Guardian office
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Late last year the Guardian announced its next step on the path of open journalism as it started to publish its daily newslists online, featuring non-exclusive elements of its newslist for national, international and business news.

Readers were called on to interact with the reports assigned to each story via Twitter using hashtag #opennews.

Then in January this year the Guardian announced the next development of this trial with the launch of "newsdesk live", a liveblog integrating the newslist with a live comment thread as an alternative to Twitter.

The open newslists remain live, as does a newsroom calendar which is also available online. But the daily blog, Newsdesk Live, has been "parked ... for the moment".

So we asked what the Guardian has learnt so far about these open newslist projects, and what it means future development in this area.

National editor Dan Roberts told Journalism.co.uk there had been an "intense phase for a couple of months" around the open newslist project, with readers encouraged to get in touch via Twitter and suggest other stories.

He stressed that it has not been abandoned and remains live, but that the Guardian is now trying to look into ways of doing "more focused requests".

When we ask people to just suggest a news story, it's such a huge subject people don't really know where to start or what we might meanDan Roberts, the Guardian
"When we ask people to just suggest a news story, it's such a huge subject people don't really know where to start or what we might mean," he said.

"But when we say we're writing about the NHS reforms tomorrow and we're looking for people who have experience of it first hand because they work in a hospital, for example, we get much more practical responses."

He added: "We're constantly trying to tweak the different ways we communicate with readers to make these things work and it has to be said the ones that work best are the focused ones."

He said that when the open newslists were first announced "we got an awful lot of people get in touch and say they'd love to help".

"Literally thousands of readers have got involved in stories we've done in this way so we know there's a demand out there."

We're constantly trying to tweak the different ways we communicate with readers to make these things work and it has to be said the ones that work best are the focused onesDan Roberts, the Guardian
One example of the success of interaction with readers on focused issues was a story the Guardian did in which it asked its readers to test broadband speeds, and Roberts said the newsroom was "bowled over" by the response.

"We had 5,000 people do this test and help us research the story within about three days. We're doing those sorts of things almost every week so we know the appetite is there if we find the right form, something people can latch on to and get involved with easily, but I have to be honest and say we're very much still in the experimental phase because we don't know the perfect way of doing this is yet."

Another example of open journalism which is working well at the Guardian is its Reality Check blog he said, which looks at the "big issues" of the moment and calls on readers to help with the fact-checking process.

"Readers loved it," Roberts said, following the theory of keeping requests for input focused on certain topics and areas of interest with engaged communities.

And he added that good examples of open journalism are not just found in news operations.

"Our comment team, Comment is Free, have got an interesting model of open commissioning which they call, You Tell Us, a place on Comment is Free where their readers suggest things they'd like to read comments on.

"So they go off and then commission an expert to write a comment column and I think that kind of open commissioning is really interesting, it works well on comment and is the sort of thing I'd like to find a way of cracking on news."

He added that he has seen examples of sites in the US also experimenting with this form of open commissioning.

It can be a virtuous circle if you ask readers what they wantDan Roberts, the Guardian
"I think it has the advantage not only of tipping you off to things before you might have spotted them, but also you know there's an audience out there already.

"We had lots and lots of people contact us when we started the open newslist saying they wanted to read more about the NHS, well lo and behold we gave them more about the NHS and the traffic figures were huge on it and we realised there's a huge audience for that material.

"So it can be a virtuous circle if you ask readers what they want."

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