story. Onradio and TV, you sometimes have to lead listeners or viewers gently into a story.On the web, you need to get into the story immediately. Try to keep to a presentor perfect tense.Do not start a story with:The government has announced…Focus instead on what is being proposed and why it matters:New taxes will make the rich richer and the poor poorer, according to a newgovernment study.The point of the story must come first.CaptionsA picture can tell many different stories depending upon its context. Two worldleaders shaking hands could indicate that they have agreed a peace treaty or itmight be that they are just smiling for the cameras. The job of the journalist ascaption writer is to put the picture in context.Please remember, captions should be engaging, not state the obvious, and be a
maximum of two lines.Quotation marks should be used as appropriate:Sir Paul McCartney: "The records keep selling"But when summarising a mood or the gist of a statement, keep it simple.Bush and Blair: Tough talking aheadFollow the visual grammar of the picture. eg. if it is Owen (left) and Beckham (right)in the picture, do not sayBeckham and Owen…Ideally captions should be two lines on a story picture. Avoid leaving a widow(one word on its own on a line).Alt tagsThe alt tag is designed to be a label. It should simply describe the content of thepicture.Stories will not publish unless the alt tag is added.Story lengthOn our website we have the capacity to write at length and sometimes we publishthe full texts of important statements or lengthy features. But these are exceptions.Reading onscreen is more difficult than on paper so we have self-imposed wordlimits.Major story: Likely to be lead stories - 600 words, several pictures, additionalgraphics. It will probably generate various sidebars such as case studies andQ&As etc. Only in exceptional circumstances will we consider breaking this wordlimit.Good story: Likely number two or three on the index - 400 words, at least twopictures, graphics on merit. Sidebars may also be added.Moderate story: About 200-300 words - one picture.For the record: About 80-100 words - one picture, or no picture.
Before you embark on a new story or rewrite an old one, consider how manyangles you are going to cover. Decide whether any of them would be bettertreated in full in a separate story, perhaps as a text statement, profile, orbackgrounder. Keep in mind, however, that all the key elements must be in themain story.Supplementary information is useful but many readers do not want to have toclick through two or three stories to get all the information. Be disciplined aboutyour writing. When you have finished your text, go over it with a dispassionateeye and cut out the superfluous.Web styleAs well as a concise writing style we employ other techniques to make storieseasier to read on a web browser.Although our website has a broadsheet agenda our lay-out is more like atabloid newspaper. One idea merits one sentence in one paragraph.We also try to break up the text with other devices:Pictures: They can be worth a thousand words so use them to help tell the story.Locator maps: Serve as a quick reference and can aid story telling. Manyhave been done and are in our graphics archive. We have Curious Mapssoftware to make new ones.Crossheads: Use them to flag up the next part of the story. Two or three shortwords will suffice but avoid using material from the following sentence.Bullet lists: These are easier to read than dense paragraphs of text. Usethem to summarise complicated points or different elements of the story.Factboxes: They work best as three or four snappy facts on one line each. Theyare particularly useful to detail chronologies and even better when used inconjunction with a picture or graphic.Quoteboxes: Work in a similar fashion to factboxes and are used to highlight aparticularly strong quotation. Keep the box above the actual quote and keep themshort. These also work well with pictures. Embedded links, also calledclick-throughs, can be added to these boxes and are particularly effective atdirecting traffic to extra sidebars.
AccessibilityAll our stories should be written in a clear and accessible manner - we are writingfor a general audience and a global one. We must not assume too muchknowledge and should include some context or explanation in the top fourparagraphs. The importance of the story - why we should care - needs to beflagged up early on, as should the impact on ordinary people. Spell it out everytime. If it is a big company merger, for example, what is the impact on jobs?Think about the whole site. There are a great many conflicts in the world to coverbut if your index picture is always a man with a gun then you reduce the impact ofthe pictures and deter some readers. Try to think of a different way of illustratingthe story.Similarly, if you are managing an index, aim to provide a variety of stories - hardnews, background, features, analysis, lighter topics and relevant sports stories.Try to develop a broad agenda. A majority of our audience tends to be made up ofyoung men but we are actively trying to widen our reach.
(9): LANGUAGEWe aim to use simple and unambiguous language that can be understood aroundthe world. Use words and grammar with precision and consistency and remainobjective.Favour short wordsHowever, a new facility has been established in the immediate area -following an investigation demonstrating that there are insufficient suppliesof comestibles.Becomes:But a new plant has been set up nearby after an inquiry showed therewas not enough food.Avoid colloquialisms such as mum, dad, tot, teen etc. Remember too that commonparlance in the UK may not be understood by people whose first language is notEnglish eg. Sticky wicket.Do not use tired words such as slams, blasts, nets etc.Write afreshAgencies and correspondents have their own styles. Read, understand andconsider what they have written and then use your own words. Your copy willsound fresher. NEVER cut and paste agency copy.Even if you are only rewriting the top of a story you must take responsibility for thewhole thing. Remove down-page material if it is irrelevant and check that you arenot repeating names and titles in the second mention.Check after publication to see whether the story will need another refreshwith new pictures or developments.Loaded languageAlways aim at neutrality. Avoid phrases such as "forced to" if it is a voluntarydecision.
