Media companies should make good use of information on social media but diversify their news sources, said Ros Atkins, host of Outside Source on BBC World News, citing his experience during last year’s democracy protests.
“Social media is helpful and can provide us a lot of information but we should always remember that it’s not representative,” Atkins told EJ Insight during a visit to Hong Kong.
“It’s easy to give too much prominence to people who use social media very well.”
BBC journalists had to look for different opinions because people who did not support the protest movement were unlikely to express their views on the internet, he said.
“We had to maintain the BBC’s commitment to balance. Social media is a challenge to balance because it doesn’t represent views equally.”
Also, there are a lot of fake and misleading photos on the internet, he said. “We had to check the information very carefully.”
Outside Source was launched on BBC World News on Feb. 14, 2014 and reported on many global news in the past year including the 79-day occupation of major Hong Kong streets by pro-democracy protesters, the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and the downing of flight MH17 in Ukraine.
The live program uses content from new and traditional media.
“In the past, if we weren’t sure about the information, we would say nothing,” Atkins said.
“But now if there is an unverified claim that something has happened and lots and lots of people are talking about it, we might say we were aware of this claim but that we couldn’t be sure whether it was true,” he said.
“If the BBC doesn’t acknowledge the information that is out there on the internet, it would look disconnected from the world.”
Atkins said traditional journalism is “like serving a meal while Outside Source is like showing all the ingredients and making a meal in front of viewers”.
The show is not shy to quote sources from other media companies, Atkins said, adding curation is a growing trend in journalism.
“Curation is an important skill and not everyone can do it well,” he said.
Such practice will not dilute the BBC’s strength but help the 92-year-old media company maintain its leading edge in the industry.
He said the editorial team of Outside Source upholds traditional journalistic standards and remains sensitive to the reliability of the source of information it uses.
On March 25, BBC World News announced the expansion of Outside Source.
From June 1, viewers will receive an extended new edition of the show at 8 p.m. GMT, Monday to Thursday, in addition to its time slot earlier in the day.
Hong Kong audiences can watch BBC World News through i-Cable TV’s channel 75 or Now TV’s channel 320.
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