Monitoring the news

Steve Herrmann (among others) made an interesting post on the BBC’s “The Editors” blog about a website called News Sniffer which “aims to monitor corporate news organisations to uncover bias”.

It does so by grabbing regular copies of the BBC (and other news outlets) RSS feeds and running diff against them to identify when content has changed, and then highlighting those changes to the user. It also has a “Watch your mouth” section which aims to identify when comments have been removed from the BBC’s “have your say” area.

I really like the idea behind News Sniffer it doesn’t make any claims about why a news outlet may or may not be biased it simply gives people the chance to decide for themselves, which can only be a good thing.

** Update (03/11/2006 13:31) **

Steve Herrmann has just posed a follow up to his previous post, it looks like News Sniffer is doing more than just uncovering bias, it’s also helping to uncover bugs in the BBC news website that “causes some comments not to show up”. The most interesting part of the post are the comments from a senior journalist Matt Eltringham about how the BBC moderate comments:

“The HYS debates are operated by a team of moderators who work across seven days a week from 0700 to 2300. Every day we receive about 10,000 emailed contributions to the debates we have started – debates often suggested by our readers[…] Regardless of whether a debate is pre or post moderated the presumption is that all comments should be published unless they break the house rules.”

It’s always good to see an organisation like the BBC explaining how and why they do things internally.