Avoid using the word claim when you mean said. Claim suggests an element ofdoubt where none exists.Likewise, avoid "good news" and "bad news". A cut in interest rates may be goodfor homeowners with a mortgage but not so good for savers. Just say whathappened and let the readers decide whether it is good news or not.Sometimes you will need to distance yourself from a sentiment being expressedeg.Crippling new fishing quotas are being criticised by fishermen who couldlose their livelihoods.The fishermen see this as damaging but environmentalists may believe it isthe right move.Any information which is not beyond dispute must be clearly and immediatelysourced.The words execute and murder can pose problems. Execute suggests a judicialprocess and murder is a legal term which refers to intent. These words are notbanned but care must be taken with their context. The word killed is oftenpreferable.Use “declined to comment” rather than “refused”. In most instances people are notobliged to comment or give an interview.ClichésLazy phrases include: broad daylight, level playing field, rushed to hospital,cheated death.ConsistencyInconsistency is a serious threat to our credibility. Check your copy thoroughly tomake sure you do not contradict yourself, that all your information iscontemporaneous and the facts and figures are correct all the way through.This also applies to summaries, picture captions, crossheads, factboxes andquoteboxes. It is also worth checking that your story matches the captions onmedia - such as video packages.It is easy to get caught out with the way organisations are rendered eg. Indiaslong-range missile - Agni-2 or Agni II. Find out what the style is and stick to it.
JargonAvoid using language specific to organisations - this is a particular risk on thespecialist desks where journalists are close to their subject.For example, the police often use stilted language such as a "road traffic accidenthas occurred in the vicinity". Management jargon is also particularly ugly - thinkingoutside the box, downsizing etc. Be wary of medical expressions.JournaleseWe are striving to use short words where we can. This is especially important aswe are writing text for other platforms with tight counts. Short words give moreflexibility with headlines but it is easy to slip into clichés. Many tabloid terms suchas slam and slate are barred. Be careful in your use of words - only use bid when itrefers to a cash offer.TautologySome of the culprits are: mass exodus, advance warning and completeelimination.QuotesQuotations are indispensable but easy to misuse. A good quote can capture theessence of a story, and be worth pulling out as a headline or quotebox. But usingtoo many can disrupt the flow of the story and make it too long. Paraphrasing canbe quicker and neater.When quoting: · Choose the crucial one-liner where possible · Remove conversational devices such as: "What I want to say is… · Discard anything that does not make sense · Avoid repetition. eg. The prime minister will permit a Euro referendum. "There will be a referendum on the European constitution," he said. · Omit or paraphrase sections which highlight poor grammar or linguistic incompetence
Typing errorsSpelling and typing errors make our stories look sloppy, undermine our credibilityand generate more complaints than anything else. Such errors are hard to spot inyour own copy so use the spell checker in CPS or Word. They do not catcheverything, such as place names, so print out a preview and read it again. Yourcopy must be checked by another person before it is sent live.Geographical biasAvoid geographical bias. Regions are particularly sensitive to a London weighting.eg. We reported the opening of the Bluewater shopping centre in KENT and theBuchanan Galleries in SCOTLAND. Aim to be even-handed. Since devolution,not all legislation applies across the whole UK. Be aware that there may beexceptions for the devolved nations.Opinion pollsDetails of the long-standing BBC rules about opinion polls are contained in theEditorial Guidelines. For our purposes we do not put a poll story as the first item inany section - a possible exception might be an exit poll in a general election. Wealways report opinion polls as providing pointers rather than hard evidence. Theysuggest or indicate and do NOT prove or confirm.We always give the background to a poll - who commissioned it, who carried it out,the date and most importantly, the size of the sample. We should mention anymargin of error and any subsequent events which may have affected the poll eg.The poll was carried out before an important announcement .We report all the national polls of political support carried out by the bigorganisations - Gallup, ICM, Harris, Mori, NOP and YouGov. We do not rely on theinterpretation by the commissioning organisation.
(10): STYLEAn extensive style guide is available by letter search on the intranet.In general, our spellings follow first use from the Oxford English Dictionary and forplace names we rely on the Times atlas. We have made a conscious effort tominimise the use of capitals. There are exceptions so please check.Here are a few pointers to common queries:Acronyms and initialsYou can use abbreviations on first reference but only if there is no chanceof any misunderstanding eg. UN, BBC, Nato. Otherwise spell them out - theWorld Health Organization, WHO - or introduce a label eg. The publicsector union, Amicus.We use upper and lower case for acronyms which can be pronounced as a wordeg. Aids, Nasa, Fifa. Only use capitals where you would pronounce lettersindividually eg. FA, UNHCR.In titles and names with initials, do not use full stops after the initials or spacesbetween eg. WH Smith.Use lower case to abbreviate a phrase, eg. mph for miles per hour.AmericanismsBeware of these. Say meet (not meet with) and talk to (not talk with). We appealagainst a verdict (not appeal a verdict).Avoid noun to verb conversions like "to hospitalise", "to scapegoat" and "torubbish". Beware of words or phrases which have different meanings for US andUK audiences eg. suspenders, vest and slated.Avoid US style on time references. President Bush was in New York ONWednesday and not President Bush was in New York Wednesday.ApostrophesApostrophes are the source of much confusion. Generally we do not use
contractions except in direct quotes, so I am busy instead of Im busy.To indicate possession, the apostrophe comes before the S unless it is aplural which ends in the letter S.eg. The emperors new clothes unless there is more than one emperor in whichcase it would be the emperors new clothes.Be careful with the word “it”. Its means it is or it has. But the word its refers to thething belonging to it.eg. A setback for the company and its shareholders.There are style rules too. Leave out apostrophes before common abbreviationssuch as phone and plane. Use one when omitting a century. eg. the Braziliansquad of 08.CapitalsWe try to minimise the use of capital letters. Some titles are always cappedeg. the Queen, the Pope, but government job titles have caps only if aname is given.eg. The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, was given a hostile reception, BUTThere was a hostile reception for the home secretary.Opposition portfolios take lower case. eg. Shadow chancellor GeorgeOsborne. All governments are lower case eg. The Italian government.Use upper case for recognised regions eg. The Middle East. Otherwise it shouldbe lower case - south-west France, mid-Wales etc.With Latin names for plants and animals we follow scientific convention -capped first word and italicised. eg. Corvus corone, Rattus norvegicus.CommasTake care with the use of commas. Avoid using long sentences with lots ofsub-clauses requiring a mass of punctuation. This is best illustrated by example.The boy, who hated my sister, wasvery rude. The boy who hated mysister was very rude.
