Futures Lab Update #118: Audience-Driven Journalism via Grasswire and Hearken

    by Reuben Stern
    August 21, 2015
    The startup Hearken aims to get newsrooms interested in stories the public might be interested in. Screenshot courtesy of RJI.

    This week we look at two startups that make the audience a central part of the journalistic process.

    "When you submit something and it gets upvoted, you basically gain karma -- so, you gain points. And the more points you have, the more weight that your vote actually caters." -- Austen Allred, co-founder, Grasswire

    PART 1: Grasswire

    Using a combination of voting and hashtag responses, Grasswire relies on its users to help make news reports more accurate and complete. Co-founder Austen Allred tell us how the crowdsourcing site aims to be a kind of Wikipedia for the news.
    Reporting by Daniel Shapiro.


    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]

    Additional information:

    Grasswire sprang from co-founder Austen Allred’s experiences overseas and began by just pulling newsworthy posts from Twitter. But as American Journalism Review explains in a detailed backstory, the site has “since grown into a more complex interface, allowing users to curate selected news tweets by voting and verifying information” with a goal of having users also submit their own news content.


    As Cat Zakrzewski notes in a review of the site on TechCrunch, “Grasswire’s success is dependent on its ability to grow an active user base, so that when news does break, readers are there to confirm or refute it.”

    PART 2: Hearken

    A startup called Hearken, which grew out of a local engagement experiment called Curious City at WBEZ in Chicago, aims to help other newsrooms get the public involved in determining which stories to cover. We find out from co-founder Jennifer Brandel how the platform helps journalists discover what audience members truly want.
    Reporting by Daniel Shapiro.

    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]

    Additional information:

    In an initial launch manifesto, co-founder Jennifer Brandel writes that Hearken is driven by, among other things, the idea that “everyone has interesting questions (aka story ideas) worth investigating, no matter their age, race, class, gender, profession or any other means of division.”

    As Brandel tells Capital New York, Hearken is designed “to fuel specific or general assignment series, to be used by individual reporters, to fuel content for live events, etc. … But overall, Hearken works really well for local news and for niche news.”

    Reuben Stern is the deputy director of the Futures Lab at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and host and co-producer of the weekly Futures Lab video update.

    FuturesLabWebBanner-mediashiftThe Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Futures Lab video update features a roundup of fresh ideas, techniques and developments to help spark innovation and change in newsrooms across all media platforms. Visit the RJI website for the full archive of Futures Lab videos, or download the iPad appto watch the show wherever you go. You can also sign up to receive email notification of each new episode.

    Tagged: audience grasswire Hearken rji rji futures lab

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