Tech PR: what makes a BBC tech story?

According to a blog post yesterday by Rory Cellan-Jones, the tech team over at the BBC recently had an offsite meeting where they spent some time discussing what makes a tech story and what should they cover vs. what should be chopped.

Should we, for example, cover product launches like Apple’s iPhone or a new Sony PS3?

Some felt they had no place on the BBC, others pointed out that some launches marked a sea-change in technology and were worth covering.

What about financial stories, such as Microsoft’s attempts to take over Yahoo – or plunging share prices of leading technology firms?

Let’s leave them to the Business team, some argued – while others felt that our readers and viewers wanted to know how tech firms were faring financially, as well as what products they were launching.

And there was quite a punch-up over video games – with one group arguing that coverage of games and gaming culture was a vital part of any technology coverage, whereas others felt this was an area that should be in the entertainment section.

Oh, and I think we now all agree – stories about Twitter need to be pretty startling to justify their presence on this site or on the airwaves.

An external newspaper tech editor, attending the offsite meeting, gave his thoughts on what the BBC covers vs. what it should do:

Then he set to work to categorise our coverage under four headings, with only the fourth really meeting with his approval:

Security scare stories, about viruses, malware, phishing etc.
Frightening people but not giving them enough information about what to do.

Gee-whizz stories – “in five years time you”ll all have personal jet- packs” – which often give misleading impressions of how much technology can deliver.

“Something should be done” stories – covering petitions for Alan Turing to be honoured or Bletchley Park to be saved.

Really useful stories, which tell readers something they didn’t know. Gratifyingly, he gave as an example our revelations about Spinvox.

So PRs, in your experience, what often does or should make a story on the Beeb? Any experiences of getting stuff knocked back that you were sure would make it in/on?

Cross posted with my employer’s blog

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