UK Government Online
5.3. Content production process
There are five people working for the UK online newsroom, a mixture of journalists
and publicists. "But we only have three journalists who compile our news pages. We
are not reporting here. We are going through and seeing what is happening in the
government and put them in a sort of Summary form. Press releases would come to
us and we would use that information and edit down a summary, which would go on
UK Online. We do edit it down for our site but we don t actually have any role in the
publication of that press release to its main audience. We are not a press office
either. It s very hard to draw very clear lines in this area."
According to the staff members of UK Online, the mission of the newsroom is to give
the news from the government perspective but without the spin of the Prime
Minister s office [No 10]. "The feeling is that the No 10 is always trying to put out a
good line. You know it s the PM office so it s dressed up. The idea in our newsroom
is to provide balance, if you like honesty. Clear statements of the government view
on issues. Some times there is great tension between the people in our newsroom
and the newsroom at No 10"
"In news terms there are already well established newsrooms to the public. It s
No10 and clearly No 10 is the coordinating voice. So we wouldn t try and just copy
information or try to become a rival newsroom. There is no merit in that. What we do
try to do is become a point on behalf of the public who may or may not go to No 10 ( )
We feel the responsibility to let the people know what is happening in the government.
But our news summary is not the No 10 agenda alone, it includes also things of No
10 but other things too. A bigger picture than the one that No 10 will give you."
The staff at UK online do not see themselves as competitors of the traditional media
either. Rather as complementary media. "If someone reads something about the
government in the main media and wants to find more, we should be able to provide
this information. I would expect as journalist that people could come to our site and
then maybe go to BBC and compare and make up their mind. Before the
UK government Online portal they couldn t. The only way they saw government
news was interpreted by somebody else like the BBC, ITN or newspapers or
magazines or whatever. A press release never went to the public. So there is a role
for us in putting government news out there for the public directly. That s the key
thing for us to try to do. The departments try to do that for their own web offerings
and they do that but necessarily departments only see the department view
themselves. So if we don t do it there is no composite view of government."
Regarding the issue of exploring this complementarity through hyperlinks, the staff
replied "we do some of that [hyperlinks with other media and government websites]
but we always have to be careful about that. The question we have in our mind: are
we helpful here? Are we actually a totally independent portal? It depends on what
the section is. In other parts of the site, for example the life section, we are quite
happy to refer to BBC or other sites, if it holds information than it s particularly
relevant to somebody wanting having a baby. We are quite happy to have links to
non governmental sites as well. We wouldn t banish everybody, we need to be very
careful and consistent giving access."
5.4. Content consumption process
"It is very difficult to envisage people coming to the site as they sole source of news.
I think is unrealistic," said the staff of UK online. "They will always see us as
government site because that s what we are. They do see us as more impartial than