From its home in the heart of the BBC newsroom, Outside Source has a "direct connection" to the journalists working on some of the biggest stories of the moment worldwide.

And it is exactly this which powers the new programme, which looks to both its audience and its reporters to help inform the agenda for the programme.

Outside Source, which, according to a press release, aims to cover "the latest on the stories that matter to [the audience]", went on air for the first time on BBC World Service Radio at 11am today, with a television broadcast also due next year.

Outside Source is presented by Ros Atkins, also presenter of BBC World Have Your Say (WHYS). Atkins has previously spoken to Journalism.co.uk about how WHYS has used open newsroom strategies, such as open editorial meetings, to encourage greater audience interaction with the programme, and how its agenda is influenced by global talking points online.

And this is something Atkins will be able to build on further with Outside Source, again covering those subjects causing the most buzz, but also bringing the BBC's own journalists from across the world, into the conversation.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk on Friday, Atkins said the "big idea is we combine all the expertise the BBC has around the world with all the expertise our audience has". "It's a marriage of the two," he added.

This format will also enable the programme to "explain processes behind our journalism", he said. This morning, for example, a journalist from the BBC's China bureau was able to discuss their experience when trying to report on a car crash in Tiananmen Square.

It is hoped that this will offer a "more direct connection between the audience and journalists" by involving "correspondents around the world".

The agenda will feature "all the most pressing stories of the day," he added, but will be "more influenced by stories people are engaging with and responding to".

Pulling the programme together

In order to understand what stories are sparking the most interest, the Outside Source team will be monitoring interactions online, such as, but not exclusively, those featuring the hashtag #bbcos.

But it is important that the conversation not be solely related to those interacting on the hashtag, or only feature those coming direct to the programme to speak. Instead, the teams want to ensure participation is varied and the programme is covering the stories considered important by a wide audience.

"We are not going to be staring at the hashtag," Atkins explained. The team will take into account a number of factors when it comes to making decisions on what stories make the cut. This might include what is being discussed on the wider web, as well as BBC Online analytics on what stories or subjects people are flocking to on the news website, and sharing on social. Of course, the team's editorial judgment will also have an important part to play.

And unlike WHYS, which zones in on a small selection of stories, Outside Source aims to be a "multi-item news programme", Atkins said, with around 15 stories looked at by each show.

And of course the team is ready to adapt the running order to the ever-evolving news agenda. "We can change it immediately," Atkins said.

During transmission of the programme, he added that some producers will be specifically tasked with monitoring social media and other forms of communication, meaning that if they receive requests for more information on a story they feel is worth including, they can work in the background to liaise with the relevant journalist, and then have them on the programme answering the question in "minutes", Atkins said.

"We are ready to be spontaneous," he added. And Atkins's own set up means he is physically surrounded by "the very people we want to speak to". This means they "can move faster on a story than any radio programme you can imagine," he added.
Open editorial meetings

Each day, the team will also run what is effectively an open editorial meeting, featuring those often working on stories behind the cameras at the BBC, such as editors, producers and bureau chiefs.

As Atkins described them, they are the "people who, to a great degree, define the journalism of BBC but don't appear on air often".

The aim is to facilitate a conversation about some of the big stories in their patch or niche, but not limit it to an internal-BBC conversation, but instead also "approach people to take part online".

Atkins said the goal is to give the audience some "insight" into the editorial approach to different stories at the BBC, and give them a chance to question these decisions where they feel there is reason to.

The nature of these open meetings will depend on the geographical focus of the stories in question. Where the conversation relates to African stories, for example, the discussion may be powered largely through text message, Atkins explained, while US-focused conversations are likely to take place on Twitter.

 Correction: This article originally said each programme would look at around 50 stories. This has now been corrected to 15.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).