To name or not to name?

Given the debate in recent weeks about the wisdom of naming Dr. David Kelly as a BBC source, I’ve wondered several times why BBC News attributes only a fraction of its online content to specific members of its staff. Why don’t they identify the author of every piece?

For example, the top news story as I write is BBC News | Politics | Kelly family points finger at MoD, and it is not attributed to anyone in particular. It does contain a related video link to a report by “The BBC’s Jonathan Beale”, but that has almost certainly been lifted from the BBC’s conventional broadcasting output (i.e. television), where reporters are always clearly identified.

Sometimes the author of an online story is identified (see BBC News | Education | More GCSE exam entries fail by Gary Eason), and sometimes a story is exclusively devoted to the opinions of one of the BBC’s star correspondents (see BBC News | Politics | Profound questions raised by Kelly tragedy featuring Andrew Marr). So why the inconsistency? Why are the reporters named in some cases and not others?

There is a precedent in print, of course. Newspaper editorials are usually unsigned, and the Economist has a long tradition of not acknowledging authors, with the exception of its lengthy “surveys” and reviews of books written by its staff. Perhaps, the BBC has adopted some of these practices now that the web has forced it into “print”?

Convergence would appear to be one of the effects of the Internet. Broadcasters are publishing electronic “newspapers”, and newspapers are “broadcasting” their content electronically.

Coincidentally (or is it?), the UK Government has announced a review of the BBC’s online services (see BBC News | Entertainment | Analysis: BBC online review). I hope it helps to resolve some of the confusing inconsistencies that have developed with the popular adoption of the “new media”.

P.S. – Why is that story about the review of BBC Online classified as “Entertainment”? Since when is everything associated with the BBC necessarily entertaining?