Essentially, the sentence means the same but the second example implies thatthere is more than one boy. Is this what was intended?A comma is generally used as a pause for breath but its presence can altermeaning.With the meteor approaching the scientific community felt obliged to set asurvival deadline.This is tricky to read without the comma.With the meteor approaching, the scientific community felt obliged to set asurvival deadline.It is now clear that the meteor is threatening the whole Earth.Company namesWe usually treat company names as though their punctuation were conventional(eg. "easyJet" is Easyjet). But there are specific exceptions (eg.PricewaterhouseCoopers, iMac, NatWest), and one general exception - we DOuse a lower case "e" at the start of a name, where it stands for "electronic" (eg.eBay).ContractionsWe do not use them except in direct quotes. Spell them out - cannot, do not, isnot etc. Occasionally, we relax this policy for eyewitness accounts andcorrespondents’ pieces.DigitsUse words for numbers below 10 and then figures unless it comes at the startof a sentence. There are more examples of use with money and scores in thestyle guide.EllipsesUse three dots and a space… like this…
Do not use a space first as it runs the risk of an awkward line break.Foreign namesIf you have any doubts, the foreign language services at Bush House shouldbe able to help.We do not use foreign appellations (Monsieur, Herr etc).When they occur in the middle of names, the Dutch van and the Italian di are lowercase if the whole name is used eg. Ruud van Nistelroy. They are capped if only thesurname is used eg. Van Nistelroy.In the case of Spanish names, the last of the three names is usually the mothersname which should not be used on its own. So Manuel Echeverria Valdezbecomes Mr Echeverria. BUT this does not apply to Brazilian or Portugese names.The family name in China comes first so Hu Jintao is Mr Hu at second reference.HyphensHyphens are often essential to convey the correct meaning. The headlinesMother-to-be assaulted and Mother to be assaulted are telling very different stories.The general rule is that words are hyphenated when they are used adjectively.eg. A little-used car is different to a little used car.Military titlesThere is an extensive section on this subject in the style guide but the generalrule is to cap up ranks with the name, otherwise leave them in lower case. Takecare to get these right as inaccurate titles ruin our credibility and cause offence.MoneyThere is no common policy for dealing with sums expressed in different currencies.Refer to the style guide for more help.There is, however, a ruling on first use and alternatives depending on whether yourstory is rooted in the UK, the eurozone or world eg. In the UK we use pound
sterling first with an alternative in dollars.Quote marksSingle: · In headlines and crossheads · In puffboxes · On the ticker · For quotes within quotes eg. The security statement said: "Al-Qaeda declared that we are facing the wrath of Osama bin Laden" in the tape recording.Double: · In direct quotations in text · First use of phrases such as "mad cow disease" · First reference to nick-names eg. Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff · In pictures and audio captionsSingulars and pluralsCompanies, governments and other bodies are singular - the exceptions are thepolice and sporting teams. Media is a plural (singular is medium). Otherexamples include bacteria, and criteria.Paratrooper is the singular of paratroops. Water cannon is the same insingular and plural.NB: There is an anomaly with sporting clubs when referred to as a businessconcern. eg. Arsenal has announced a big drop in profits. BUT Arsenal have wonthe championship.SpellingsStick to first use in the OED but use "…ise" rather than "…ize".Avoid US spellings like color, TV program etc. This also covers job titles, so it isAmerican Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The exceptions are place namesand official bodies eg. World Health Organization, Pearl Harbor, US Department ofDefense.
Always use the spell checker and get a second person to sub your copy. Poorspelling damages our reputation and is particularly embarrassing if we spell thenames of our own correspondents incorrectly. Always check.TensesWe use the present tense in summaries - it is fresher, more immediate and newsy.Tenses cause problems in reported speech. Imagine the prime minister says: "Iam resigning." If you begin with the present tense (The prime minister says…)or what is sometimes called the perfect tense (The prime minister has said…)then you can leave his tense as it is. Both of these are correct:The prime minister says he is resigning.The prime minister has said he is resigning.But if you use the past tense (He said) then you have to go back one tensefrom that used in the original.The prime minister said he was resigningThe definite articleFor space reasons we should avoid using the definite article with a title. eg.Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.The definite article is used with groups if it is part of their official title eg. TheBeatles but the Stereophonics.Date and timePut the day before the month and avoid suffixes eg. 12 April 2008. Exceptions areholidays and historic dates eg. The Fourth of July and 9/11. If you are adding a dayof the week the style is:Saturday, 12 AprilSaturday, 12 April 2008
Our readers live across all time zones so words like yesterday, today andtomorrow are confusing. Do not use them. Refer to days by name.Use the 24-hour clock in all circumstances, labelled GMT or BST. For world storiesput local time first followed by a conversion.eg. The prime minister will arrive in Washington at 1100 local time (1600 BST).Decades are written 1960s, 1970s etc. You only need an apostrophewhen you abbreviate eg. The sound of the 60s.Individual centuries take a cap eg. the 21st Century but lower case in all otherinstances. eg. Scientists expect a cure by the end of the century.TrademarksAvoid using company names when you need a generic word. Among thosecommonly confused are: Hoover, Portakabin, Kleenex and Biro.
