BBC’s contribution to online journalism

Paul Bradshaw at the Online Journalism Blog says the BBC has given three things to online journalism.

He mentions the editors’ blogging and the way the corporation opened up its back-end to developers. Both are important.

His first item, the BBC’s web writing style, may prove more important in the long-term.

The BBC’s online news writers write crisp, tight news copy. They get right to the point, line up the important facts, then get out-of-the-way.

Bradshaw says the BBC learnt how to write tight news stories when it ran Ceefax – a teletext information service which predates the internet. Ceefax allows little in the way of graphics and only 24 lines of 40 characters, which meant journalists have less than 200 words to tell their story.

Sharpening skills on Ceefax before the internet, gave the BBC a head start over other written news outlets which had become wordy thanks to larger newspapers.

Bradshaw says: “Even now it is difficult to find an online publisher who writes better for the web.”

The BBC’s online operation is even better at writing news headlines. Its editors manage to compress the gist of an entire story into just five or six words. Most headlines fit inside that Ceefax page width of 40 characters.

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