Credit: By James Cridland on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Crowdsourced news platform Grasswire relaunched this week, allowing readers to contribute to stories, write their own pieces, and even join the site's digital newsroom through Slack.

Anyone can sign up to Grasswire and edit or write stories, highlight events happening in their neighbourhood or contribute to the fact-checking process with their expertise.

"We're giving people a space to tell the stories that they think are important, to work with other people within our community and our collaborators", said Matthew Keys, Grasswire's managing editor, North America.

Grasswire's approach to journalism may sound familiar  – a 'Wikipedia for news' analogy wouldn't be far off the mark.

The platform was launched last year by Austen Allred and Levi Notik as a site for fact-checking breaking news stories in real time.
"We still fact-check and we still verify, that part of our ethos hasn't gone away," explained Keys.
"But on top of that we've added a new layer where people can come in if they have something to contribute to a story."
Each story on the site is accompanied by a fact box highlighting the verified material for each piece – any statements that are in dispute are marked as such.

"So not only are we presenting the news, but we're showing our work and we're doing it in a way that's very visible to anybody that views a story on our site," he said.

grass wire facts box
Screenshot from Grasswire

This principle also applies to contributors, as Grasswire encourages its collaborators to include the source material associated with the updates they want to post.

Much of the verification work and debates over which stories Grasswire should publish take place in a Slack channel which Keys describes as their "digital newsroom".

Those who are interested in the inner workings of Grasswire or want to contribute can join the channel, and seeing the editorial process upfront "will lend legitimacy to the stories that we put on the site as well".

Keys said the channel had between 20 and 30 people regularly joining in its first week, and another 10 or 20 that would log on occasionally.

Grasswire anticipates three groups of people will join their newsroom: those who want to contribute on a regular basis, those who will collaborate when big stories break, and those who will simply log on to lurk in the background.

"Having this editorial team that's so open... it really does lend sort of a looking glass into the editorial process," said Keys.

Open newsroom initiatives have sprung up in recent years, such as social newswire Storyful's verification project which has expanded across multiple networks since launching on Google+ in 2013 and counts chat app FireChat among its latest partners.

Other news organisations have also been opening their doors to readers – for example, the Manchester Evening News last year published its news list and organised Google Hangouts with readers.

Grasswire plans to go beyond that and connect the two usually separate worlds, the newsroom and its readers, "to put out a news product".

Keys thinks the process is going to surprise readers  "who just think the news kind of happens", as they are thrown into conversations about which stories Grasswire might run, which sources they're monitoring, and of course, jokes.

"This is sort of news meets reality television", he said.

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