(11): BREAKING NEWSWe pride ourselves on publishing breaking news stories fast on all platforms.Every journalist likes to beat the opposition but we must be certain that the storyis accurate. Be sure to follow the sourcing guidelines covered elsewhere in thisbooklet.For a basic text story this is how we would deal with a breaking news event:TickerPublish one sentence plus the words: More soon. The item may need to be onboth the UKFS and IFS tickers. Assign someone to write the first take.AlertsIf the story warrants it, send out a breaking news e-mail, SMS and desktop alert.First takeYou should aim to finish this within five minutes - either as an update of anexisting live story, clone of an older story or clone of the breaking news templatewhich has the ID number 1234567. The latter contains the breaking newsgraphics. The breaking news branded promo to promote our alert services fromwithin the story is 3662897.Once the first take – which can be as little as one paragraph - has beenchecked the story should be published to both Ceefax and the website, andplaced in the relevant indexes.If the story is delayed in reaching either platform call technical support of57957. If there are serious technical problems you may need to use theemergency production system for the website and revert to using Plasma topublish to Ceefax.Second and subsequent takesThere is enormous competition in reporting breaking news, and just because afirst take has been published it does not mean we can slacken the pace.Additional paragraphs need to be published as soon as they are ready in order tobuild up a fuller story as quickly as possible.
Over-the-shoulder subbing can help speed up this process. Aim to reach 10paragraphs within 15 minutes. This is a good point to start dividing the work if it isa big story. Other journalists can be assigned to making phone calls, watchingother outlets for quotes to feed to the writer or cutting pictures.Next stepsDo you need a map? These can be made using Curious software or there may bean existing one you can re-use in the graphics folderDo you need to send someone to the scene? Liaise with Newsgathering andmake sure the journalist has the relevant safety training. The journalist should notforget to take a digital camera and make arrangements to file copy.Do you need to change other front page content? Some content, especiallypromos, may be inappropriate or legally unsafe. For example, if a notablepolitician dies then the backgrounder explaining medical options for survivalsuddenly becomes irrelevant and insensitive.Do you need to stream a TV feed? The Video On Demand team can organisethis and provide the icon link to place underneath the summary of the top story.Do you need to put a UGC form on the story? These can lead to fruitfuleyewitness accounts and pictures.Ticker: Watch for fresh lines for the ticker which add to the published material.Once the main story is live, take the original ticker item down to avoid duplication.Links: Initially you can add existing backgrounders such as profiles. Archivedstories can be adjusted to bring them up to date - you will have to make them liveagain to accomplish this and bring the time stamp up to date. If the breaking newsis a notable death, check the obituary list on the intranet. Do not forget externalsites - they may have more background and practical information.CommunicationIs the story an exclusive? If so tell the news organiser and flash copy throughENPS. There are full instructions on the intranet.SidebarsThere is a vast range of material in the archive and a number of ideas to pursue to
add to a breaking news story. Here are some of the things you should consider.Have Your Say: A flavour of good early responses can be woven into the mainstory but ideally you will want to link to a separate debate as soon as possible –the Have Your Say team will provide this. They will also look for eyewitnessaccounts from readers. User-generated content is a major part of our output nowand some of our best material arrives this way.Analysis: Do not forget to add a couple of paragraphs of analysis/context to themain story. These can be taken from BBC correspondents’ copy or broadcastmaterial. For a self-contained sidebar, you can commission from newsgathering abespoke piece of analysis or colour from a correspondent. Alternatively, we willoften write our own background or analysis in-house based on the sourcesavailable.Pictures: Picture galleries are well received by readers especially if they aredramatic. Four or five pictures in a gallery will suffice in the first instance. You cangrab pictures from BBC News video using Jupiter.Full transcripts: A major speech or statement looks good as a stand-alonepage. This works well with major policy changes or resignations.Spin-off angles: Pursue fresh angles in a separate page.Reaction: Try publishing a page of quotes from the key personnel or the firsteyewitness accounts - even if they are short.Q&A: These are quick to make and quick to read. They are especially useful atteasing out some of the key issues when correspondents are too busy to write afull analysis.Profiles and backgrounders: But remember that a great many already existin our own archive.Finally …Once you have built up the content, display the stories to their best advantage. Youmight switch to a splash-layout front page. You might collect all the sidebarstogether on the top right-hand side of an index under a new strapline. You maywant to showcase the best material in a puffbox scheduler. Build a hyperpuff to addto all relevant stories and use click-through to flag up key backgrounders fromfactboxes.
(12): SOURCESYou’ll be using a wide variety of news sources, including BBC material andcorrespondents, international agencies, websites, blogs and interviews withprominent figures and readers. The use of agencies, especially on breaking news,requires great care. A report from a single agency can only be used with great careand with clear attribution. A summary of the guidelines follows here.InternationalTypically, the sources would be the main wire services, news copy from a BBCcorrespondent or stringer, or, in some circumstances, a write-up of a radio ortelevision report supplied by the BBCs monitoring service at Caversham.BBC correspondents are taken to be reliable as a single source. The same can besaid of an AP report on a White House statement.Editors should acquire the expertise to make more sophisticated judgements.These might be based on the knowledge that a particular Reuters correspondent isalso the trusted BBC stringer, or conversely on a warning from a BBCcorrespondent about the unreliability of a local wire reporter. It is worth consultingthe relevant regional desk, which is likely to have this kind of detailed knowledge.For breaking news, a single source may be enough so long as there is clearattribution - a word like "reportedly" does NOT do the job - and the story makesclear there is no confirmation.Some official and semi-official sources like the Chinese Xinhua and TurkishAnatolia news agencies carry quite a high credibility rating, others less so. When indoubt, refer up.It is also important to consider whether a source has a specific agenda or reason tobe partial. When there is, that should be taken into account and made clear. Aphrase like "...which normally reflects the official view" may be helpful. And it isworth spelling out that there is no independent confirmation.In some circumstances, such as natural disasters or bomb explosions, the picturewill be partial, or confused. This need not be a problem so long as weacknowledge the fact and attribute carefully. We should be clear about what wedo not know as well as what we do. By all means say "details are sketchy" - suchphrases can add to the drama of a breaking news story, as well as honestlyreflecting the limits of our knowledge.
