The Guardian Shares Newslists with Readers

In a new — and potentially risky — experiment, UK’s the Guardian will make its newslists public starting today in an effort to better engage readers in the editorial decision-making process.
A screenshot of part of the Guardian's national news newslist.

Newslists are the upcoming stories a news organization is looking into or plans to run. In an industry where being the first to break news is of the utmost importance, these lists can be extremely valuable. There have even been examples of reporters selling their story lists to rival publications.

“What if readers were able to help newsdesks work out which stories were worth investing precious reporting resources in?” writes Dan Roberts, the paper’s national news editor. “What if all those experts who delight in telling us what’s wrong with our stories after they’ve been published could be enlisted into giving us more clues beforehand? What if the process of working out what to investigate actually becomes part of the news itself?”

A “carefully selected” portion of national, international and business story lists will be published on a daily blog. Readers are being encouraged to then contact reporters and editors through Twitter using the hashtag #opennews to share their thoughts.

Roberts explains that the move is purely exploratory and the Guardian is “ready to pull the plug if we suspect we’re giving away too much competitive advantage or falling on deaf ears.” He also adamantly states that editors will still have a lot, if not the final, say in which stories are important.

This move speaks volumes about how much social networking sites have affected traditional news orgs. (Not that we needed another reminder.) Gone are the days of sending in a letter to the editor. Now, sites like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter allow readers immediate access to reporters and editors. In many instances, reporters have been using the sites to find sources for breaking stories.

“Eventually, I suspect, a generation gorged on reality television and social media might demand this from all sorts of media companies — from radio stations deciding which music goes on their playlist to public service broadcasters deciding what to spend money on,” writes Roberts.

I’m not sure if the move is a reaction to the recent News of the World phone hacking scandal that rocked the British press. People’s faith in reporters was shaken by that extremely public embarrassment. Sharing newslists makes the Guardian’s editorial process incredibly transparent to readers and could increase their trust in the Guardian.

I’m also a bit skeptical of how much this experiment will change things. The editors are carefully selecting which stories to share with the public and they will have the ultimate say on what gets published and what doesn’t. Isn’t this just business as usual then? (Or am I being too cynical?)

What do you think of this venture? Could it help the Guardian craft better stories?