Yoosk users seek answers from public figures

A new magazine website is aiming to turn users into hard-hitting news interviewers.

Yoosk invites readers to pose questions for people in the current affairs spotlight. Fellow members vote on the best questions, and the top-rated question will be put to the recipient by a professional journalist on the Yoosk staff.

The site is pitched as a “citizen media magazine” that allows web users to ask follow-up questions when the mainstream press have failed to give all the answers or when a hot-button issue has faded from the public eye.

It is the brainchild of British Council education worker Tim Hood, wife Hoang and Hanoi-based filmmaker Keith Halstead, who each devised the idea because they wanted to ask Tony Blair why he had given such support to George Bush.

“We see the site as being based on a partnership between journalists and the public,” Hood told Journalism.co.uk. “We need professionals to make contact with the leaders and celebrities being asked and to work the questions up in to good feature material.

“Ultimately, we hope that freelancers and Yoosk members supplying good interview questions and leads will be able to share income from syndicated stories. The interest that was evident in the replies we got to our advertisement [for a professional reporter] demonstrates clearly the interest journalists have in citizen media.”

The Q&A format, so common to feature interviews, has proved popular at Yahoo! Answers, at which millions of queries have been posed and answered by a community of Yahoo! members, and later at professional social network LinkedIn. But such properties benefit from the speedy exchanges of ordinary users, while Yoosk readers will need to wait until staff have gathered the required answer before it is added.

As part of a beta test ahead of a planned July launch, the Yoosk team has so far populated the Yoosk system with test questions theoretically posed to the likes of captured sailor Faye Turney, Barack Obama and Tony Blair. Users will get to rate eventual genuine answers .