If there is any doubt about whether the BBC is going with a story, the World NewsOrgs on the second floor are a good point of contact. They will be close tocorrespondents trying to stand up the story.Particular care needs to be taken with other websites. During the conflict in Iraq,Arabic websites published accounts and video clips which were sourced to militantgroups. It can be very difficult, if not impossible, to check these original sources, sowe must make an attribution.Do NOT copy and paste news agency material.UKAgain, most of the time we proceed with stories that have been confirmed usingBBC material or our own checks. We can also proceed with a news story on thebasis of facts from the Press Association (PA) only.With breaking UK political news or Northern Ireland stories we should takeguidance from the politics team at Millbank or the Belfast office. A story which PAattributes to "sources" and not to a clearly identified organisation or individual, andwhich is not supported by quotes, also needs to be treated with caution.PA (and other agencies) often give numbers for people attending controversialevents or rallies. When these are challenged, as they sometimes are by ourreaders, it is very difficult for us to stand by figures like this because we were notpresent. We should avoid using agency estimates of crowds and in general weshould only attribute such numbers to the police and the organisers. We shoulduse both where we can.eg. "The Stop the War Coalition say 15,000 people attended the rally in TrafalgarSquare, while police say they believe the number taking part was about 7,000."With any queries, the UK news organiser can be called to get a sense of how therest of the BBC is treating a story. It is also important to make clear that agencycopy CANNOT be copied – so you must not cut and paste.Sourcing picturesSourcing of pictures is just as important as sourcing of text. We must be sure of theorigins and authenticity of our pictures and be aware that attempts are made todupe us.
Pictures can be hard to verify, so the risk of being misled is greater.When the source of a picture is unclear, it should be treated with caution. If indoubt, do not use it - and refer up. There may be occasions when we will want touse a picture of doubtful origin, in which case we should be careful to use aphrase such as "The picture broadcast by …apparently showing".Most of our pictures are taken from PA, AP, Getty and AFP wire services. Whereappropriate these should routinely carry an identification tag (except on indexes).When we use other pictures - screen grabs for instance - their source should beidentified in the alt tag. When it is an archive picture, this should also be made clearand great care should be taken with the caption.Pictures should not be lifted from other web sites or social networking siteswithout permission.Pictures sent in by readers are normally verified by the Have Your Say team.
(13): PICTURESQuality is crucial. Our readers expect to see the best pictures on our site. A goodquality front page index picture will influence the way the whole site is perceived.Never think of pictures as an afterthought. Choose the best pictures which showsomething happening, are relevant, are well lit and communicate an element of thestory.Then crop them intelligently to fit the size required and maximise their impact. Mostof our pictures are very small, so crop tight. The 66 picture is particularly small somust be clear. If it does not add to the story crop it out.Crop imaginatively and do not always place the main subject centrally - use therule of thirds to place the main subject of a picture off centre.To do this divide the image into nine and place the main part of the subject (in thiscase the womans eyes) on one of the lines or where the dissecting lines meet asin the above example. Offsetting the subject to one side can create a morepleasing balance to the picture and add emphasis to that which is most important.When cropping faces go in very tight to add emphasis but remember to keep thechin rather than the forehead. For index pictures crop even tighter to just above theeyes. Place the eyes on one of the thirds. Even a simple head shot can haveimpact when cropped well. In terms of content other than portraits you need tocrop as tight as possible and choose a subject that is easily recognisable at such asmall size. They always look better when the person is looking into the page ratherthan out at the margins.Use all Adobe Photoshop Elements has to offer to improve the quality of thefinished image before inserting it into CPS. Make sure you know how to adjust thelevels and sharpen an image. You can use a video grab if there is nothing
appropriate in the Elvis picture library.Avoid using too many pictures of men in suits. Images should grab theattention and begin to tell the story.Stock pictures are fine but try to avoid using the same one over and over. Does apicture of a person inserting a CD into a PC really add to the story? If not, leave itout or find a new one.There is also a danger of libel. If you are reusing a stock picture make sure thatthe new content does not defame the people or company pictured.Picture sizesThe pictures in a story should meet all the above criteria. Usually one will be placedat the top with others lower down the story.Story body pictures are usually 226 pixels wide by 170 high. When saving afinished image in Photoshop, use Save For Web to compress the picture to under18k. Index pictures are 226 wide x 170 high for the top story, and for stories twoand three are 66 wide x 49 high. An older format with pictures 203 wide by 152 highis being phased out. None of the index pictures require a credit.For the feature slots, indexes are migrating to a format using an image 126 wide by71 high, with the image placed on the story itself. Promo puffs are used to promotefeatures on older indexes. Pictures there should be 66 wide x 66 high. File sizesshould be less than 3k.Picture galleriesCPS picture galleries are a great way to show off a set of images either as a standalone story or alongside your text piece. Photo journals are also very powerful,though take longer to produce. Pictures there can be up to 466 wide by 300 high.Pop-up galleriesPop-up galleries are mainly used for vox-pops but can also be a good way toshow off a set of pictures with about 70 words alongside each picture, ie. morethan on a standard gallery. Pop-ups are not searchable and once the promo hasbeen removed, unless there is a link from a story page, the gallery cannot befound in the archive. A guide to making pop-ups can be found on the intranet.
