5 Questions with Yahoo News VP Mark Walker about The Upshot

Earlier this week, Yahoo launched The Upshot, the new blogging home of the rock star reporters it’s been busy collecting over the last nine months. The Upshot is also the flagship for Yahoo News’ emerging efforts to move beyond syndicated content and produce original reporting. The launch met with great chitter chattering about the fact that Yahoo will be consulting search queries to help decide what kind of content to produce, as reported in a story in the New York Times. WebNewser picked up the phone and did some chitter-chattering of its own, with Mark Walker, Yahoo’s vice president of news and information, to get the scoop on The Upshot’s editorial strategy, and its future plans.
WebNewser: How much of a role are those search queries playing in determining The Upshot’s editorial lineup?
Walker: The process of journalism hasn’t changed. We’re committed to the highest levels of journalistic integrity in our production of news content. What has changed is the nature of information, the nature of newsgathering, and the nature of inputs. But the process of analyzing, understanding, and corroborating this input hasn’t changed at all…. Before, the realm of journalists was tips and leads and sources, and understanding the relative importance of those, and ultimately the credibility of those sources. Now we’ve added information we can glean from search and from comments on the site…. The Internet itself is also a great source of information. We have editors who go out and see what’s being shared in social media and what’s being shared on other very active sites. All of that information is brought back, and it enhances the process of reporting and creating original content for our audience.
Continued, after the jump

What’s the focus of The Upshot? If the New York Times is “All the news that’s fit to print,” what’s The Upshot’s bailiwick?
Yahoo Sports is a great precedent for this. What we learned there was to find folks who have tremendous expertise in an area and allow them to cover those beats in a really comprehensive fashion. So, for example, Michael Calderone, who’s a leading media reporter. If we sat down to think about what are the top five beats we’re going to cover in News, media may or may not have been one of them. But when we can find an expert contributor like Michael Calderone who we know can work effectively on a beat, that’s a place where we want to be.
What’s coming up for Yahoo News in the next six months? Are you done with hiring? Or will you grow the team?
We’ve established the core team. [Ed note: In addition to Calderone, formerly of Politico, the team includes Andrew Golis, formerly of Talking Points Memo; Chris Lehmann, of Congressional Quarterly, The Washington Post, and New York; Holly Bailey, of Newsweek; John Cook and Brett Michael Dykes, of Gawker; Rachel Hartman, of The Washington Independent and CQ; and Liz Goodwin, of The Daily Beast.] There may be opportunities out there in particular beats or channels that we’ll identify and pursue with the right group of people.
Is Yahoo Newsroom going to continue as is?
Yahoo Newsroom is an important brand within Yahoo News. It’s been seen by literally hundreds of millions of eyeballs. In the long term, we’ll continue with the Newsroom, but right now we’re in the process of re-evaluating it and re-launching it in a way that’s substantial and helpful to our efforts in original content.
How has the Yahoo audience responded to the original content the news team has been creating over the last few months?
We’ve seen a high level of engagement and interest.* The performance of that content when featured within Yahoo’s Front Page has been on par with or exceeded that of some of our licensed content from professional news organizations.
* Ed Note: “Engagement and interest” = clicks, time on page, sharing in social networks, comments, emailing