The current turmoil in Iran is a timely example of the challenges and opportunities facing news organizations in the multi-media world.
There’s information from a breathtaking array of sources – a consequence of the connectedness of the internet age – which is democratic and liberating, but which also raises questions about how we can verify the accuracy of the very personal accounts that can be accessed on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and homemade video downloaded on the web.
Over the last few days the Iranian authorities have restricted journalists from entering the country and imposed restrictions on correspondents already there. They’ve also been active trying to
restrict news into and out of the country, specifically targeting the BBC by persistently interfering with a satellite which carries the BBC’s international television and radio services. The BBC has responded by increasing the number of satellites that carry its Persian television service.
There have also been attempts to clamp down on internet connection in Iran, but a huge amount of material has been published online and sent to news organizations around the world. The days of regimes being able to prevent the world witnessing events which are not such good international PR seem to be over.
But the free flow of information on the internet does raise concerns.
How do we know the images we’re seeing have not been staged or doctored? Are the "eye witness accounts" actually coming from people inside Iran? Many bloggers are advancing their own political agendas. What about communities who are not as active online? Who is representing their
Leading news brands like the BBC have built their reputation on journalistic credentials– the accuracy of their reporting and a balanced presentation of the issues. Our Tehran Correspondent, Jon Leyne, has brought a real depth of knowledge and understanding of the political culture that simply cannot be replicated by parachuting in a reporter. Jon has been asked to leave Iran and is no longer there. And the BBC’s London based Persian Service, working across radio, TV and online, has been monitoring the huge amount of information that has been sent to them over the internet. They’ve been applying their technical and editorial expertise to verify this information and contextualize it as part of their coverage of this complicated story. The quality of the reporting has been recognized by audiences around the world – page impressions at bbcpersian.com have increased seven-fold this month and streaming of Persian TV has massively increased.
BBC World News America has recently posted some of its strongest audience numbers since the newscast launched in October 2007. The unrivalled BBC newsgathering infrastructure that has made our coverage of Iran so strong also gave us an edge with Obama’s visit to Europe and
the Middle East, the Air France plane disaster and stories that are truly global in scope from the economic meltdown to the swine flu virus and the environment.
Perhaps viewers sense that, even while sources of information increase, a trusted name and a track record of delivering accurate, compelling coverage, is increasingly what they want.