CopyrightThe Picture Desk is there to help you source new images, clear copyright, cropwell, improve your Photoshop skills and generally advise on how to get the bestpictures in your stories.It can also arrange for new stock photographs to be taken or provide aphotographer to cover news or feature events.Pictures at-a-glanceImage types and sizes Pixel size Max file sizeStory body – landscape 226 x 170 18 KStory body– upright 226 x 282 24 KNew Story body image – Cross column 466 x 282 40 K(Use with strong news pictures, no generics, stockshots etc. speak to picture desk first)New Front page index – top slot – standard 226 x 170 18 Klandscape formatNew Front page index – top slot – upright format 226 x 282 24 KNew Splash front 466 x 260 40 KIndex – stories two and three + mobiles 66 x 49 3K(All stories and picture galleries must have one ofthese)New Index - Feature Promo’s 126 x 71 5KOld style Index – top slot – all indexes except the 203 x 152 14 Kfront pagesNew CPS picture galleries 466 x 300 35 K 220 x 300Large Pop-up galleries 600 x 400 60Vox-pop pop-up galleries 300 x 300 35New AV Embedded video 512 x 288 40 KThis will be scaled down to fit other formats suchas the embedded video in stories, either Large400 x 224 or Small 256 x 144NEW Sport Features Landscape 206 x 116 18KNEW Sport Features Portrait 126 x 158 18K
(14): VIDEO AND AUDIOEmbedded video and audio is an integral part of our news stories and features.The On Demand team select and process the clip. They then offer it up to thejournalists assigned to the story, for them to watch and place within the page.Video that works for a web audience, rather than simply repeating presentedmaterial from television, is the key principle. There are a number of ways the videoor audio can be place in a story:1) 400 x 224 Large video (top of the page)Situation: This is for picture-led stories where you have to see the video tounderstand the story or the footage is ‘must-see’ video.Examples: Fire in East London http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7090725.stm Alan Johnston http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6710863.stmPosition: The video should be placed in the First Tags box or above the CPSShortform coding, so not to interfere with Ceefax formatting.2) 400 x 224 Large video (backgrounder)Situation: This is for video which is integral to the story, but more illustrative orbackground in nature. This should be placed where it makes sense in the story.Example: US elections – what is a primary? A caucus guide http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7049207.stmPosition: The video should be placed one par below a crosshead and never beput at the top of a page.3) 256 x 144 Small video (‘heads’ interview)Situation: This should only ever be used for “talking head” content. If the video isthe point of the story – i.e. the whole story is a write up of the interview, then itshould go at the top of the page. If it is illustrative and is an interview with acontributor mentioned in the story, then it should go wherever it makes mostsense.Example: Killer drivers could avoid jail (mother interview) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7178120.stmPosition: This video should be placed where it makes most sense to the story.Either at the top or lower down below the top four pars4) Audio anywhereSituation: Audio content is anything which complements, explains and adds to thestory, and therefore can go where ever it is most relevant on the page – but belowthe first four pars.Example: Festive sales ‘low’ – BRC director-general reaction http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7175261.stmPosition: The audio player can go anywhere on the page but below the first fourpars. Because the audio player is quite deep, you should avoid inserting directlyunderneath a picture or quotebox.
(15): LINKINGA key part of being a web journalist is understanding the navigation of the site.Readers must be able to move seamlessly between stories along a clear path,both to our own content and the wider web.Research tells us that users value the quality of our links so these should not betreated as an afterthought. We are in the business of providing fast, accurate newsbut the links enable us to play to our other strength - delivering context,background and explanation.The value of the internal archive continues to grow as long as it is properlymaintained and the navigation is logical.Internal linksAlthough the links are vital, experience has shown us that "less is more". We havea self-imposed limit of six associations (except in hyperpuffs) so try to find thosewhich add most to the readers understanding of an issue - focused pieces ofanalysis, a profile, an eyewitness feature or a picture gallery. Make sure they arecontemporaneous or link to the most recent story of a chronology.The same goes for the index alsos - the links that appear underneath thesummary of a top story. We aim to have three of these.The most important thing is to keep abreast of our content and read the in-depthpages so you know what is available.Hyperpuffs bring together the best material on a particular topic - usually a majorrunning story. They have a limit of 12 links. Make sure you put the relevanthyperpuff on a story where one exists.And finally, do not forget other BBC sites which may offer more background andexpertise eg. BBC History or BBC Science and Nature.External sitesOur links to other websites carry a disclaimer stating that we do not takeresponsibility for the content. But we must still take care about what we point to.
We should not link to an external site when it would be clearly inappropriate. Weshould ensure that providing a link does not damage the BBCs reputation foreditorial integrity and taste - and decency issues must be carefully considered.Great care must be taken when linking to any commercial site to ensure that wedo not give the impression that the BBC is endorsing any commercial product orservice.We must be impartial. We would normally want to link to sites which represent areasonable range of views provided they do not breach the taste and decencyguidelines.We do not link to sites that are defamatory, incite racial hatred or religiousprejudice, advocate violence, or contain anything pornographic or distasteful.As a general rule we do not link to foreign language sites as we cannot be sure ofthe material. We occasionally make exceptions with media reviews or majorstoriesThis is not always as clear-cut as it might seem. If you are in any doubt, do notmake the link and refer up to your editor. Common sense prevails here - if it lookssuspicious, do not link to it.When you are linking to an external site, click beyond the home page - makesure you are really linking to the right site. Some spoof sites will hide theircontent behind a plausible web address and an imitation home page. Do notcopy addresses from a previous story or rely on ones from a cloned story - theymay be wrong or out of date. Make sure there is no redirect in operation.When linking you need to think about more than just taste. We are looking forquality not quantity. Make sure the site is relevant to the story, and try to balancethe links on controversial topics.Extra care is needed during elections when we have a legal requirement to be fairto all parties. If you are writing an election story make sure you provide externallinks to ALL the relevant political groups.Choosing a linkWhen linking to an external site, it is normally best to link to the home page. Thisgives an element of choice for the reader. They can also see who created the siteso they can be reassured as to its quality and content. Home pages often contain
useful alternatives such as differing language versions, search boxes and achoice of frames. Home pages are also less likely to disappear in any futurereorganisation.However, there are instances when it is desirable to find a specific page. eg.when you want to link to the full text of a statement or an individual profile.When giving the URL (Uniform Resource Locator, or the web address) or sitedescription in CPS, do not use the words "official", "website" or "home page". Mostare official with home pages so there is no need to state the obvious - it alsosounds a little old-fashioned.NewstrackersIn addition to the links to our own archive and external sites we provide linksfrom our stories directly to other versions of the same story on rival newswebsites.Research among younger internet users has shown that they are keen tocompare what different news sources are saying about particular stories. We alsothink that it enhances our reputation as a public service news organisation.Called Newstracker, this service answers the question: How are other newsorganisations covering this?The system uses web search technology to identify content from other newswebsites that relates to our own content. We receive a constantly updatingfeed of stories from about 4,000 different news websites.The Newstracker system is automated. The BBC does not censor or change theresults. But because there are scores of sites covering each story, the BBC hassome rules that help define which sites we link to and in what order these linksappear.In general, our rules tend to give greater weight to national and internationalsources over regional or local ones. We have a policy of only linking toEnglish-language sites. Once published, this group of links appears on theright-hand side of the news story.Some sites will publish stories that we would not so you need to think carefullyabout whether your story could dredge up problematic headlines from other sites.If you are in doubt, talk to your editor.
(16): RESEARCHING STORIESWell-researched original journalism is a major strength of the website, especiallywhen we make best use of the medium. We encourage you to bring ideas to theeditorial meetings and pursue them.There is a wealth of information and expertise in the wider BBC to help you, butlearning where to go takes time.Here are a few tips:For UK news stories: A good place to find intro/top line material is in the runningorders of the Radio 4 bulletins or sequence programmes. These are all containedin ENPS. The running orders of the 1, 6 and 10 oclock TV news are also useful.For World stories: The central Bush House core is a constantly updating list ofthe top world news stories - a useful reference for your top four paragraphs. Thedespatches list is made up of material transcribed from foreign correspondentsand is a key source.For features: The research gateway can be found athttp://research.gateway.bbc.co.uk/research.gateway.live/main.aspIt includes NEON – a powerful newspaper archive search.Analysis and Research carries the latest briefing papers. Its material can oftenprovide the basis of a factbox or instant backgrounder.Remember, the best kind of research is your own from original sources.Pick up the phone and contact the experts directly.Searching the webThe most useful search tool is Google. But certain things are easier tofind using a directory-style search facility like Yahoo.com.Take time to work out the syntax of your favourite search engine. Mosthave a link to advanced searches or help which will explain how to makeyour search more specific using AND, OR and NOT, quotes, plus orminus signs. Google does its best to accept natural language queries -ie. questions written as full sentences rather than just keywords.
(17): THE LAWJournalists are expected to have undergone thorough legal training. The BBCruns regular law courses and refreshers.There are copies of McNaes Essential Law for Journalists in the office but thismust NOT serve as a substitute for proper legal advice.If you are unclear about a story refer up to your editor and/or take legal advice fromthe BBCs duty lawyer. They can be contacted on 82220 or 82200. Their mobilenumber will be on the day’s newsgathering gird.DefamationA defamatory statement is one which would tend to "lower a person in the eyesof right thinking people generally", cause them to be "shunned or avoided", orexpose them to ridicule.The person about whom a defamatory statement is made can sue forcompensation for the damage caused to their reputation. They can sue thepublisher in any country where the libel is published. This means that the BBCcan be sued for libel in any country in the world where our website is postedor can be downloaded, including of course in the UK.ContemptUnder the Contempt of Court Act 1981, it is a criminal offence to publish anythingwhich creates a risk that "active" legal proceedings will be seriously prejudiced orimpeded. Criminal cases are active from the time someone is arrested, charged ora warrant is issued for their arrest.Once a case becomes active, the BBC policy is to remove any overt links to anypreviously published and potentially prejudicial archive material. The content willusually remain in the archive but in some cases it may be necessary to take furthersteps. If in any doubt, consult your editor or the duty lawyer.The Contempt of Court Act applies only to cases in the UK. Although we cannot beexpected to be aware of the law in every jurisdiction where the website can be read,contempt laws in this country are stricter than in many other countries. If you are inany doubt about reporting either a UK or a foreign case, consult your editor.
(18): EMERGENCIESIf you discover a fire or anything suspicious ring the BBCs emergency service on666 - tell them who you are, where you are and what you have discovered.In the event of a fire, the fire alarms will sound (continuous ringing). Leave thebuilding by the nearest safe route. Follow the green emergency exit signsIn the event of a bomb warning or other emergency, move to a safe area and stayaway from windows. Once you are in a safe area, wait for instructions.Information Line - internal 159 (or 0800 0688 159). This will give you the latestinformation about incidents at main BBC buildings. In the event of a majoremergency, updates will also appear on Ceefax page 159 and atwww.bbc.co.uk/159 In a medical emergency, again ring 666.PUBLICATION PROBLEMSFor any breakdown, call technical support on 57957. If any part of the publishingsystem is down for a short period - journalists should continue writing theirstories in ENPS or Word, ready for a quick restart. There is an emergencysystem available if the Content Production System fails, but only senior staff areauthorised to use it.OBITUARIESFor a royal death there is a strict protocol to be observed. This is detailed on theintranet - make sure you know what constitutes official confirmation and howto proceed. With some key personalities such as the Queen there is a specialsection to be published. This will be the responsibility of the most senior journaliston duty but it is useful for everyone to be familiar with the process.Many obituaries are pre-written and exist in a hidden section of the CPS in aspecial template. Their identity numbers are detailed on the intranet.These stories will not be available to the public until the template has beenchanged and made live. If you make a mistake, taking an obituary away from anindex will NOT remove it from the archive. The file will still be available via thesearch engine.
COMPLAINTSIf you receive a serious complaint by phone you must address it immediately. Becalm and polite, take a note of the complainant details and the nature of thecomplaint, and inform them how and when they will be contacted. In the firstinstance, refer up to your editor. DO NOT be tempted to make an immediatechange to a story or remove it until you know all the details. You may make thingsworse and signal a degree of culpability where none exists.Occasionally people call in to try to persuade us to change facts, add orsubtract comments or links. You must resist attempts to deflect us from thejournalistic values outlined earlier in this booklet. If they have a genuinegrievance then we must act fairly and promptly.E-mail complaints are regularly checked and dealt with – the most seriousare answered within 10 days and there is an escalation process for the mosturgent.TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENTTraining within BBC News is the responsibility of a number of people. The Onlineteam has a small training unit which provides a variety of courses to help youwork efficiently. We also arrange swap days and attachments with other areas ofBBC News.It is an ever-changing environment and journalists need to be adaptable andopen to learning new software packages and ways of working.The BBC’s College of Journalism has an excellent website with training modulesand case studies - http://college.gateway.bbc.co.uk/journalismBBC News runs a variety of training events. Examples include Writing for TV News,Law for the Internet, Chairing an Editorial Meeting, Managing Your Career,technical training in News systems such as Jupiter and VCS Dira, as well as thesharing of best practice through editorial and technical masterclasses.BBC News also runs a mentoring scheme to help people learn from moreexperienced staff. The scheme includes BBC Sport and BBC TV.
APPENDIX 1: FAQThe BBC is a huge organisation. Even simple things like finding your way aroundand knowing who to contact can be a bewildering experience. Your colleaguesare often best placed to answer questions.This Q&A should help you with some common queries.How do I find someone else in the BBC? On Gateway there is a link called FindBBC staff. Clicking on this gives you access to a search tool to help find therelevant person or department. You can also call 001 and say the name of theperson you want to contact. If you speak clearly and the name is recognised, theextension will ring for you. Alternatively, you can call the switchboard on 100 orlook in the contact list on your e-mail. Some of our key department numbers arelisted in the back of this booklet. There is also a ‘live phonebook’ list on our intranetwhich will give you the number of any one logged on to a department computer.Im stuck in CPS. Where can I get help?There is a link on the left hand navigation of the intranet which provides cribsheets for most of the tasks in CPS. Basic training with a follow-up session will beoffered to you when you join the department. In practice, your colleagues willoften help you.Where are BBC departments located?BBC offices are spread throughout the UK and the world. The News hub is basedin London in three main buildings - Television Centre (TVC) in Shepherds Bush,Broadcasting House (BH) near Oxford Circus, and Bush House (home of theWorld Service) in The Strand. The News division is due to move the majority of itsoperations to an expanded Broadcasting House by 2013. To contact anyone inthese buildings you can use Gateway or the BBCs e-mail system.Is my progress monitored and can I get more training?Yes. The BBC operates a formal appraisal system once a year which is reviewedat intervals. This is an opportunity to discuss progress, set objectives andidentify training needs. Your line manager will explain the system in more detailand tell you who will conduct your appraisal.Can I get transport to and from the BBC?If you are working unsociable shifts you may be entitled to transport to get to or
from work but this depends on the time of your shift and whether you live within a30-mile radius of your workplace. There is also a shuttle bus which takes staffbetween London buildings. Full details on eligibility and how to book transportare on Gateway athttp://finance.gateway.bbc.co.uk/procurement/transport/main.htmlMy workstation is uncomfortable. What can I do?Speak to your team DSE (Display Screen Equipment) Assessor or speak to yourline manager for details of your local safety co-ordinator. Your line manager will beable to organise a workstation assessment for you to make sure you are workingsafely.How do I find out if I can claim expenses?Again, the departments unit manager or management assistant are the firstpoint of contact.Where can I find information about new jobs in the BBC or attachments?Online organises swap days when journalists can work in another section tohelp familiarise themselves with the whole department.Jobs are advertised in the in-house magazine called Ariel and sometimes innational newspapers. For more details visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/jobs
APPENDIX 2: JARGON BUSTERAlso in the newsAn unusual, funny story on the website. Offers light relief from the hard newsagenda. Has its own slot on the front pages of the website, and has its own index.Alsos or associationsHeadlines on the right hand side of a story which link to selections from our ownarchive. Not to be confused with index alsos - they do the same job but exist underthe summary of the lead story on an index.A&RAnalysis and Research. Offers expert advice and research material across a widerange of subjects http://newstcrs03.tc.nca.bbc.co.uk/CheckIn CPS terms this means that a story exists in a check status. It is finished andready to be amended and published by a sub-editor. Sometimes you will beasked "to save into check" - the exact process will be described in your CPStrainingCloneA way of copying a story in CPS. Often employed to mark a majordevelopment in a running news storyCPSContent Production System. The software used to build and order web pages. Alsohelps to deliver audio and video to the web.CoolEditSound editing software on journalists desktops.DespatchesTerm describing pieces filed by BBC correspondents for World Service radio. Thescripts are transcribed and available on ENPS. Useful source of copy for worldjournalists but be aware that some names are spelled phonetically. A despatch issometimes referred to as an XN
ElvisElectronic Visual Image Store - the BBCs database of still images. It is also theportal to find agency picturesE-mail alertIf a breaking story is important it will be sent as an e-mail or SMS message tosubscribers of our serviceENPSEditorial software. Allows journalists to search for agency copy, BBC material,create and access running orders, and send messages to other users.FM&TFuture Media and Technology is the BBC department responsible for the designand the technical development of the website and other platforms.JupiterPan-BBC News video database. The system enables journalists to find and editcurrent and archive video material. It works in conjunction with an editingprogramme called Q-cut.Media On DemandMulti-skilled team that commissions, creates and processes mostly bespoke videofor the BBC News website.MillbankOffice at Westminster where BBC political journalists work from.MPAMulti-platform authoring. Our software makes it possible for a story to be writtenonce for multiple outlets.News updateYou may be asked to do your story as a "news update". This refers to a particularway the story is saved and published and is explained in CPS training